Yakuza, known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku (translated to Like a Dragon in English), is an action-adventure game developed by Amusement Vision and published by Sega. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005 in Japan and in 2006 in Western territories and is the first installment in the Yakuza series.
In 2016, a remake titled Ryū ga Gotoku Kiwami (Yakuza Kiwami, the Japanese word Kiwami standing for Extreme in English) was released in Japan for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in 2016, with a 2017 release exclusively for the PlayStation 4 following on the rest of the world.
October 1, 1995: on a stormy autumn night in the Tokyo entertainment district of Kamurocho, a moustached yakuza family boss lies dead on the floor of his darkened office. The lightning punctuates his features, most notably his broken glasses, through which the bullet that killed him went before entering his head. In front of him stands a grey-suited young man, murder weapon in hand. A posse of police officers swarm into the office, weapons drawn, and order the man to drop the gun. The black-haired young man complies, turning around to reveal his face.
The dead man's name is Sohei Dojima. The grey-suited man, Kazuma Kiryu, is not the one who pulled the trigger on his own patriarch. Rather, the deed was done by his sworn brother Akira "Nishiki" Nishikiyama in order to protect their childhood friend Yumi Sawamura from Dojima's advances. Knowing that Nishiki's sister is gravely ill and needs to be looked after, Kiryu takes the fall for him and serves 10 years in prison for a crime that is not his own.
Ten years later: Kiryu is released from prison into the middle of a crisis within Japan's biggest yakuza organization, the Tojo Clan. Ten billion yen has gone missing from the organization, igniting a power struggle. On top of that, Yumi has gone missing, and Nishiki, now a powerful patriarch of his own yakuza family, is out to kill him. Now, Kiryu must unravel the threads holding these mysteries together with the help of Haruka, a young girl caught in the eye of the storm.
Why It Rocks
- Deep and compelling storyline.
- A living, breathing world with lots of activities to partake in.
- There are four different fighting styles players can switch between during battles, allowing for experimentation to find which one suits you the best.
- Players can complete Substories, centering around NPCs when encountering them in the city, allowing the player to help them with their problems and learn a bit more about their lives. Some Substories will even give answers to certain plot points like who the fake Mizuki was.
- In the Kiwami remake, Substories are expanded upon and resolve any plot holes from the original game, making it more connected to its prequel, Yakuza 0.
- As you defeat enemies in battle, you'll earn experience that you can use to upgrade Kazuma's attributes such as Health, Attack strength, and how quickly the Heat gauge fills up.
- When an enemy is knocked down, low on health, or when there's an opportunity for one depending on the situation, Kazuma can initiate a Heat Action which allows him to perform a very powerful attack that's extremely satisfying to pull off and cool to look at.
- Similarly to Resident Evil, Payphones (your primary place to save your game) act as Item Boxes too, allowing to store all your items and weapons there.
- You can acquire items that can be used as Gear and Accessories, all of them being really helpful, as they can give Kiryu unique buffs.
- Excellent music.
- There are coin locker keys around the streets of Kamurocho, which go to specific coin lockers near the Millennium Tower. Inside these coin lockers, you can get items such as Gear and weapons.
- Great graphics for its time, and they look even better in Kiwami.
- Amazing voice acting.
- Highly likable and dangerous characters, especially Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.
- Tough boss fights.
- When you beat the game, an option in the Main Menu called Premium Box will unlock, which allows three different options:
- Adventure Review: Allows the player to play Substories without advancing the main story.
- Battle Review: This includes fighting enemies and/or bosses either under a time trial or with restrictions.
- Video Review: Allows the player to watch all the cutscenes.
- The remake, known as Yakuza Kiwami, has drastically improved visuals, movement, an updated fighting system (which incorporates the Skill Trees and Heat Actions from Yakuza 5), re-recorded dialogue (replacing the really bad English dub of the original), and additional cutscenes to expand on the storyline.
- Lots of places to visit things like restaurants, Arcades, Bars, a strip club, convenience stores, and much more!
- While it was good for its time, the PS2 version can be considered as inferior in comparison to the Kiwami remake. Most notably:
- The fighting mechanics can be clunky, mainly because of the movement. This was fixed in Kiwami.
- The original version has frequent loading times.
- In the original, certain Substories can only be completed during a specific Chapter and are therefore missable. Although you can play them when playing Adventure Review, it's still an issue nonetheless. Fixed in Kiwami.
