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1stglance PSP Video Game Review: Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou (クロヒョウ 龍が如く新章) from Sega for the Sony PSP

First glance, fans of the “Ryu ga Gotoku” (Yakuza) games will enjoy “Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou”. While the game can be figured out on the action-end, like other “Ryu ga Gotoku” games, it is high in dialogue and those not familiar with Japanese may miss out a lot on story, but with the artwork, you can still figure out what is going on. But overall, a pretty cool game so far and will follow up after completion.

TITLE: Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou (クロヒョウ 龍が如く新章)

DEVELOPED BY: syn Sophia

PUBLISHED BY: SEGA

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2010

In Japan, the “Ryu ga Gotoku” (“Like a Dragon” or aka in the USA as “Yakuza”) are popular video games that has a strong fan following since its first release from Sega back in 2005 for the Sony PlayStation 2.

Although not created by Yu Suzuki, fans have considered “Ryu ga Gotoku” as somewhat of a spiritual successor to the “Shenmue” video games as it allows a character to travel around the city of Tokyo, enter shops and also get involved in a number of fights and missions.

And as the “Ryu ga Gotoku” games continue on the Sony PlayStation 3, fans have been clamoring for a portable version and thus in 2010 “Kurohyo: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinsho” (translates to “Black Panther: Like a Dragon New Chapter) was created.

Of course, there is only so much of the game especially the “Ryu ga Gotoku” world that can be captured in a portable version but developer syn Sophia has done a wonderful job in incorporating the city environment, the numerous battles and fighting in a Sony PSP game. Instead of CG animated cut scenes, artistic paintings (with movement) similar to the “Metal Gear Solid” PSP release have incorporate are also incorporated into “Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou”.

As the sequel “”Kurohyo 2: Ryu ga Gotoku Asyura hen” has been released in March 2012 for the PSP in Japan, I figured that prices for the first game have come down enough for me to import it.

“Kurohyo: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinsho” is a game that revolves around Tatsuya Ukyou. A young man who literally leaves his friends (more like beats them up) and wants to be known for being a kick ass loner in the Kamuro District.

One day, life for Tatsuya changes when he comes up with an idea to attack a Chinese loan shark and take his money. Tatsuya manages to do just that but unfortunately, he ended up killing Toda Naoki, the director of the Kuki Group (in league with the Tojo Association of the Yakuza) which sends Tatsuya in a maniacal laugh moment. As he leaves with the stolen money, unbeknown to him is that someone hiding inside the room had video taped him.

As Tatsuya goes to spend some money and ride his motorcycle, a few yakuza are waiting for him and taser him with a stun gun. When he awakes, he finds out that he has been video taped and his murder of Toda Naoki has been captured. So, Tatsuya has been blackmailed by another yakuza who wants Tatsuya to take place in a few fighting tournaments and win.

And so far, this is how far I have gotten with the game today.

GAMEPLAY:

“Kurohyo: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinsho” operates differently from the previous “Ryu ga Gotoku” games a little but also shares so much similarities that those familiar with the PS2/PS3 games can pretty much figure out this game despite it being in Japanese. The good news is that there are dialogue that will show the button that will have to be used. So, you will undergo fighting-based mini-missions that lead to a full test and by completing these, it will lead to more points in making Tatsuya a better fighter.

At level 1, Tatsuya can fight but he can also easily grow tired and leaving you open for attack. So, the object is to build his fighting level up and this is by roaming around the Kamuro District and getting involved in many fights. Call it grinding, but through these fights, you can increase Tatsuya’s fighting skill. As for the mini-missions, some require you to learn how to punch, kick, to block, to pick up objects on the ground to use as weapons, to stare down an opponent, to throw an opponent, etc. And these gradually get more difficult as you increase your level and get further into the game.

Once again, this will require trial and error for those who can’t read Japanese but it’s not difficult to figure out at all.

And similar to “Ryu ga Gotoku”, while roaming around the city, there are always some bad ass waiting to fight you and when you surpass a level, you can either increase your fighting skills, go to a new level or get money.

There are various shops to purchase drinks or food for stamina and health and also various shops and even clubs to meet women.

GRAPHICS:

The graphics are good. While the hi-res graphics are not going to make it into the portable version, what syn Sophia did was make the cut scenes utilizing artistic paintings similar to the “Metal Gear Solid” PSP games. While the games feature a lot of voice acting and for those who played a “Ryu ga Gotoku” game, you know that the games are dialogue heavy. This is the same for “Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou”. While I am sure that many of those who do not understand Japanese will be missing out on the storyline (and you can’t skip but can do a quick forward), the graphics of the cut scenes work. But hopefully future “Ryu ga Gotoku” games for the Sony Vita will be able to feature the actual CG that the PS2/PS3 games have.

As for the city, the city is also painted (no light flickering or crowds in a certain store can be seen) and while not as crowded in terms of people walking around like the PS3 game, the shops can be entered and there are people strolling around. So, the city doesn’t look empty at all. Characters and people you encounter are well-painted and also the action sequences look very good as well considering this is a portable game.

As for where to go around the city, fortunately a map is shown of which shops are open, A green indicator of where your character should go and other indicators of where you can’t go.

AUDIO:

The voice acting is great for the game and the music as well. There is a lot of dialogue but I suppose it may not mean so much if you can’t understand Japanese.

IS IT USER-FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE READING PLAYERS

The game can be played by those familiar with the “Ryu ga Gotoku/Yakuza” games and through trial and error, many will be able to figure things out as there are arrows of where to go, indicators on the map of where you can’t go and also during mini-mission battles, buttons to use are shown onscreen.

Otherwise, storyline may not be as understandable to those who don’t know Japanese and even for me, because it’s a dialogue heavy storyline, even I sometimes I miss out on the conversations and wish I could rewind.

I am such a big fan of the “Ryu ga Gotoku” games and I have been wanting to import this game for quite awhile now and with the drop in import price because of the release of the sequel, I’m glad to have imported it. There is probably no chance of these two games coming out in the USA, as the PSP is literally kaput and Sony focusing on the Vita, unfortunately “Kurohyou: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinshou” is another game that joins the list of many other cool Japanese games that won’t come over stateside.

While the USA does have it’s following for the “Yakuza” games, I suppose that Sega felt it wouldn’t do well in the USA and the fact that the USA has been lukewarm to PSP releases, it’s a shame!

But fortunately for “Ryu ga Gotoku” fans, this game is not difficult to figure out, sure you’ll miss out on the dialogue but I would imagine that those following the storyline can figure out bits and pieces of what’s going on through the artwork.

As for the fans who have been debating on whether or not to get the game, I say “go for it!”. With the sequel now out, you can find the first game much lower than before. I saw one with no manual and case for $22, while I paid around $34+$4 with shipping from Japan. But for those who enjoy the “Ryu ga Gotoku” games, in my mind, to have a portable game set in the same world with the ability to fight and roam around the city is pretty cool.

Of course, I’m just a few days into the game and I will do a more comprehensive review after completion.