Ryuu ga Gotoku Kenzan!

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I’m stealing the review format from the PlayStation Plaza for this region too, except without the texture ripping material because who wants ugly HD textures from late 00s games? I certainly don’t. The ‘Controls’ rating scale has also been taken out because the controls are the same for every single Yakuza game with only slight variation.

Visuals

Storyline

Music

Replayability

So, there’s a few games in the main(-ish) Yakuza series that haven’t been localised yet:

It pains me greatly. There are definitely fan translations in the works for all of them (actually not sure about Black Panther 2) but nothing has been released yet. As a stan fan of this series, I really want to try and play them all, so I need to use guides and translated YouTube clips to get me through it. I’m using a guide by the incredible ThePatrick who has got me through SO much content for other Yakuza games, as well as a translated YouTube playlist by KHHsubs. While I do own a physical copy of Kenzan, it’s easier for me to run RPCS3 in windowed mode and have guides/videos/notes sprawled across the rest of my screen. Why Kenzan as my first choice? It was the first spin-off game, and the first Yakuza PS3 game. It came out after 2 and before 3. I’m going to be replaying the games in release order, but I want to try and power through the ones I haven’t played yet (also in release order) first.

Visuals

You’ll see in the Playthrough further down that this game is gorgeous. Very beautiful landscape design with loads of different areas to explore. There’s at least 100 unique weapons too.

Storyline

The story is great! Not too many characters, and the ones that are there are fleshed out and their motives are clear (at least by the end, anyway!). I shouldn’t really be comparing spin-offs to the main series, but to be frank I’d much rather play this game again (just considering the plot) over Yakuza 3 or even 6.

Music

Nothing slaps. The music’s fine. Some of the more boss-battle-type music is more interesting but nothing groundbreaking. I often had the game on mute or a very quiet setting while I had a YouTube video or some music on, so maybe I shouldn’t be judging this too much…

Replayability

This got a shit rating only because it hasn’t been localised and it’s hellish trying to get through it. I was able to print-screen and paste bits of dialogue into Yandex Translate if I had some text, fuck knows what I’m going to do when I play Ishin on my PS4 and have no easy way to translate anything.

The actual game, language barrier aside, is VERY good. Storyline was mentioned above, and there’s loads of fun sidequests to do as well as fun and interesting combat. There are loads of combat styles when you break it all down, more than any other Yakuza game. Most of them have the standard: regular, slow but powerful, fast but weak, and weapon-wielding. While this game only has ‘regular’ (when looking at bare fists), the variety of different weapons and how Kiryu uses them far outweighs the fighting styles in all the other games. Going from memory, anyway.

In terms of spin-offs, out of this and Dead Souls, I’d pick Kenzan to replay in an instant. Is it the best Yakuza game? Nah, not by a long shot. It’s damn near great though.

The Playthrough

This is sort of a review-as-I-playthrough, more to document how I’m getting through the game unlocalised and also because I need to talk about the rest of the Yakuza games as and when I get round to replaying them. I’m playing using KKHsubs’ videos alongside my game so I can understand the cutscenes, and I have Pat’s written guide up to point me roughly where I need to go and how I can trigger substories and other smaller bits and pieces as I move along.

Also, I’m gonna keep this spoiler free. Details will be super vague as I work through the game, only including direct references to shit that doesn’t matter and is inconsequential to the actual plot.

Prologue

This took forever. I haven’t even started Chapter 1 yet. You know, like the main story. I spent a while mooching round online for guides (mentioned before) and trying to fix my RPCS3 settings as I was getting some fucking crazy values in the menu screens.

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The prologue is basically teaching you how to play. I was learning Japanese but quit (how many times have I done this I’ve lost count) and, like learning any language, all the knowledge I had just emptied itself from my brain so I’m back to knowing next to nothing. Even most of the hiragana/katakana is gone from memory and I thought I’d hammered that shit in. I’m re-picking bits up as I play.

You go to a few shops – the legendary Ebisuya Pawnshop makes a re-appearance – to collect some coin. Pat’s guide says to go to 3 shops in a specific order, so I open the map and hover over each yellow building to figure out which is which. I know enough hiragana to read ‘ebisuya’ and ‘arigataya’, meaning the remaining kanji-composed word must be for pharmacy. God this is long-winded. This is gonna take forever. Maybe if I spent the past 2 months in quarantine doing something productive like learning Japanese instead of dyeing my hair and fucking around trying to learn how to do my makeup, this wouldn’t be so bad.