- The original version also had some plot holes in the story such as the reason why Sera sent an assassin to kill Kiryu while in prison. These were also fixed and covered in Kiwami.
- Getting Haruka's Trust to SSS rank is very frustrating. At some point, you can hang out with Haruka and do activities to cheer her up, which leads to the Haruka's Trust mechanic. Each rank obtained will have Haruka give Kazuma an item, but getting to the highest rank is very difficult because of two mini-games.
- The first is where you have to go to the Batting Cages and hit ten Home Runs on the Beginner course. This isn't bad at first, but you will have to go to the Batting Cages again, this time on the Major League course and get a perfect game, which is the second hardest course in the batting cages.
- The second is at Volcano. This is where you're suppose to play on the Pachinko machines (or more simplified, at the slots). The first time you do this, you have to get a 777, which isn't easy, but still doable. The second time, however, requires you to get 3,000 medals, which is very difficult and time consuming. You can get a tailsmen for slots, but it barely helps and if you enter Volcano with it and leave, it gets blown away, meaning it's gone for good.
- The worst part of all this is that if you play the Japanese HD version on PSN (Ryu ga Gotoku 1 HD), there's a trophy for getting her trust to SSS rank and the reward Haruka gives (Haruka's Marbles) is worthless since all you can do is sell it, and you don't get much money from it. This trust system and methods to raise it are much easier now in the remake.
- The English dub. In a nutshell, it wasn't well received, and in fact, hated by veteran fans, due to all of the characters sounding extremely off with American voices (almost like as if they are Americans who look like Japanese and immigrated from America to there), and the fact that the game takes place in Japan, with Detective Date's voice being a good case in point. The voice acting can also be Hit-Or-Miss, as other times it can be good, like Mark Hamill as Goro Majima, while others can flat out sound off, like with Bill Farmer as the mentioned before Detective Makoto Date. The dialogue also has a bizarre amount of profanity, which the Yakuza series isn't known for. Once again, Kiwami replaced it with the re-recorded version of the Japanese voice acting.
- Due to the limitations of the PS2 and the need to render the world, a number of NPCs will have low polygons to the point to where they look like they're from a PS1 game.
- In Kiwami, there is an annoying mechanic known as the Majima Everywhere mechanic, where Goro Majima actively stalks Kiryu around the map, showing up extremely frequently and everywhere (hence the name of this mechanic), which, as mentioned, despite being easy at start, starts to ramp up the difficulty (especially at later Ranks where Majima uses much stronger combat styles and has more health bars), and was perceived as annoying by many players, especially a problem when playing on Hard or EX-Hard difficulty. To make matters worse, if you want Kiryu to re-learn and improve the Dragon Of Dojima fighting style, dealing with Majima is mandatory.
- To be honest though, it at least does make sense to why this mechanic exists (Majima wants Kiryu to get stronger and regain his abilities after his time at prison), and most of the moments related to this mechanic are quite funny.
- Chapter 6 feels more like a Substory, since what occurs doesn't really affect the main story.
Yakuza was met with positive reviews from both Japanese and Western critics, and sold over a million units.
The game's success led to Yakuza becoming a series, and it was followed by 6 sequels and a prequel; Yakuza 2, Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4, Yakuza 5, Yakuza 0, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and Yakuza: Like A Dragon.
- If you don't want to deal with Random Encounters while exploring the map, try to get items like the Beads Of Good Fortune, Tattered Scarf, and Silent Shoes, as they will give buffs that will decrease the frequency of random enemies on the map, decrease the range that they will see Kiryu, or even prevent any enemy from appearing in the map.
- Once you start Chapter 6 and head for the Purgatory, you will encounter an old man known as Sotaro Komaki at the west of the park near the fountain (north of the park in the original version), who has seen Kiryu's fighting skills at the fights in the Coliseum (during the events of Chapter 5), and asks him if he wants to become his apprentice. Whatever you do, accept his offer, as he can teach Kiryu new moves to unlock and use for the Dragon Of Dojima fighting style.
- In a nutshell, Bob Utsunomiya (in the case of the Kiwami remake, he's known as Kiwami Bob Utsunomiya). You can find him at the Tenkaichi Street Entrance, where you can spend your CP to upgrade abilities or new equipment, or get the Kiwami Packs he offers. He is important if you want to do anything with him, so keep that in mind.
- Try to stack up on Health items, especially Staminan (and most specifically Staminan Royale). While you can still get other items such as food and other variants of Staminan, most of the items won't recover you a lot of Health or/and Heat.