Yakuza 5 Review
I have always been a huge fan of the Yakuza series. I own almost every game, importing many of them, only to find out 3 or 4 months later they would be released in the States. It’s always interesting to play both versions of the game (even though I know zero Japanese) because there is so much removed from the game because of translation difficulties or things that are felt “too Japanese" for western audiences to find fun or interesting. I can say that Yakuza 5 is by far the best game of the series, not only from a story and gameplay aspect, but a feel for Japanese gaming and culture.
Part Shenmue, part GTA, you start out as Kazuma Kiryu, former 4th chairman of the Tojo Clan, now a taxi driver trying to live a normal life away from the gangster life. But he quickly finds himself in a scandal that will destroy an alliance between two Yakuza families. What sets Yakuza 5 apart from other entries in the series is you do not play as just one character in one city. You play the story of five completely different characters in five different cities. From a taxi driver to a baseball player to a hunter; they all are fleshed out characters, each with a piece of the overall story of the game.
Combat is smooth with each character getting their own set of moves that you unlock with XP you earn from completing the story mission, as well as the 80-plus side quests available and the random street fights you get into along the way. Not too much has changed since the fourth game, or even the third for that matter. The special “heat” actions are there and are as violent and sometimes over the top as ever. The engine is showing its age with some of the newer “next-gen” games that are out now. One complaint I have always had with these mulit-character/story Yakuza games is that by the time you level the character and get comfortable with them, you have finished their story and move on to the next character and started over from zero again. This is a small complaint that sometimes can take you out of the game.
Graphically, for a game that is over 3 years old and on a last-gen system, I have to say it still looks great. The cutscenes are very well done and to me looked as good as some of the newer PS4/XB1 stuff. Some scenes can be very long and drawn out, so be prepared. There is a lot of reading that cannot be skipped and is crucial to the main story that may detract some players who want that non-stop beat’um up. Gameplay graphics hold up nicely. The cities are full of life, people on the streets, moving traffic and lots of sights and sounds. This has always been one of the shining points of the series. All the sights and sounds draw you in and make you really feel like you are in Japan.
Speaking of drawing you in, there are so many things to do in this game you could get lost for hours. Feel like playing darts at the bar? No problem. Want to head down to club Sega and play some Virtua Fighter 2? Go for it! Or maybe you just want to relax and head to the hostess club and karaoke with Japan’s most eligible ladies. It’s all here to distract you from the 30 plus hour main story. There is even hunting, baseball, snowball fights and more. There is so much packed into this game, it’s amazing. Some of them are not that great, but people can’t say there is nothing to do in this game.
Overall, there isn’t a lot that I can say is bad with the game. Some things do feel dated, but that is expected from a 3 year old game built on a 10 year old engine. But still, the graphics are great, combat is fun and with so many side quests and other distractions, it would be hard to not have fun with the game. Translations at time can be a little strange but I appreciate a game that is uncut for western audiences. I know a lot of people have moved on to the PS4/XB1, but this is really one of the best games for the PS3, even if it does turn out to be one of the last released for the system. Never before have I had so much fun being a taxi driver, a ramen cook, a baseball player, a hunter, a…well you get the picture.
Score 5 out of 5
Yakuza 5 is available now on PSN only for $39.99
Thanks to Sega for providing a copy for review
***I have seen many people asking if this is on PS4 and sadly it’s not, but Yakuza 0 has been announced for the west in 2016 for the PS4. So there is hope that maybe Yakuza 6 will make its way west soon, as well.***