Once again we find ourselves back in the town of Kamurocho. Walking down the street, we pass familiar locales. The Club Sega down Theater Ave., the strip club Asia off Pink St., even the drug store on Tenkaichi St. right past club Stardust. Places in which, if you spent some time roaming the city, you’d be able to remember like the back of your hand. Something is wrong, however. Very wrong. Now we have a zombie outbreak wreaking havoc in our beautiful town. It’s up to us to figure out what’s going on and put an end to it all.
With Yakuza: Dead Souls, we are greeted with the 5th NA release of the Yakuza franchise. A couple of stylistic changes featured in last years Yakuza 4 make their way into Dead Souls such as the different approach at storytelling and a more straightforward leveling system. You are also treated to all the usual things you could expect in a Yakuza game. A huge plethora of mini-games, hostess clubs and a number of side stories to complete. It’s pretty much a playground of fun when you get down to it.
The story of Dead Souls centers on a revenge plot against our hero, Kazama Kiryu, and the spread of the Thanatos drug which causes the victim to fall into a state of zombification. It is then spread like any other strain we’ve come accustomed to in other media, by the bite of an infected. This causes the Japanese Special Defense Force to come in and quarantine the area. Those trapped within have to find a way to survive or find a way out.
Story transitions much like Yakuza 4. In the beginning we control Shun Akiyama, one of our main protagonist in Yakuza 4, as he finds medicine for his assistant Hana. Goro Majima, a very colorful character from the previous games is also first playable here. His story more of a mix comic relief and seriousness. That much becomes clear when you first start his chapter and he is excited to kill real zombies. Returning character, Ryuji Goda of the Omi Alliance in Osaka, from Yakuza 2 returns with a machine gun arm. Lastly, you’ll finish things off with our hero once again. As with any Yakuza game, I can’t get much more into the story as that would spoil the main focal point of series.
Dead Souls, unlike the previous games, is not an action brawler. It is a third person shooter that plays closely to how the previous games did but more like a shooter. Unfortunately, this did not translate very well. There is no cover system like you would expect from a third person shooter and it offers a different approach to the games signature Heat Actions. Aiming feels much like a chore when done in first person mode and unless you’re aiming for barrels to explore, you’re much better off just sticking to third person view and using Heat Snipes. It’s not bad overall but its not good either. It gets the job done but don’t expect anything spectacular or revolutionary.
The game also streamlines the character development system from Yakuza 4. All skills in which you learn from one character transfers over to the next, this way you do not feel like you have to grind levels per character but the overall speed of leveling feels just as fast as the previous entry. In addition you’ll be able to recruit people to bring in as partners during the course of the game. They gain their own levels and weapons that will require upgrading but are only available during Free Mode and not story missions. Hostesses with guns can’t go wrong, right?
The Final Verdict
Dead Souls is a nice deviation from the main series. It packs a pretty good story, your metrosexual antagonist, and some idiot who thinks he can beat Kiryu. Well, there’s always an idiot who thinks they can beat Kiryu. It gives you a playground to mess around in and just have fun. However, I find the menu systems and menu heavy functions far outdated and hopefully the next game in the series will breath new life into the franchise. Overall, the game is not bad but its not great either. I would recommend it for anyone who likes the Yakuza series but this is not the game to jump into the franchise. If you’re looking into trying out the series for the first time then go with Yakuza 4. Also, they removed the Hostess Maker! -angry- (has no bearing on review)
Review based on completion of the main story, some sidequest and minigames.