Let’s look around Gion for a sec. This place is gorgeous. I love me some good architecture and I was not disappointed. I don’t really know what this sort is called but I never tire of seeing it. Other highlights include this drunk (I can’t be mad… we’ve all been this guy fucked up with everything hanging out at the side of the street… or maybe I’m trashier than I thought).

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Also this mask, which I love. I can’t remember the name, just that I have this mask in Animal Crossing: New Horizons too.

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I’m currently majorly burnt out from that game. 350 hours in about 6 weeks did me in. I might jump back in after finishing Kenzan but I DIGRESS !!!!

There were also battle tutorials here but it’s the exact same as every other Yakuza game so it’s not too bad.

After a bit of time getting my shit together, the prologue is over, and the actual game is starting.

Chapter 1

Check the opening shot. It’s beautiful. Something about the shaders is busted so some cutscenes are way redder than they ought to be, but I think it enhances it.

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This chapter, chopping out the story bits, is not massively exciting. There’s the sword tutorial and that’s about it. Oh, and flipping over a turtle that was stuck on its back.

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Lobbing that into a translator gives me “somehow it looks like I’m happy”. Story of my life, pal. God bless.

Again, more over-reddened scenery. I flatly refuse to fix this issue. Look how stunning the scenery is! Why would I ever want to fix this?

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This is what it’s supposed to look like:

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HORRIBLE !!!!!!!

The rest of this chapter is majority cutscenes followed by a couple simple sword fights. The big man Majima, here named Gorohashi Majima, makes his first appearance. It’s strange seeing him with both eyes but I appreciate it. I think I’m comfortably in the swing of things in terms of running the translated videos alongside my game and it’s honestly not as laborious as I really thought it was gonna be. A quick scan through Pat’s guide shows there’s no substories available until Chapter 5 so I think it’ll be smooth sailing until then.

One thing of note is that the fight music so far sounds eerily similar to Ryuji’s battle theme in Dead Souls.

Chapter 2

All story and a couple of fights. Plus another turtle!

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The story has me hooked already. All kinds of betrayal and fuckery is taking place. Majima loses his eye in this one, poor bastard.

Chapter 3

Third turtle!

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Again, mostly story. It’s a bit OTT in some places but it’s not overly distracting, more goofy if anything. It really feels like a lot of other Yakuza games — Kiryu is framed and is on the run, fighting people literally all the damn time. It’s not that different here. The controls are starting to bother me a bit when fighting groups… the opportunity to use Heat actions rarely comes up when using swords, which makes things a bit more of a chore. I’ve found fist fighting is way more effective (and, more importantly, more fun!). Getting knocked down is also arse as it takes 6 years to get back up, but at least enemies have the decency to wait until you stand back up before going at it again.

Also, I have a small as shit inventory. I think it’s a fraction bigger than what you get in Yakuza 2, but I’m finding myself needing to consume items just to pick new ones up. I also have a bunch of crap that I need to sell, but the opportunity to do so hasn’t cropped up yet so my pockets are full of plates and rocks.

Chapter 4

Rename this game Kazuma Kiryu and the case of the infinite fuckery. I cannot trust a single one of these hoes new characters that comes in because I feel like there’s a hidden motive EVERY TIME!

It looks like the journey back to present time in Gion is soon approaching. I just need to get changed and head off.

It’s the first sort-of-open-world-type section since since the Prologue. It’s a bit of a trek to Gion, and I’ve got some time to explore, fight some guys, and pick some stuff up along the way.

I also found what I believe are lion-dog statues in the more rural areas before I hit the Suburbs. I feel like a bit of a tit now, actually. I have the DIY recipe for this in New Horizons (yes I’m mentioning the game again !!) and have a few of these on my island, but they’re facing the viewer/camera, rather than each other. I’ll need to fix that when I next pick the game up.

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There’s a ton of save points in the Suburbs before reaching Gion so when the emulator crashes after finally reaching my destination, I don’t lose too much progress. I’ve had 2 complete crashes playing this game so far, which is a bit irritating… part of me thinks I should just play this on PS3 and have guides and what not up on my phone instead. At least then I know I’ll have some stability.

However, I’m lazy and don’t want to re-do the …

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… 9 hours 22 minutes RPCS3 says I’ve spent on this game. I imagine it’s far less as a lot of that is me being idle, but I don’t want to redo shit if I can help it.

