Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Open World Third-Person Shooter Review: Yakuza - Dead Souls

Yakuza: Dead Souls, known as Like a Dragon: Of the End in Japan, was a third-person zombie shooter spin-off of the Like a Dragon series, which was formerly known as the Yakuza series in the West.

It is a weird premise, as the Like a Dragon series has always been as much about visiting shops and talking to wacky people to open up even wackier sidequests as it is about yakuza drama. A zombie apocalypse doesn't seem like it could fit in that mold. But, as Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise would show years later, an apocalypse doesn't slow down business much. Shoppers gonna shop.

As a matter of fact, the premise actually plays to the game's benefit. Because people aren't exactly beholden to yakuza alliances when faced with a zombie horde, that allowed two yakuza from feuding factions to enter the mix. The Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu, and the Lifeline of Kamurocho, Shun Akiyama from Yakuza 4 are back as protagonists. But they are joined by the Mad Dog of Shimano, Goro Majima, and the Dragon of Kansai, Ryuji Goda. The former is Kiryu's frequent series rival, while the latter was the villain of Yakuza 2.

Ryuji Goda survived his fight with Kiryu at the end of the game, causing him to be kicked out of the Omi Alliance. Somewhere along the line, he gets equipped with a metallic arm that transforms into a machine gun and becomes an apprentice to an elderly takoyaki cook. That pretty much sets up the tone of the game, which plays into the campiness more than any other game set in the Like a Dragon universe.

No one screams campiness more than Goro Majima, and Sega CS1 definitely had fun with his character here. It contains the funniest Majima scenes in the entire extended series, and that's saying a lot. This is the guy who randomly slammed his head on a desk to start an elevator after all.

It also has some really crazy sidequests, including one that even included Karens a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic brought those crazy entitled women into our real lives as well. On that subject, it was definitely surreal playing this during a global pandemic. What probably seemed silly in 2011 was extremely real when played today. There were people who refused to shut down their shops even though the evidence of the virus was right outside their door, the aforementioned Karens, and a woman who wore her medical mask on her chin instead of covering her nose and mouth.

The game begins with an open Kamurocho, but as the game continues, more and more of the city will be quarantined off in an attempt to keep the zombie virus away from the main populous. It is possible to enter the quarantined zones, which is necessary at some points to complete the main story, finish sidequests, and get businesses to reopen. In the case of the latter, the manager has you clear out the horde of zombies and monsters right outside the door. After that, the business will reopen and will remain open.

The shooting, which is the main gameplay mechanic, is unfortunately a little wonky. It takes a while to get used to the aiming and shooting mechanic, but, it becomes easier to use after trial and error. There are several different types of monsters, from zombies to screaming undead women who will bring more in zombies, to faceless wall-crawlers, and to big giant bosses. A lot of these enemies are really similar to those found in Capcom's Resident Evil games as well as Sega's own House of the Dead series.

Yakuza: Dead Souls is a fun spin-off of Sega's now-popular Like a Dragon series. The playable characters are fun, especially the always hilarious Goro Majima who has some of his funniest scenes ever in this game. The storyline is suitably campy, with crazy experiments and a former top yakuza turned takoyaki cook. This is probably the only game in the extended Like a Dragon universe where I'm not sure if the main story or the sidequests are funnier, and that's a good thing since playing into its campiness is by far the game's best strength. The shooting mechanic is a little wonky and takes a while to get used to, but the rest of the game more than makes up for it.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Yakuza 4 reviewYakuza 5 Review

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