Aside from the localization delay and system Yakuza 5 landed on (originally the title launched on PlayStation 3 in 2012) the series is a beloved staple of PlayStation users and has been a welcome addition to the console since 2009 when Yakuza 3 came out here in the Western world.
Yakuza 5 is the best representation of what the series has to offer, offering much of what the games released today seem to lack, heart.
So when Yakuza 5 was announced to be released in literal days after the PlayStation Experience keynote in San Francisco, immediately I was more than excited to jump back into the underground world of Japan and back into the shoes of Kiryu Kazuma. The ex-Yakuza member is a representation of the better ideologies of Japan, trust and honour among the defining features of the man who was the head of the mafia of Japan.
Continuing the trend of multiple protagonists like predecessor Yakuza 4, this time, we get five characters to control, this time starring Kiryu Kazuma, two returning protagonists from the previous entry, Shun Akiyama and Taiga Saejima. Tatsuo Shinada and Haruka Sawamura round out the rest of the character sheet and add to the tally.
The cast has expanded, but Sega has done well to create engaging stories for each playable character, bringing them together in the finale in a solid way.
Yakuza 5 begins in Fukuoka and is where the game shows you the ropes of the systems, entertaining the player with the basics of Yakuza. The one thing I’ve always loved when playing one of these titles is the attention to detail the developers put into the locales. The worlds are dense and compact and feel exactly like what a city should be like.
Yakuza is definitely the Japanese Grand Theft Auto, there is just so much to do and keep you engaged in during your time playing. Each character has their own activities to keep you busy ranging from driving to idol simulators that include singing and dancing which are so popular in Japan. The world before you has so much offer in a way other open world games need to take notice of and allow the player to discover what there is to do without openly displaying it with a cluster of icons. The activities are organic to the world.
The best and my favourite thing to return to is the combat Yakuza offers. What feels like the evolution of 90’s brawlers has shown up in the series and improves with each sequel. Except in Yakuza 5 where I didn’t see a noticeable difference from Yakuza 4 in terms of improvements. The combat is still clunky at certain times and there is no way to counter incoming attacks. Heat attacks return and allow the player to do some exciting things in battle like offering excessively brutal retaliation on goons that decide to face off against you.
Each character has a varying fighting style and will take some time to master the ins and outs of their style. This allows for a change up and keep the combat fresh and allow for a varied experience to keep things interesting.
Yakuza 5 is the best of the series, combining the best of all previous titles into the latest entry. The turnover rate of release is a shame because releasing as a digital only title on the PlayStation 3 feels like a misfire on Sega’s part. This entry is the swan song for those who have followed Yakuza since the beginning, it pays off! Aside from the dated but fun combat this is the where the franchise needs to go in order to continue. New comers don’t feel left out, this is a great starting point to get into Yakuza because there is just so much to offer to those who are looking for the best Japan has to offer.