Review: Yakuza’s Dying Soul

Cover art for Yakuza Dead Souls review

Recently there has been a resurrection of interest in the growing zombie trend.  It feels like every developer wants to jump on the bandwagon. It’s become something so common that, in all  honesty, it just makes zombie games seem generic, plain, dull and boring.

The most recent victim to be infected by this plague on originality in gaming is the Yakuza franchise. Many of you will be now shrugging your shoulders or scratching your head wondering what this franchise is. Yakuza is a franchise that happens to be really popular over in Japan. It stars a number of Japanese gangsters in a town influenced by Tokyo’s very own red light district. The franchise is famous for the brutality of it’s combat mechanics, but it’s always been about the melee combat. As per standard with zombie games: Yakuza has been mutated into a third person shooter. So, at heart, at the core of it’s very own soul, is Dead Souls still a true Yakuza title?

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: 16th March 2012 (9th June 2011)
Rating: 18 (BBFC)

Similarly to the previous title, Yakuza: Dead Souls features four playable characters – each specialising in their own weapon as well as having the ability to use many others. The story itself explores the mystery behind the sudden appearance of zombies in Kamurcho.

Whilst I might go as far as to claim this has the weakest story out of all of the Yakuza games that I’ve played, that doesn’t mean that it has a bad story either. As you continue through the main story of the game, the player witnesses the gradual progression of the virus and is exposed to the constant impact that the virus has on the district. This leaves an surprisingly meaningful lasting impression. It made the familiar district turn into a creepy and disturbing ruin, and you can’t help but feel melancholic as you struggle to survive. Yakuza: Dead Souls really handles the transition into a zombie horror really well. 

Furthermore, much like it’s predecessors, Dead Souls has a number of touching moments. These are far fewer than they were before, but they still exist and certainly leave a chill or two. It’s not just the occasional sad or moving moment that leaves an impact upon its audience. Yakuza is famous for the badass characters that it features, and in particular Kazuma Kiryuu (aka Dragon of Dojima) is the cream of the crop. His entrance in the last chapter of the game is enough to spread a wide and goofy grin on my face. The character is the embodiment of the words ‘badass’ and ‘cool’, and Dead Souls doesn’t fail in delivering an incredible Kazuma performance. In all honesty, it might actually be my favourite entrance for him so far in the franchise. The title is rich in exciting and incredible moments which can be found even in the gameplay.

For many, though, there exists the disappointment that the series has shifted from a brawler to a third person shooter. I was amongst the many who were concerned, but after adjusting to the new genre for Yakuza it just seems like a minor complaint. At it’s very core, it still feels like a Yakuza title. If anything, the transition compliments the dark focus of the game. It makes sense that the familiar cast would pick up armaments to fend off this new threat to their home. Make no mistake though, as physical combat still returns. It’s just not as central to the game as before. The player may pick up nearly anything they see to be wielded as a weapon. This ranges from a bicycle that continues to break down until you’re swinging just a wheel around, to a frozen zombie that can be smashed against their infected brethren. Despite the dark tones, the title still retains its sense of humour and I’m sure fans would appreciate this. Accompanying this sense of humour are the mini-games which also make a return. It amuses me every time I walk through the quarantined zone to find a store which I can pop by to have myself some ice cream, or play on the arcade machines. It’s ridiculously fantastic.

Initially, trying to adjust to the game’s third person shooter mechanics and controls can be a very daunting and frustrating task. There’s no real way to change the sensitivity and it can be an overall mess. It’s soon overcome with experience as early as the first section in the first chapter of the game. The game’s action is very fast paced, and is actually pretty well refined for something that first appears clunky. There’s a lot of particular focus on being able to skillfully dodge attacks, otherwise the player is left temporarily vulnerable as a stray zombie manages to grab on to them. It can be a fairly challenging title, and as of such anyone looking for an easy time should probably overlook this game.

Dead Souls can be quite graphic, which is also further enhanced by the relatively brilliant visuals despite the aged engine. Yakuza is known for being quite graphic and Dead Souls is by no means an exception.

Yakuza Dead Souls is still rich in content and has an exciting and dramatic story, but that doesn’t change it being the weakest of the PlayStation 3 bunch. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t recommend it. As a spinoff, it’s excellent and plays the third person shooter role reasonably well with that Yakuza flavour.

For those who care about scores in reviews, for whatever reason, I believe this review justifies an 8/10 for Yakuza: Dead Souls. A 8/10 means that the game was great, but was set back by a number of problems that sometimes interferes with the experience. Yakuza: Dead Souls was completed on the normal difficulty in roughly forty hours, but is not yet even near 100% completion.

This review is entirely subjective and should not be considered fact. This review is the author’s opinion and nothing more. Feel free to discuss the review in the comments below, but try to keep it civil. You are also entitled to an opinion that differs from the author, and don’t forget it! The author can also be contacted at

  • MDA

    Zombies are everywhere now, yeah. But I'm rather happier about their return than the ill-fated return of vampires… Just imagine if you had to play a Yakuza with sparkling blood-suckers

  • Anonymous

    buen blog :)

  • Pentele

    The shooting mechanics really ruined the game for me. I know fans of the series will like Dead Souls but for me it was too much. The zombies move too fast and the aiming is so slow. Auto aim didn't help at all, since it always made me aim exactly where I didn't want to hit.

  • Etaron

    Yakuzas are the most badass mobsters :D

  • Anonymous

    I'm a huge fan if this genre. Can't wait to play this one.

  • TJay

    this really looks interesting!
    Definetly worth a try!
    thx for sharing it!