I have been meaning to talk about this topic for quite some time… and yet, it’s really not all that long a span of time in the grand scheme of things. That just makes it all the more important and astonishing, though!
There are very few topics in the gaming world I can discuss at length without stretching at least somewhere back in my long history with the medium for reference. Being able to discuss my experience with a series in entirety from only the last two years and change? That’s a rare gift.
So, after months of mulling it over, let’s talk about the Yakuza series.
I hadn’t originally planned to go too intently over every game I’d played — and indeed, there’s still quite a lot more I could write about each — but instead just give a rough write-up of how I got into the series and what hooked me. But once I started writing it up, the words just kept on coming until I’d gone through the entire series. It’s certainly not in-depth and the coverage of each varies, but there’s a lot here to talk about.
As such, the final word count on this behemoth of a piece is the longest I’ve written for any blog post or published article but a considerable margin. I’ve broken the text up with images, gifs, and video clips to hopefully give you some breathing room. So buckle up, and come with me on a whirlwind tour of the streets of Tokyo.
Planning A Kamurocho Vacation
In August of 2017, I purchased a copy of Yakuza Kiwami, the remake of the first game. This is the first chance I’d had to pick up and play a Yakuza game, but my story doesn’t exactly begin there just yet. Why did I purchase that game, after all?
In truth, I knew practically nothing about the Yakuza series going into it. Sure, there were probably references to it, glances at the titles on store shelves, or some kind of subconscious understanding of the series existing. That said, I had never really given any serious thought into the games and what they were, or had a chat with anyone who had played enough to fill me in. I was going in largely blind, and that lack of knowledge is actually what drew me to it in the first place.
See, I distinctly remember reading a gaming website (I believe it was Eurogamer, for context) and glancing at an article that featured newly revealed details on Yakuza 6. Something about this stuck out to me, because I remember thinking “there’s a big news article about a 6th game here, and yet I know nothing about the series”. That lack of knowledge stood out to me, and my curiosity lead me to glancing at the article.
I understood nothing, of course, but what I did understand was a link to their Yakuza 0 review. So I clicked on that, and came away very curious about what was being described. I wanted to know more, but at the time I didn’t act on it.
This knowledge eventually bore fruit when I saw an article about the upcoming release of Yakuza Kiwami. Taking the same engine from Yakuza 0, it aimed to be a full reconstruction and remake of the original game, retaining all the same story and cutscenes but modernising the combat and graphical fidelity. There we go: that’s my starting point into this mythical series of which I knew nothing. Course laid in, calendar date set, Yakuza Kiwami purchased in August 2017 when it showed up on my local store shelves. At last, I would get to play Yakuza!
I played for three hours and then put it down for four months.