Conclusion: Good review. I also liked the game and think that it’s one of the better series from Sega lately. But the points you make about how it compares are exactly how I feel. For example that Ryo feels like a more complex character in a way. Or that the Shenmue series feel more grand and vast. Shenmue feels also more like “reality” due to all the little details, different NPC’s and the fact that they all have voice overs just to name a few things.
Summary: I played this game through in Japanese when it first came out and loved it. When it came out in English I had to see what it was like. The voice-acting in the English version is not too bad, but some of the translation is a bit off, in fact in some parts way off, to the point that whoever translated it missed the point and/or subtlety of the Japanese completely at times. That said, if you don't speak Japanese, this will have to do.
Summary: Ever since my dad brought home Yakuza 3 I've been in love with this game. I am currently looking to buy the whole series since the storyline and characters are amazing and I wanted to backtrack to Yakuza 1, where it all started and play from beginning to end. Though I'm waiting for Yakuza 5 to be localised. Since it's PS2 it's obvious the graphics won't be as good but still amazing since the storyline makes you forget all that.
Summary: Yakuza as a game focuses more on story rather than it's gameplay, this becomes apparent quick during most fighting segments once you have to deal with frustrating and clunky controls, but even with the game's heavy faults, it hold enough charm to keep you entertained all throughout.