Sega's North American release of Yakuza 3 allows English speaking players to become a virtual yakuza (with a manly spirit and fatherly love of orphaned children) in the streets of Japan. With anyone able to get in touch with their inner Yakuza, former Japan crime reporter and Tokyo Vice author, Jake Adelstein, decided to see what real life yakuza make of Yakuza 3. In a highly entertaining Boing Boing feature, Adelstein draws on his connections to invite three "high-ranking gangster bosses" for an afternoon of Yakuza 3 at "a shady real estate office in Tokyo one Thursday afternoon with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of Duty-Free whiskey."
As it turns out, the unnamed individuals have quite a bit to share on being Yakuza 3's hero, Kazama Kiryu. They generally enjoyed Sega's attempt at constructing a yakuza experience, praising the setup of the story, dialogue, characterizations, and the environments based on real urban locales in Japan. They also respected the main character: "Kiryu is the way yakuza used to be. We kept the streets clean. People liked us. We didn't bother ordinary citizens. We respected our bosses. Now, guys like that only exist in video games." One was even able to relate Kiryu to a colleague, who similarly took it upon himself to run an orphanage: "Sure it was a tax shelter but he ran it like a legitimate thing. You know." They didn't like his loud shirt though, or his weaksauce tattoo that "only" covers his back.
The reviewers took issues with other elements of the game, however. For example, most found the amount of fighting (and the length of the brawls) to be excessive and unrealistic, outside of being able to get your hands whatever happens to be available to use as impromptu weapons: "A real fight--it's short and it's brutal. Over in a minute. Nobody goes around trading blows and crap like that. Usually the first guy to punch wins."
Yet the topper came when one of the yakuza was informed that the sections he enjoyed the most in the original Japanese release were ultimately cut from the North American version: "I feel sorry for the people who bought the American version. SEGA USA sucks." Better not disappoint them with the North American release of Yakuza 4 then!