I have a quick glance online to see if I can translate the settings menu without handwriting each kanji in Google Translate.

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Turns out Yandex translate can translate from images which is fucking class. I can fix the camera and minimap rotation now!!

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After fixing the settings, I reload my latest save and it gets past the crash point without a hitch. Not much else to write, it’s just story again. The chapter ends with Kiryu back in Gion, which looks beautiful at night.

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Chapter 5

Hold the fucking phone. The bed allows you access to your items. All the items I thought I was ‘dropping’ in favour of whatever crap I was being handed by randos after fights was actually just being put in my inventory. This is glorious. The shrines (save points) ALSO give you access to your items!! Sega really stepped it up for the PS3 run of Yakuza games.

There’s 28 missions introduced in this chapter: 23 favours (with a lot of them being courtesans) and 5 services. Favours are, well, favours. Overhearing people chatting on the street and helping them out with things. Services are contracts that you get paid for. I don’t know if I have it in me to complete every substory in the game, as again this whole game is in Japanese so I’ll need to seek out translated YouTube videos for specific missions which could possibly kill me. KHHsubs has playlists covering all the sub-missions in Chapter 5 so I think I’ll be alright for now, but Lord knows what the future holds. I have no intentions of going for 100%. Why would I? There’s no trophies in this game (the real crime) so why would I bother with getting every possible heat action or trying to fight Amon? Now, if this game ever gets brought to the West i.e. the language barrier gets lifted, that’s a different story. I’m even trying for 100% in Dead Souls and I really don’t like that game at all. I’m getting off topic… again. I’ll do as many substories as I can, mainly for XP so my life will get easier nearer the end game if I’m levelled up further. One thing I’ll not be bothering with is the courtesan stuff, where you just chat up women in brothels in an effort to sleep with them. I don’t have time for this heterosexual agenda as I have far better things to be doing.

Okay! Now to actually get stuck in to what the region of Gion, Kyoto has to offer. One thing I’ve ran into which is bothering me is that you can’t buy food items. Restaurants are eat-in only except sake, and all other shops are for materials, weapons, and assorted accessories. One of the sidequests I’m on requires you to shift a dog, and to do so you need to feed it food items… of which I have none. I only have healing pills which are apparenty unacceptable. I’ll just have to hope that another random fight drops food items so I can circle back to this…

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I’ve also unlocked the Suburbs so I can easily switch between regions. After throwing a bunch of dialog into Yandex Translate, I’ve found the turtle vendor. You can keep, raise, and race turtles!! More relevant to me right now though is that you can buy turtle food. I bought two bits of seaweed, and I have a red chili that I got from helping a young girl in a substory. Turns out these are fine and dandy foods to give to dogs! We’re back in business.

Guess what I also have access to!

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A TURTLE GARDEN !!!!!!!!!

This is incredible. They’re so cute. Sometimes you find turtles laying around, and sometimes people will hand one to you after losing a fight.

I don’t have much else to add. I completed all of the substories which are just as fun and goofy as the rest of the series’ substories, many thanks to KHHsubs for pulling me through. I also unlocked a handful of revelations, which come in the form of beautiful artwork.

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Also, here’s a choice shot of the view from the massive bridge in Kawara, busted shaders included.

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Chapter 6

Alright… a new chapter. The YouTube channel getting me through the substories has only done the Chapter 5 ones. I say only, it must have took them fucking ages to make those videos and translate all that content, so hats off to them.

Once Chapter 6 begins, I receive a letter with a new request for my witcher kakemawari services. I have nothing to help me here… the text is written top-to-bottom, right-to-left, so all photo translation services are out the window. I recognise ‘Ebisuya’ right away so I know I need to head to the pawn shop. I get my phone out and head to Google Translate, picking the handwriting option. I write the message and get “I’m having a problem with customers who want to return quality items for free. Please turn that customer back.” I guess this means people want to steal shit? I haven’t even left the house after this new chapter started and I already know it’s gonna be a massive pain trying to get through this. There are 6 services, the first 3 bounties, and 24 favours introduced in this chapter. I initially thought to just… not bother with them, but the XP and money you get is invaluable and you get a bunch of new items too. It looks like I’m gonna have to just struggle through the rest of this game’s side content.

