I’m gonna miss you, PlayStation 3. We had a lot of good times over the years, you and I. Remember when I replaced your hard drive? How intimate that moment was. How lewd…er, I mean…yeah. The PlayStation 3 is toast, folks; long live the next generation of games! But it’s not going out without a fight. Ol’ Spiderman Font is hanging on with games like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel and today’s subject, Yakuza 5. We’re going to regret getting rid of that huge black box!
Oh, right: Yakuza 5 is yet another entry in the long-running series. I’d go into the underlying plot but we’d be here for ages, so instead let’s go with this: you control Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, a legendary gang enforcer that, at 43 years old, has seen it all and likely punched it in the face. In Yakuza 5, Kiryu is in hiding and posing as a taxi driver, but he’s brought back into the Japanese underworld when one of his fellow Tojo Clan chairmen disappears.
This is a beat-’em-up. Sort of, anyway. It does the punching and the kicking very well, don’t get me wrong, and at no point will you not enjoy engaging in violence against your fellow man. Beating up baddies is fairly standard for the genre. You’ll need to balance attack and defense to prevail, though picking up one of the many, many weapons strewn about the environment and beating somebody with it never hurts. Well, it hurts them, as the brutality meter is off the max here, but you know what I mean. Victory results in experience points, experience points result in levels and levels allow you to increase your skills, providing life boosts and special attacks. There are several different characters to control, each of which will need to be leveled up separately.
That’s great! If that were all Yakuza 5 had, it’d still be worth recommending. It’s just that there’s so much more than that. You can go to the arcade and play Virtua Fighter 2 in its entirety or try to grab collectibles with a claw machine. You can gamble at a casino. You can spend time in restaurants, learning about Japanese cuisine before devouring it. You can go to convenience stores and learn about local magazines or check out entire issues of manga. You can play mahjong. Don’t know how? That’s fine, you can learn. It’s not at all like the old Windows pack-in game.
That’s not all, we’re not done yet. You can do Kiryu’s actual job as a taxi driver, which serves as an entire driving game in and of itself. You can play as Yakuza 1’s Haruka, who is now 16 years old and trying to become an idol singer. Yes, she has her own entire plot line that plays nothing like the rest of the game as you do all manner of idol singer things like press conferences. I don’t even know how they packed this much into the game, but they did.
You don’t even need to have played the previous games. The plot is fairly easy to pick up on and recaps are readily available, so knock yourself out. Or knock out the bad guys. Or beat them in a dance-off. Whatever works, really. As for presentation, this is a nice-looking game as far as the PlayStation 3 goes…but it’s still a PlayStation 3 game, so don’t expect miracles. There’s loads of voice acting, but it’s all in Japanese, so that could go either way. The graphics and sound aren’t really the point here, in any case, so they do what they’re meant to do.
Fans of Shenmue probably should have already been playing Yakuza and probably don’t need encouragement. Yakuza 5 is really more of a successor to Yu Suzuki’s Dreamcast classics than any Sony-backed crowdfunding campaign; here’s an epic, very Japanese adventure that uses the beat-’em-up genre as a platform to launch off into its own crazy, beautiful world. It might be a bit intimidating to come into a series this late, but trust me: you can’t go wrong with Yakuza 5.