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Sega Takes the Veil Off Yakuza Of the End

New Yakuza game takes center stage at Sega's Tokyo Game Show booth.

This year's Tokyo Game Show Yakuza hostess attraction had a few differences from last year's.

While Sega had slowly streamed out first details on the main characters and cast over the weeks prior, Tokyo Game Show marked the true unveiling point for Yakuza: Of the End. Sega shared first footage, gameplay screenshots and gameplay details for its zombie-inspired twist on the Yakuza series.

Yakuza Of the End kicks off in Kamurocho in April 2011. The neon city is struck by a sudden outbreak of the undead -- zombies. Japan's Self Defense erects a barrier around the city, letting all that is inside descend to hell, and leaving the few remaining survivors in a state of despair as the undead walk the streets in search of prey.

From this rise "four men of great fortitude," all primary players in past Yakuza games:

  • Shun Akiyama, the mysterious money lender who will give money to anyone
  • Goro Majima, the feared one-eyed "mad dog" yakuza
  • Ryuji Goda, the dragon of Kansai who's risen from a long sleep
  • Kazuma Kiryu, the legendary former yakuza of Kamurocho
Kazuma Kiryu (left) and Shun Akiyama.
Ryuji Goda (left) and Goro Majima.
Of the End begins with Kazuma receiving a phone call from a mysterious man stating that his step daughter Haruka, shown here, has been kidnapped.

Outside of just the vastly different premise, Of the End will add many new elements to the series. Most notably, the game adopts the new "Gun Shot Battle" system, a third person shooter-style system which lets players plow through zombies and other creatures.

The four heroes are skilled in particular weapons: Akiyama with his twin pistols; Majima with his shotgun; Goda with his Gatling Arm; and Kiryu with his rifle. You also have access to machine guns, grenades and other weapons, and can also board vehicles, including tanks. Weapons can be powered up as you advance in the game. Also, although each character is listed here with a speciality, the weapons are interchangeable.

In addition to freely blasting away at your foes, you'll be able to enter into an Aiming mode, which allows for more precise aim. For Kazuma's rifle, this translates into a sniper view.

The battle systems in past Yakuza games have featured "Heat Action" moves -- cinematic attacks that deal great damage to foes. Of the End swaps these for "Heat Snipe" moves, which allow you to gain precise targeting. This can be used to cause explosions by firing at oil drums or gas pipes, and for some slightly more creative kill-all attacks against your zombie foes.

Also new for the game is a "Partner System". You'll be able to seek out and team up with side kick characters who will accompany you on your zombie blasting, and will even team up with you for group Heat Snipe moves. Your partner characters can be trained in a "Gary's Boot Camp" school, which features a return of the series' Gary Buster Holmes character.

The one gameplay screenshot Sega has released for Yakuza Of the End.

Despite the dramatic change in theme, Of the End retains many of the features we've come to expect from a Yakuza game, including collaborations, mini games and a hostess component.

Kamurocho has all the tie-ups we've seen in past Yakuza games, including such mainstays as Don Quixoti and Matsuya. Sega says the game will have the most tie-ups in series history. Tie-ups are usually announced gradually leading up to release, so expect Of the End to stay in the news with such announcements.

When you first begin the game, Kamurocho will be in its normal state. However, after the prologue, the Self Defense Forces will set up their barricade, and the city's zombie infested region will slowly begin to spread. The various collaborations will be in effect in both the normal and zombie infested areas of the city.

Even though there are zombies everywhere, Kazuma and crew will still be able to take a break at play spots. The game has many familiar side offerings, including ping pong, mahjong, fishing, golf, darts and a Club Sega arcade with playable games. You'll find karaoke, a more advanced batting mini game, and pachislot. The latter is making its first return since Yakuza 2, although Yakuza 4 did have pachinko.

You'll also find a hostess club. Outside of the typical hostess activities, you'll be able to draft the hostesses as partner characters for your zombie fights.

As with the collaborative shops, the hostess club will continue to operate even after it surroundings have been overrun by zombies. One sequence towards the end of the game's debut Tokyo Game Show trailer shows Kiryu entering the club. The manager and a hostess stick rifles at him. But after verifying that he's human, their tone changes and they welcome him just like in the past Yakuza games. The door closers to reveal a sign: "No Zombies."

The hostess component once again appears to be central to Sega's marketing of the game. As with Yakuza 4, Sega held auditions to convert seven real girls into in-game hostesses. The girls are having their features, fashion and even speaking style converted into in-game form.

Sega gave the hostess component the spotlight at the Yakuza Of the End Tokyo Game Show showing. Similar to last year's Yakuza 4 showing, Of the End had a stage show, a closed theater, and a well lit area for photo ops of the hostesses, who were joined this year by zombies.

During the stage, series director Toshihiro Nagoshi did his best to temper some of the reactions and concerns the apparent changes might be causing for fans of the series. "It will be different from typical zombie or panic games," said Nagoshi. The game will still have the same focus on "human drama" that its predecessors had, he promised. He also said to expect all the play spots to return, but added "they will all exist in a new form."

Following the stage show, Nagoshi met with the press for a brief Q&A where he revealed that rather than referring to the game as a "zombie game," he wanted the focus to be on the "panic action" elements. "It didn't necessarily have to be zombies," said Nagoshi. "However, zombies are a popular motif in the panic action genre, so we decided to include them."

The game will not require expert third person shooting skills. This is actually why they refer to the gameplay system as "Gun Shot Battle" rather than "TPS." Rather than saying "aim well and shoot," the emphasis is on "shooting things up while you progress."

"The gameplay is being made so that even those who aren't good at action games will be able to enjoy themselves," said Nagoshi. "The hurdles will definitely not be high, so take ease."

Nagoshi (center) introduces Of the End surrounded by hostesses. Expect Sega to make heavy use of the hostesses over the coming months.

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