Review – Yakuza 5 (PS4)

It took me a long time to finally tackle the last Yakuza game centered around Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, but boy, this was worth it. After spending more than half a thousand hours adventuring through Kamurocho, Osaka, Yokohama, Okinawa, as well as other locales, Yakuza 5 ended up being my second favorite game in the series, only trailing behind the marvelous Yakuza 0. Originally released on the West in 2015, only digitally, right at a time where gamers couldn’t care less about the Playstation 3, it’s easy to see why people never paid much attention to it when it first came out. It’s time to rectify these mistakes.

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No other Yakuza game has as many ridiculous minigames as this one.

Yakuza 5 is basically Yakuza 4 on steroids. The developers took the concept of playing as a multitude of characters and expanded this concept to a much more ludicrous degree. Yakuza 4 had four playable characters and only one town to explore, good old Kamurocho. Yakuza 5 has five characters to play as, and a whopping five towns to explore, each one filled to the brim with story missions, sidequests, and a ton of minigames. All in all, if you’re crazy enough to try to 100%, you’re looking at more than 120 hours of content. This is easily the longest and meatiest of all Yakuza games, surpassing even current-gen titles like Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6.

In Yakuza 5, you can play as three returning characters from Yakuza 4, and also two newcomers. The lovable loan shark Akiyama and the broody convict Saejima reprise their roles as supporting acts for the main man Kazuma Kiryu, who’s trying to live an honest life as a taxi driver. You can already imagine that the combination of the words “Sega”, “Yakuza” and “taxi” mean that this game features a taxi driving minigame, and it’s almost as ridiculous as any other title in the Crazy Taxi series.

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Saejima is just a hit with them ladies.

Furthermore, there are two new playable characters. Shinada is a former baseball player, and although the thought of playing as a baseball player reminded me a lot of Majima’s stupidly entertaining bat-oriented combat style from Yakuza 0, his fighting mechanics are nowhere near as interesting. It is actually focused on clinch-holding and grappling. He will even refuse to use a baseball bat as weapon if you happen to find one in the middle of a fight. The other new playable character is actually Haruka, Kiryu’s adopted daughter. No, she’s not a fighter. In fact, her storyline is centered on her career as a pop diva, which means that it’s mainly focused on the franchise’s acclaimed karaoke gameplay mechanics. While I love the fact that Haruka is way more important in this game than other titles in the series, the fact that you won’t actually fight anyone while stepping on her shoes is something too disturbing in a Yakuza game.

As for the technical side, Yakuza 5 is clearly the most visually appealing of all remasters, being really similar to Yakuza 0 when it comes to the quality of its lighting effects, framerate, textures, and random NPCs. This was a very late release on the PS3, and pushed that system to its limits. Being a title with five playable characters means that Yakuza 5 features way more voice acting than Yakuza 3 and 4. Just like any other game in the franchise, this is proof that you don’t need to understand Japanese to notice when a voice actor is delivering a great performance, as you feel the desperation whenever a character in this game is screaming at the top of his/her lungs.

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Shinada is a baseball player who won’t wield a baseball bat during combat. Go figure.

Yakuza 5 only trails behind Yakuza 0 in terms of quality. It is a game with a fantastic story, solid technical performance, fun fighting mechanics and a ridiculous amount of content. You may have missed out on this one when it first came out in 2015, but you have no excuse this time around. It’s the perfect time to give Kiryu a proper sendoff before we dive into Ichiban Kasuga’s story in the upcoming Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

 

Graphics: 8.0

It’s the most visually impressive of all three Yakuza remasters. It basically looks as good as Yakuza 0, meaning that it’s amazing… for PS3 standards.

Gameplay: 8.5

Three out of four combat styles in this game are really fun to use. The camera controls are, once again, just a little bit more fleshed out than before.

Sound: 10

There are five stories, therefore there’s even more voice acting than before. Yakuza 5 features the same level of finesse as its predecessors when it comes to its superb voice acting, and the soundtrack is pretty good as well.

Fun Factor: 9.0

There might be some (very occasional) pacing issues, and playing as Haruka, while interesting, is nowhere near as exciting as playing as the other characters, but Yakuza 5 is still amazing due to its great story and unbelievable amount of content.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Yakuza 5 is available now on PS3 and PS4.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Yakuza 5 was provided by the publisher.

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