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(Sega, PS3)

Yakuza is a GTA- es­que open- world crime drama that makes no com­pro­mises to Western tastes. Con­sider the first mis­sion of Yakuza 5 (mob­ster-turned­cab­bie Kazuma Kiryu must apol­o­gize to a com­peti­tor with a gift of spicy fish roe) or the ra­men mini-game and Sun­tory vend­ing ma­chines dot­ting the neon-soaked streets. There’s plenty of vi­o­lence, but be­cause it was cre­ated for an adult Ja­panese au­di­ence, it doesn’t pan­der to ac­tion or pre­tend to be uni­ver­sal. There’s a calm con­fi­dence in its me­thod­i­cal sto­ry­telling and painstak­ing world build­ing — even af­ter ex­pand­ing to more cities and playable char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing a J-Pop idol and a base­ball player. This is also why it’s just reach­ing our shores now as a PS3-only down­load af­ter orig­i­nally com­ing out in 2012.


(Al­phaDream/Nin­tendo, 3DS)

The quan­tum physics-based al­ter­nate-re­al­ity con­ceit that has ruled comic books and sci-fi makes its way to the Mushroom King­dom as Nin­tendo mashes up a pair of its role-play­ing prop­er­ties. The 3D char­ac­ters from the main­line Mario & Luigi JRPG se­ries meet the 2D flat folks from the Pa­per Mario uni­verse in this colour­ful, comedic turn-based ti­tle where the plumbers must (sigh, yet again) res­cue a pair of Princess Peaches. They spend the next 20-odd hours bat­tling their way to Bowser’s cas­tle. Mario & Luigi: Pa­per Jam’s strate­gic com­bat sys­tem is deep and well-ex­e­cuted, there’s ami­ibo sup­port and some de­cent meta jokes along the way. But while it’s al­ways nice to see th­ese iconic char­ac­ters jump out of their usual plat­former wheel­house, this game doesn’t reach pre­vi­ous heights and is prob­a­bly a bet­ter bet for full-blown Mario nerds.

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