We should clarify up front that there is no game known as "Yakuza 3" at this point. But in Japan, the Yakuza series goes by a different name, and that series is getting a third incarnation. So using the good ol' transitive property, we decided to call this game Yakuza 3 until we hear otherwise.
Okay, so here's where things get weird. Yakuza 3 no longer takes place in a modern setting, moving things all the way back to 1605. We're not going to claim there weren't any shady business dealings back in that era, but something tells us that's not exactly the "yakuza" Sega of America's marketing department came up with when thinking of the U.S. title for the series.
Naming conventions aside, we got to check out a bunch of video footage from the game today, and it looks fantastic. Despite the drastic setting change, there are plenty of connections between Yakuza 3 and the first two games in the series -- being able to move through a crowded city, fighting people, playing tons of mini-games. Seeing them applied to new subject matter with impressive visuals (specifically, the game throws a lot on the screen at once and uses bright colors to make nearly everything pop) adds up to an exciting package.
Thus far, we've seen glimpses of the following modes/mini-games players will come across: flirting, playing dice, playing board games, turtle racing, riding horseback (and horseback archery), playing with a dog, sword fighting (reminiscent of Onimusha with short dashing strikes, but with finishing moves that are incredibly gory), hand-to-hand fighting, and army vs. army battling.
Given that this is the first game in the series for PS3, the visual leap is probably the most notable aspect of Yakuza 3, but the new setting and crazy mini-games should be a pretty big deal as well. Check back soon for more info on the game.