Yakuza vs. Zombies in “Yakuza: Of The End”

I’m not particularly attracted to the whole zombie thing. Kind of tired of it, actually. I’m sure Walking Dead is a great TV show and that Left 4 Dead is tons of fun, or that zombie maps in Black Ops has its share of fans, but they’re just not for me. At the same time, I have no problem in turning ordinary household items into deadly weapons in Dead Rising.

So when I heard that Yakuza was getting the zombie treatment, I rolled my eyes. “Here we go again, another game about zombies.” But not just any game. It had to be Yakuza. Yakuza vs. Zombies.

The US is getting Yakuza 4 this month which will be sticking to the usual formula of kicking ass and taking names at the end of a pair of snakeskin boots and a bad suit, but “Of The End” which is coming out in Japan (Yakuza 4 has already been out for awhile there) spins a story that seems like Resident Evil in Kamurocho. The demo, which was released last week, offered up a nice sampling of the gameplay though the story is still lost on me. Still, it’s not hard to get through it by following the prompts onscreen and get an idea of what is going on.

Akiyama's dual pistols are there to double his zombie score

I pulled the demo from the PSN in Japan and it weighs in at around 1.7GB. That’s pretty hefty. At the same time, it offers a lot of demo over the weak slice that was delivered for Yakuza 4 over here. You can walk around Kamurocho, though it’s not long until things go to hell when the undead show up.

You play Akiyama who stars in Yakuza 4 as one of the gangsters that Kazuma runs into. Here, he picks up a pistol dropped by a cop who was attacked and is now a corpse like the other zombies that arrive. This is also where the game starts its tutorial over the basic controls. If you’ve played any of the Resident Evil games, it almost feels the same – you’re still rooted to one spot if you aim, for example, but Akiyama can shoot pretty accurately from the hip all the same. And if there are weapons nearby that he can pick up, like a couch, he’ll use that, too. Unlike his guns, however, couches and signs tend to break after so much use.

He can even use “focus shots” from time to time. I’m guessing you have a charge gauge that you need to fill before you can use one, but these focus shots can be activated to aim at special areas in the environment in a short QTE. Like the cap of a car’s gas tank turning it into an improvised bonfire.

Akiyama’s default pistol never runs out of ammo and he can dodge roll and kick away zombies in case they get a little too close. At the end of each map section, his performance is graded and points are earned that can level him up. When this happens, he gets a share of points that can be spent to buy skills, though the tutorial focuses mainly on the gunplay.

Later on, he meets up with a few other yakuza who he teams up with and who lead him to a DVD shop that doubles as a secret armory. Automatic weapons, like assault rifles and shotguns, are all for the taking. When Akiyama heads back out, he even gets his own partner as they make a break to escape. Akiyama can command his partner through a small, simplified menu system and he can even tell him to use some healing when things get a little too rough.

Goro Majima along with other key characters from the series will be joining strongman, Kazuma Kiriyu, in this zombie masher. Majima...should have figured he'd have to be in this crazy game.

Having a partner also unlocked a partner-based focus shot as he tossed grenades into the air over the heads of a pack of roving corpses, leaving Akiyama to shoot them at the right moment for a little undead flambe.

Both of them were trying to escape Kamurocho. See, the day before after Akiyama had encountered his first undead, Kamurocho still had people in it. After waking up from sleeping on a friend’s couch the next morning, there’s no one left other than streets filled with wrecked cars, smashed storefronts, and the hungry dead. Oh, and did I mention the titanic, green steel walls blocking off every exit from that area? Yeah, that’s a problem.

So both Akiyama and his new partner take to the maintenance tunnels to find a way out, discovering more zombies and a flamethrower which was amazingly useful. At the end of these underground tunnels was a huge undead guy who wasn’t too happy to see us. After a few shotgun blasts, dodges to avoid its charge, and rolling around behind it, it fell. Akiyama and his new friend climb up through the manhole to see…

…a city that is going on as if nothing had actually happened. And that’s where the demo leaves off.

I had gone in with low expectations, but after the demo, was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a lot of fun with it in the same way that I did with Resident Evil 4 or Dead Rising 2. So am I hoping that it makes it over here? Why not? From what I’ve read, all of the main characters from the series like Majima in the above pic will be showing up with their own special talents. Even the “Dragon of Kansai”, Jin Goda, will be here with what looks like a…chaingun for an arm. It’s as if the Yakuza team were told to go crazy with the IP and do whatever they wanted with it.

If the demo is any indication of what we have to look forward with the other characters and a promising upgrade system, I can’t wait to see what the full game could be like.

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