The world of the Yakuza is full of honor, violence and history. Many people simply pass off the Japanese gangsters as similar to the United State's Mafia. But that betrays the deep history of the Yakuza, which some believe stretches back to the extended period of peace in Japan during the Tokagawa era. Since the services of the Samurai were no longer needed, an increase in the number of Ronin—leaderless Samurai—was seen throughout Japan. Seeing as how they were no longer under the thumb of their masters, they turned to crime. Thus the Japanese gangster was born.
But the modern Yakuza would of course refute this theory. They claim to belong to the descendents of another breed of Samurai, the machi-yokko (servants of the town), who protected towns and villages from the aforementioned Ronin. They paint a picture of their descendents as heroes who stood up for the downtrodden in Japan. Even though they claim to have Robin Hood-style origins, their involvement in prostitution, corporate extortion and narcotics, to name a few, betrays their interpretation of the organization.
The modern Yakuza are often viewed by Japanese culture as gangster rebels. Whereas the rebel lifestyle is sometimes romanticized in Western media, the Japanese culture values conformity. "The nail that sticks up must be hammered down" is a national proverb that illustrates the Japanese disdain for those rabble-rousers. But the Yakuza continue to brandish their tattoos and their 50's era style of dress despite this, and in great numbers. Current estimates indicate there are 100,000 active members divided into 2,500 families. The Yakuza are a strong presence in the world of organized crime.
So, you'd think that with all of this rich history and compelling information that Bunkasha Publishing would've included some of it in Wreckless:The Yakuza Missions. But the story behind the game is about as silly as you can get with the subject matter. You either play as two female police officers who are out to bust the Yakuza, or two bumbling spies who wish to profit from the Yakuza. Unfortunately, the game could've been called Wreckless: The Missions as it does not delve into any history or accurate information about the Yakuza.
But fortunately, a game like Wreckless doesn't really need a good story to complement the game. It's a fun experience on its own. It's part demolition derby, part platformer (yes, believe it or not, Wreckless shares design elements with games like Super Mario Bros.), all brought together with a dash of racing. For the most part, the game is successful in melding all of these elements together into a frantic and enjoyable experience. But, the game does suffer from some unadmirable qualities—mainly its erratic difficulty and extreme lack of replay value. As with 99% of video games on the market, I think a little more polish on this title would've made it a blockbuster.
Wreckless is simply a mission based driving game. Some missions are ridiculously easy, while some are pull-your-hair-out frustrating. The different story scenarios have their different missions, but all are relatively similar while being different enough to not become redundant. The reoccurring theme is smashing up cars and collecting something from them. Others deal with transporting collision sensitive materials from one side of an area to the other, to rescue missions and straight out races through the city. Some levels even include the raising and lowering platforms you would think to find in the next Mario game (and no, they don't really work too well when you have to navigate them in a car). And to keep the pressure on, a timer is present for every mission.
But before you know it, the game is over. There are only a total of twenty missions between the two scenarios, which may not sound too shabby, but considering that some missions can be completed in a couple minutes, twenty just isn't enough. To make matters worse, there really isn't much to do in Wreckless besides the missions. No option to just drive around the areas without the time limit. No straight up demolition derby feature. The game lacks depth, and after you finish the missions, you're probably not going to want to pick the controller up and do it all over again.
After all is said and done, Wreckless remains an entertaining game. But, the lack of other play options beside the missions really limits the game, and keeps it from becoming an extended gaming experience. In short, Wreckless is a fun piece of graphical fluff that will keep you entertained until its abrupt end.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.