With the release of the Yakuza 5 remaster, the entire story of Kazamu Kiryu is finally available on one console generation. You should really play it.
I can weirdly remember the first time I heard about Yakuza. I was at Wal-Mart, waiting for my mom to finish grocery shopping. Our ongoing deal was that if I went to the store with her and carried her groceries, she would buy me a magazine. So, I was flicking through the latest issue of EGM trying to decide if I wanted to see more. Inside, I quickly skimmed the review for a Grand Theft Auto-like action-adventure set in the grimy Japanese underworld. Had this been 2005, I probably would’ve immediately gone and picked it up. However, it was 2006. I had an Xbox 360 now. I wasn’t about to drag out my PS2 to play a game my favorite gaming mag had ranked in the high 70’s.
And so began a decade of admiring the Yakuza series from afar. Every time I saw a new game in a magazine or on a site, I thought they looked right up my alley. Unfortunately, I never had access to a PS3. That meant I never had an opportunity to play one of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s masterpieces. In January of 2017, that all changed.
Obviously, I didn’t choose to buy a PS4 over an Xbox One because of Yakuza. It had much more to do with Microsoft’s botched announcements around the reveal. Plus, I was just generally being more impressed with Sony’s first-party lineup in the first few years. However, I’ll admit seeing the Yakuza 0 trailer at TGS 2014 made me weak at the knees.
A series that I had long watched from afar, hoping to one day play, was getting a prequel story on PS4? It seemed like a perfect jumping-on point. And, with most of the series available on PS Now, it seemed like I might finally be able to play them all. Little did I know that about three years after Yakuza 0 finally released in the West, we’d have the entire series available on PS4. And, on top of that, Yakuza 1 and 2 are fully remade. And, of course, 3, 4, and 5 have been hit with excellent remasters.
It feels like a rarity to have an entire series this big readily available on one console. I mean, obviously, we’re going to get collections of hit series like Halo and Uncharted but Yakuza? That franchise is nowhere near those series in terms of lifetime sales. What’s even cooler is that it feels like Sega only put all of the games out on PS4 in the West because of how huge the fan reaction was.
Because of all that, you can now play through the entire mainline Yakuza series all on one console. No more dragging out a PS3 to play the first two games. No more relying on PS Now and your internet to work well enough to play 3, 4, and 5. You can experience the entirety of the beautiful, wacky, glorious life that Kazuma Kiryu has led for the past 15 years.
Here’s the best part: Yakuza is good. Like really, really good. Like Game of the Year good. The brawling gameplay is deep and engaging on higher difficulties. The way it mixes wacky comedic substories with an incredibly well-written and mature main narrative is better than anything else on the market.
Just look at the series Yakuza was inspired by. Grand Theft Auto does an excellent job of lampooning America. The satire might be a little tired by the time GTAV rolled around, but it’s hard to deny how good Rockstar has gotten at making that type of game. But when is the last time you really cared about a Grand Theft Auto character? And how many side characters are truly memorable in that series?
Yakuza puts so much heart into each and every aspect of the game. Side characters that only show up for a quest or two will stick with you long after they’ve walked out of Kiryu’s life. And don’t even get me started on the main characters. Ryu Ga Gotuku does character development better than almost anybody. Seeing Kiryu and his crew of misfits grow over seven games is one of my absolute favorite gaming memories.
So, yes, I’ve just spent 700-some words telling you how great Yakuza is and that you really should play at least one of the games. However, you can’t understate how awesome it is that Sega has even made this possible. Imagine another long-running, upper mid-tier game series being fully available on one console. Think of the scenes we’d be having in the streets if Atlus put all the Persona games on PS4. What about if the Saints Row series got a string of remasters to get all their games available on modern consoles? Or if we somehow got the entire Backyard Sports collection re-released on PC. Maybe I’d be the only person hyped by that last announcement.
These kinds of things just don’t happen that often. If you haven’t played a Yakuza game yet, Yakuza 0 regularly goes on sale for $10 or less. Of course, it’s more than worth the full price, but it’s hard to beat that. The first three games are also making their way to Xbox Game Pass this year. Bringing that entry point even lower. There simply hasn’t been a better time to get into one of the greatest and most overlooked video game series of all time.