The Dragon of Dojima is back... along with the Tiger, the loan Shark and the Parasite of Kamurocho
Unlike the previous games, Yakuza 4 will allow you to control, besides Kazuma Kiryu, three more characters that seem to be connected to those occurrences: Akiyama Shun, a very unique money-lender, Tanimura Masayoshi, the police detective also known as "the Parasite of Kamurocho" for his love of gambling and the ex-yakuza member Saejima Taiga, arrested 25 years ago for killing several yakuza members of the same clan.
I must say that, at first, I wasn't really confident to play a game that didn't have Kiryu as the only main character. And overall, it felt like the story was pretty short and the characters didn't really interact until the end of the game. Nevertheless, the story was good enough to make me want to play the game once again. Too many things occur at the same time and you end up not knowing if you should spend sometime grinding your characters or just saying "oh, to hell with it" and just moving on with the story.
Not much seems to have changed within the game. The good thing about being able to play with four different characters along the story is that you can actually use four completely different fighting styles that enhances one special characteristic (strenght, speed or technique), which adds up something new to the game without making it lose its traditions. On the other hand, if you don't like one of the character's fighting style, you'll have to stick up with him until you finish this character's chapters (there are about 4 or 5 chapters per character - and you can't change your characters until you reach a certain part of the story). Also, most of the moves bearing weapons or other objects are the same for the four characters. The curious part about the whole thing: some of the weapon moves were inherited from the spin-off game Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan!.
In order to get more different moves and finishing combos, the characters can once again go through non-mandatory events called "Revelations". They work in the same way as in Yakuza 3: while walking through the streets of Kamurocho, find an unusual scene and look closely at it. After a couple of ATEs, you'll have to answer a question. If you get it right, you get a new move. Otherwise, just leave the area and come back later to try again.
Kamurocho has changed slightly. Although you cannot visit other cities, like Okinawa and Osaka, there are several new big areas in the game, like the Underground and the Rooftops. If you're familiar with the Kamurocho regular map, I don't think you'll have much trouble to go around it.
Most of the subquests remain in the same style as in the previous games: go to a certain place, see a certain scene, fight. You might get bored with the repetition, but considering that the fighting system is pretty fun and efficient, I have no complaints about it. Additionally, it seems that the running minigames have been improved and now you can not only run away from people or after people, you can also fight with them and jump from building to building (through Active Time Events) and also throw bottles at them. The running minigames are a lot more fun and interactive.
Speaking of minigames, fortunately enough little to no minigames were removed from this one title, which means we can go to hostess clubs and massage houses. Games like Mahjong and Shogi are also back.
Secret bosses, interesting stories and a nice implemented fighting system, plus a couple of online features. What else could I have asked for? Great game.