Sometimes you hear of a critically acclaimed series that is up to like the third or fourth sequel and it puts you off. There is just too much history to go through and the earlier titles tend to be unplayable on the latest console. Yakuza was one of those series for me. I obtained Yakuza 4 and 5 on PlayStation 3 through PlayStation Plus, but why would I start there? A few more years passed and Yakuza 0 was a critical darling on the Playstation 4, which I found out was the prequel to the series. So I jumped in and played it for a couple of hours. It was fine and I put it down for a few months. When I came back to it everything started to click in place. The story was so grounded and cinematic in scope. I was all in. Then I started doing some side quests and things went completely bonkers. Somehow the game juggles the dramatic with the absurd and it works perfectly. Now Yakuza 0 is one of my favourite games of all time, and a series I absolutely love.
The Yakuza story has mostly centred around Kazuma Kiryu. The series is one big grand story so it’s been hard to appreciate until recently with all the mainline titles available on PlayStation 4. Currently there are eight titles in the main series and two games in the Judgment spin off series. That’s ten games all of substantial quality. If you’ve never played them you should start with Yakuza 0 as I did.
The series is a third-person action-adventure where you will brawl your way through clans to do the right thing. Every game takes place in the same city, which you see evolve over time. The side quests contain some of the most humorous side quests of any game ever and there are even in-game arcades that let you play some of Sega’s older titles. Each game is lengthy and could take around anywhere from 20-40 hours to finish the main story, and double that to complete everything the game has to offer. You can watch videos on YouTube to see if you’ll enjoy the game, but I think you should give one a go and see if it’s for you.
Later on this month we will be getting a remake of the spin off title Like a Dragon: Ishin! What is special about this one is it was never available in the west, so for most of us it’s a brand new game. At the end of the year there is also Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which is an interstitial game for the Yakuza series. This has never happened before and reveals the events of Kazuma Kiryu between Yakuza 6, and Yakuza 7. Finally, Yakuza 8 comes out next year showing that the series is in no way slowing down.
All Yakuza games are currently available in the PlayStation Plus Premium tier, that includes the first Judgment game too. And if it is for you, well, welcome to what might be your favorite video game series.