Something About Japan: what the critics are saying about Yakuza 5

Released on the 6th of December and selling 357,000 copies in its first week on shelves, Yakuza 5 seems to be a genuine step forward for the series. Series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi has likened the title to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in terms of scope, and indeed the GTA comparison is an apt one, as the game is, bigger, better, and packed with even more things to do than its predecessors, and even treated with the same reverence in Japan as GTA is in the west. It’s been a success at retail, of course – the series always has been – but what are the press saying? Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu bestowed Yakuza 5 with a coveted 40 out of 40, and as we find out, Impress Watch was similarly impressed. Sega, sadly, currently has no plans for a western localisation.

As in Yakuza 4, the game switches between the playable characters during the campaign, each of whom has their own distinct combat style and storyline. Joining series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu are formerly incarcerated powerhouse Taiga Saejima, kind-hearted vagrant-turned-money-lender Shun Akiyama – both of whom were introduced in Yakuza 4 – and new character Tatsuo Shinada, a professional baseball player banned for life after a gambling scandal. Rounding off the main cast is Haruka Sawamura, who like Kiryu has been in every game in the series to date, now grown up and pursuing her dream of becoming a pop idol in Osaka.

Another Drama

Sega has spent a lot of time ensuring the series’ trademark brutal combat is more rewarding than ever. “The actions and movements of each character, and even the enemies’ actions and scripting, has been redone from scratch,” Impress Watch’s reviewer notes. “Each of the protagonists possesses their own unique special move, which is activated by filling the new ‘Climax Heat’ gauge.” Alongside the variety found in each character’s individual combat styles, each also has a unique game mode. Literally translating as “Another Drama”, these side-stories are played separately from the central campaign, and flesh out each character’s tale.

“Series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu is now working as a taxi driver in Nagasugai (part of the new, fictionalised Fukuoka),” says Impress Watch. “His side-story involves him taking passengers’ requests and driving them about town, in the manner of a manic racing game.” Here’s hoping for forklift truck DLC, or maybe a crazy yellow skin for his car.

The hulking Saejima, meanwhile, finds himself in peril on a snowy mountain. “In order to survive the harsh conditions, he must hunt for food. His story revolves around using his hunting rifle and traps to hunt wild animals. It brings a new element of tension to the series, as animals will run away if the player makes too much noise or gets too close.”

Akiyama’s combat strength is his speed, and while he doesn’t have Another Drama to call his own, he does have his own set of side-quests, presented similarly to previous games in the series. Nagoya-based newcomer Tatsuo Shinada is skilled with weapons, and “his Another Drama is linked to his past as a professional baseball player. He goes to baseball batting cages to compete for home run high scores, challenges human pitchers to best him, and other such themed variations. Participating boosts his abilities in battle.”

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