How do you solve a problem like Yakuza?

Last night I completed Yakuza 3. I say ‘completed’ – my stats confirmed I’d barely finished a third of it. In 34 hours. It’s a game with an absolute wealth of content, a treasure trove of sidequests and minigames that will take players a three-figure number of hours to totally exhaust.

But this western version has plenty of stuff missing. Sega has sliced out some Japanese history quizzes – hardly surprising, as few players could be expected to get the right answers. But more worryingly, there have been some deeper cuts, including the culling of the hostess bars, and the removal of further side quests; in some cases fairly extensive ones. What’s particularly troubling about this is Sega’s claim that these “wouldn’t resonate” with a western audience, despite the fact that Yakuza is about as steeped in Japanese culture as it’s possible for a game to be. Surely, therefore, a bit of extra Japan-centric content wouldn’t be a problem to translate? Particularly as a quick search online reveals translation FAQs of the Japanese version from enterprising young bucks who knew a timely western release was unlikely, if it were to happen at all. Poor sales of the first two games, after all, suggested we’d be lucky to see the third game at all.

The latter point is important when considering just how pissed off to be about Sega’s apparently shoddy treatment of its own game. It is, after all, well over a year since the game hit Japanese shelves (indeed, the fourth in the series is arriving next Thursday) and that would seem to be long enough to push through a translation, especially given the rudimentary efforts of GameFAQs users. But then it’s also likely that the first two Yakuza games lost Sega a fair bit of money, particularly the first which was given comparatively lavish treatment – a complete western dub with an expensive name cast and a decent promotional effort.

So should we be grateful to be getting Yakuza 3 in trimmed-down form, or outraged that it’s been released in this incomplete form, seemingly buried by its publisher in a week that also sees the launch of one of the biggest PS3 games of the year? I know at least two people who are refusing to buy the game in release week as a way of protesting against the cuts. It’s an understandable stance, but for my money it’s absolutely sending the wrong message to Sega. If the game sells poorly, the publisher won’t think it’s because people refused to buy a game with bits missing, it will obviously realise that third time isn’t a charm and make it even less likely that we’ll ever get an English-language version of Yakuza 4.

For the record, I think Yakuza 3 is still a fantastic piece of software. I also intend to write to Sega to make my feelings known about those cuts. Best case scenario is that the game is a sales success and the missing content is re-inserted by way of DLC. It’s never going to happen, of course, but I’d rather support a terrific series for now in the hope that the fourth game might one day reach these shores. Any kind of no-purchase protest is ultimately pointless, and only likely to harm the chances of the above ever happening.

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