It's A Little Rough Going Back To Older Yakuza Games

Illustration for article titled It's A Little Rough Going Back To Older Yakuza Games
Screenshot: Kotaku

We’ve been absolutely spoiled for Yakuza games lately, especially if you’re a newcomer to the series who has been able to leap effortlessly from 0 to the Kiwamis to Like a Dragon. But now that some of the older games are out on PC, those interested in reaching back into the series’ history need to bear some things in mind.

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After a release on PlayStation last year, Yakuzas 3, 4 & 5 are out today on PC and Xbox, in the form of “remastered” editions. And while they have been improved slightly to bring them up to date, with resolution and framerate improvements, these are still games that are 11, 10 and 8 years old, and unlike Kiwami, they are definitely not complete remakes.

What this means is that, graphical tweaks aside, you’ll be playing some old-ass Yakuza games, to as degree I hadn’t realised before trying them out this week. Because the series tends to improve at a glacial pace between releases, a tweak here, and tuck there, it’s not always apparent when you play a new Yakuza game just how much smoother and more contemporary it is than the last. You’re just thinking, hey, this is a new Yakuza game, sweet!

So going back to Yakuza 5, now one of only two games in the main series to not be reviewed here (I was having technical PS3 troubles at the time, and so have never finished it), hasn’t quite been the joy I was expecting it to be. The game still rules, don’t get me wrong, but I was a little shocked by how crusty the game’s controls were, how stiff Kiryu’s animations were, how many of the series’ annoying little idiosyncrasies (like fixed save points and a lack of first-person mode) I’d glossed over or just straight up forgotten about in my rose-coloured memories.

And yet! Of course that stuff was going to happen, these are old video games, and this otherwise would be a given and expected. It’s only down to this series’ wild and weird growth in the West, which has spiked at very weird places (first at 3, then 0 and lately at Like a Dragon) that I felt like bringing it up here, since so many people on PC and Xbox may well be approaching these games for the first time, rather than revisiting an old favourite.

If so, you’re of course going to love them, just so long as you’re prepared for that stuff going in. Yakuza 4 & 5 especially have a kind of bombastic largesse that later games have walked away from, with an insanely overblown cast of playable characters and intertwined storylines that are an absolute blast to work your way through.

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And while I really admired the effort put into Like a Dragon’s RPG combat, it was also nice going back to the series’ bone-crunching action combat, something that looks and sounds intimidating, but really isn’t. A combination of upgrade paths and difficulty settings means that basically anyone can mash their way through these games, including some of the best and most memorable boss fights you’ll ever see.

I am the worst at that kind of combat, so if I can finish these games without breaking a sweat, anyone can.

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Yakuzas 3, 4 & 5 Remastered are out today on PC (Windows Store & Steam), Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass (for both Xbox One and PC). And if you want to check out my full reviews of 3 & 4, written around the time of their release, you can find them below!

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Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

DISCUSSION

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especially if you’re a newcomer to the series who has been able to leap effortlessly from 0 to the Kiwamis to Like a Dragon.

Any newcomer who jumps from Kiwami 2 to Like A Dragon is doing it wrong.

I’m really miffed at how Sega’s handled Like A Dragon’s release. Dropping the sequel number in favor of a subtitle and positioning the game as some kind of soft reboot is doing a huge disservice to newcomers who aren’t going to realize that this game is very much about tying up the loose ends from Yakuza 5 and Song of Life.

I mean, without venturing into spoiler territory, there’s a lot of big, cool shit that happens in the last third of the game that’s going to be completely lost on someone who hasn’t at least played the previous two installments.

Like A Dragon is no better a place for a newcomer to jump in than Yakuza 4 was during the seventh gen. If anything, it’s worse. At least Successor to the Legend wasn’t hauling the narrative baggage of the previous three games to the same extent that Like A Dragon is carrying water for Fulfiller of Dreams and Song of Life. Starting with part four only became an issue once Yakuza 5 dropped and not only picked up precisely where the previous game ended, but started drawing on all sort of plotlines from Yakuza 1 through 3 as well.

Like A Dragon seems like it’s mostly doing it’s own thing until sometime around chapter nine or ten, then it starts laying it on thick with the references to Yakuza 5 and 6.