Review: Yakuza – Dead Souls

The next heavily anticipated chapter in the Yakuza series is here. Please welcome Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Fans of the franchise have watched it unfold into a game of intense action, heavy story, and wide open exploration. Every game will give you hours and hours of exploration, with the average length of each title clocking in at a meaty 30-40 hours… And that’s if you just go straight through it and ignore all the extra content the games have had hidden in them. Go shopping for some of the various bits of product placement including Pepsi, Cup Noodles, and even a Sega UFO machine. Go bowling or just hit the casino. There is always lots to do.

Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn’t disappoint: like the rest of the series, it is really silly, really serious, and a nonstop ride to the end, and boasts the same length, same exploration, and great story of the other Yakuza games. Only this time it has zombies. How can you say no?

It’s quiet. Almost too quiet…

Things start out innocently enough, just like the beginning of any other Yakuza game. A normal day, arcades open, patrons visiting the local hostess bars or just popping in for a bit of lunch. However, no one is aware of the zombie outbreak that is about to unfold. For a good portion at the start of the game, you simply go about the normal Yakuza-style tasks. But as you continue through the game, the outbreak spreads and your environment changes.

Just as with Yakuza 4, you control four different characters, though the roster this time is now Shun Akiyama, Goro Majima, Ryuji Goda, and of course, Kazuma Kiryu. Each character offers a different perspective on the infestation. They all handle it differently and react to unique environments in some interesting ways.

From the serious to the downright silly, this game will have you going. The story is definitely engaging if you give it enough time to unfold. Of course, this is a bit different coming from the previous Yakuza games. However, the inclusion of zombies works really well, lightening up the story with some camp and goofiness.

At the start of the game, things are pretty normal. Just your average day as a Japanese gangster.

Yakuza don’t just use fists:

In contrast to the previous games, Yakuza: Dead Souls is all about the gunplay, and there is plenty of it to go around. The variety of the arsenal is somewhere in the middle, but all the guns are fun to use. Getting used to the controls will take a bit of time, but is well worth it once you get the hang of it. Also, there is auto-aim, which definitely helps during intense zombie waves, making it easier to pick out that zombie rushing toward you.

Melee weapons make their return, and there are still bikes and other various bludgeoning implements to grab, much like in Yakuza 4. Don’t expect a Dead Rising out of this one, because you may feel a bit let down. However, Dead Souls does have some form of weapon modding. Some of the zombies will drop items to upgrade your weapons when killed, so make sure you kill many and kill often.

There are also ‘clearing out’ moves, such as pushes and shoulder charges that will give you a little space between you and the undead.

As opposed to previous Yakuza titles, guns play a more prominent role in Dead Souls.

Fancy a stroll in zombie country this Sunday?

In terms of visuals, the game is on par with Yakuza 4 – it isn’t technically amazing and won’t push any envelopes, but it gets the job done. The amount of zombies on screen is pretty decent – doing what is needed to get across that you are indeed involved in an outbreak, rather than a Sunday stroll through Kabukicho.

It is also nice to see the game change as the infestation spreads. The characters are nice and expressive – their body language matches their mood and tones very well. Zombie movement is more or less as you would expect it. I did run into a few zombies clipping each other, but nothing major. A couple movements look a bit unnatural, but zombies aren’t the most graceful creatures in existence.

The sound is pretty decent, although the battle music can get pretty annoying if you are listening for it – it is typical beat ’em up music. Zombie sounds are good and the voice acting is top notch like it always has been. Remember, as with the other Yakuza titles, the spoken dialogue is completely in Japanese, so be prepared to read a lot. The ambiance is nice, both from the bustling city in the early part of the game to the very end sound of zombies sloshing and stomping around.

Final Thoughts:

If you take the game for what it is, you will have a great time. When it comes down to it, Yakuza: Dead Souls is a lot of fun, both from an action and an RPG standpoint. Even though it plays nothing like the other games, it is a breath of fresh air into a popular franchise, with plenty of hours of gameplay in tow.

It isn’t Dead Rising, but it doesn’t need to be. It is a perfect mix of what it is, so do yourself a solid and pick this title up.

If you are unsure if you will like the pacing and action of the game, pick up Yakuza 4 and give it a shot. I am sure you will come back to pick up Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Ryan Goddard

Been of fan of gaming in general ever since I can remember. I still feel that the 16-bit era was the golden age of gaming. I also love SEGA to no end. Even when they release terrible games like Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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