Pat’s guide has a substory section, which points you where you need to go and summarises what’s going on, but it’s not as nice as having all of the dialog translated. It’s more than adequate though. On the bright side, I’ll be straight skipping all of the text in the substories so I should reach the end credits a lot faster.

I’m blitzing through everything I possibly can before continuing the story. Grabbing all available storage locker keys, clearing substories, and completing bounties. I finished Gion, Kawara, and the majority of the Suburbs before my emulator crashed (yes, again). It crashes at least twice a day, it’s just a matter of time when that happens. SAVE OFTEN, PEOPLE! It was, again, Vulkan issues. I tried starting RPCS3 ignoring Vulkan so it would render using OpenGL instead. That made the framerate drop to 7fps, so that’s kind of out the question. Alas, we trudge on!

One of the substories in the Suburbs involves helping out in a kabuki show (?? I’m sure that’s not grammatically correct), where you just beat people up as per but you look cute doing it.

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I also did a bit of exploring in Gion, and you can actually RACE TURTLES! There’s too much damn text to try and translate, so I’m not sure if I can race my own turtles or not. You do get the option to bet on turtle races.

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Look at the little fuckers go!

To round off this chapter, check out the revelations I found.

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Chapter 7

I’m in the swing of things now. I harvest all of the current chapter-related things (favours, services, bounties, revelations, training) from Pat’s guide and throw them into a text file. This saves me from having to Ctrl+F for every damn thing and scroll through thousands of lines of text – all the chapter-specific stuff is just in one file that I can easily work through and delete as I go. I work through as much as I can, as early as I can. It’s a bit tedious, but only because I’m trying to squeeze as much as I possibly can out of my first playthrough as I sure as hell am not doing round two.

In traditional Yakuza fashion (well, almost all the games, anyway) the story is gripping and I actually want to continue playing. I keep using the Witcher 3 as a reference point because it’s the last… hmm… actual (??) game I played. Like, the last one with a story. That game burnt me out horribly and it was a chore to get to the end. I had to put it down for a bit to focus on something else before I could bring myself back to playing it, but I eventually hit the end credits. I still have 90+ question marks in Skellige to clean up which I promise you I’ll never do. Nor will I do a second playthrough. That game gets rough after a while, at least for me. And Geralt is a boring as shit character. Why am I talking about this game again?

I’m steering this back on track.

Another turtle is discovered!

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Along with a few more revelations. One of them is absolutely adorable.

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The substories aren’t a massive pain, really. I’m getting used to them. There are loads of areas to walk around and the environments are really beautiful so running back and forth between places isn’t too bad.

A minor trend I’m noticing is that the few substories that involve gay men portray them to be weirdos and perverts. It’s supposed to be lighthearted and funny given the goofy ass situations that take place, but I’m still tired of it.

This cat whisperer that I ran into in Kawara will make up for it.

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Two sidequests later and I find out this man is hoarding cats to use their their intestines to create catgut. He uses these cords to make shamisen (they’re banjo-like instruments apparently). This game is canceled.

At least I got to rescue this pup from getting slaughered by samurai.

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Not much else to write. The story is actually interesting! A lot of shit doesn’t make sense, so I’m hoping it all gets resolved.

Chapter 8

FUCK the Jiraiya training !!!!!!

Ch-

I’m kidding. But seriously, fuck the Jiraiya training. I don’t really care about getting bonus swords. I don’t even bother with going to the blacksmith’s to upgrade all my stuff because the idea of throwing hordes of text into Yandex Translate to try and figure out which weapon is called what and what upgrades are available for it (and what each upgrade does) makes me want to die. I’ll stick to my bog standard swords plus the slightly cooler ones you get doing substories… at least for now.

Speaking of substories, I’m cleaning up shop really well in terms of side content. I think the Jiraiya stuff might be the first thing I actively refuse to do, but everything else is cleaned up (that benefits me, anyway. I’m not going for restaurant food completion or winning all the gambling games. I don’t have the willpower).

I’ve unlocked a new region that I now need to travel to – Houzouin school in Nara. All of the places in this game are legit places. Well, considering this game revolves around the fictionalised stories of real people, I guess it makes sense.

This chapter is extremely short, consisting of just a couple fights and a bit of story. I did complete one revelation. The artwork for this one is cool as shit.

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Chapter 9

We arrive in Houzouin! Also, I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but all the shaders seem to be working properly. There’s no overly red scenes anymore.

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I managed to catch the sun setting while passing by the Riverside.

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Also, aliens.

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(Kiryu: A strange pattern is drawn on the field…)

I cleaned up the last of the Revelations in this chapter.

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Chapter 10

Just substories and more story. One thing to note is that the crop circle substory escalated immensely.

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Chapter 11

Another supremely short chapter in terms of things to write about. I’m cleaning up as much as I can (well, as much as I can be bothered to do).

Gyoutensai, Gion’s resident inventor, ends up building a flying machine as part of his own little substory.

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Kiryu gets to fly it in the Cliffside Paths. It’s also the first time I’ve seen the Cliffside Paths in daylight… they’re actually quite beautiful.

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The Final Chapter

Well… the end is nigh. I spent a lot of time fannying around, trying out new areas I hadn’t bothered with before. My completion list is looking okay right now.

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In order, that’s:

  1. Food: eating at every restaurant. I’ve just crafted the ‘stomach emptying medicine’ which is composed of turtle food, with a few of these on hand I can go round each restaurant and clean this up.
  2. Storage locker keys: this is always the easiest thing to complete in any Yakuza game.
  3. Tournament: the staple fighting tournament. This shows how many opponents you’ve defeated. A lot of the people who can show up need to be unlocked via completing their training activities, which is proving to be a fucking task and a half. Will be a while before I can 100% this.
  4. Heat Actions: I always seem to end up doing the same Heat Actions all the time. I’ll need to translate and draw up a list of the ones I’m missing to see if I can get all of these. There’s a specific one involving the furnace in the blacksmith’s which I believe is the only 100% ‘missable’ one, but as I got it earlier, I think I’m alright.
  5. Techniques: all the training stuff. Some of these are ridiculously difficult and I can’t get through them. I’ll need to put some time to one side and come back when I have the patience.
  6. Weapons: …okay, so maybe when I mentioned I wasn’t gonna bother with the blacksmith’s, I lied. The upgrade process is actually piss as there’s pictures of everything. It took me a while to organise ThePat’s weapons list in a way where I can see all the ingredients I need to upgrade all the weapons you can get in the game. I’m 100 off right now, but I have most of the materials so this number will drop rapidly once I get some more money… from somewhere…
  7. Courtesans: the dating sim that’s in every Yakuza game. Go to the brothels, chat up the women by taking all 7 of them on multiple dates, then do their specific substory. I can’t actually think of anything I’d want to do less. The only valid hostess is Goromi in Yakuza Kiwami.

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  1. Inventions: I need a couple more rare materials that I can only get in the watermelon-slashing training area. With any luck I’ll be able to get those and mop this up.
  2. Minigames: fuck these lol

I’m trying to think of what to do now. I’m definitely not going to push for 100% before hitting the end of the story as I know for a fact I’m missing a weapon from an earlier action stage. I’m able to grab it in the New Game+ mode so I’m not worried. I’m also broke and can’t afford all the weapon upgrades.

There’s a couple things I haven’t even tried yet. Horseback Archery comes to mind, whatever that is.

However, I’m also pushing 76 hours already into this game. Granted, a decent chunk of that has been me being idle, but it’s still over 70 hours at a guess.

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Some time has passed, and I decided to say ‘fuck it’ and push to the end credits. I was worried, actually, as there are no save points between venturing off to the final stage and the end credits. I got through it all pretty easily, there’s a couple of slightly annoying fights but it’s nothing a couple of healing items couldn’t fix.

So, imagine my surprise, when the final cutscene plays out before the final boss battle, my emulator crashed.

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This is the error that I get a few times a day, and there’s no way in hell to determine what causes it. I can skip cutscenes, but I have 6 or 7 mini boss battles to do as well as multiple swarms of enemies to get through, AGAIN, before I can get back to the same point. There’s just no safety! I found 2 swords on my travels. The Tengu staff, as well as the Soul Dachi. I know where they are, so with a bit of luck I can blitz through all the content again, getting those swords, and get back to where I was in hopefully sub-30 minutes.

………………

Okay, so it took maybe 90 minutes going balls to the wall from setting off to hitting the end credits. Bit longer than I was anticipating. I’m glad it’s over from a convenience point of view, but I did have an absolute blast playing this. I got 50 ryo from completing Normal mode; there’s a game mode you unlock when you finish the game called ‘Galavanting in Kyoto’, where you basically get the chance to roam free everywhere without the story. When I get some free time I might just head in and try and finish a few things off!