The Yakuza Remastered Collection (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 30.03.2020

Review for The Yakuza Remastered Collection on PlayStation 4

After Yakuza Kiwami, fans hoped desperately that the rest of the legendary tale of the Dragon of Dojima would receive the same treatment. Shortly thereafter, Sega had them overjoyed by releasing not just the second part of that story with Yakuza Kiwami 2, but also the prequel, as Yakuza 0 hit the PS4 too. As fans hoped and prepared for the third numbered instalment, Sega dropped a bombshell. Yakuza 3 would be coming, and it wouldn't be coming alone. Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 would be bundled with it, though sadly, without the same level of overhaul as the Kiwami titles. Now they're here, fans can finally experience the whole story, from Yakuza 0 through to Yakuza 6.

Getting into the Yakuza franchise just a few years ago was challenging. Yakuza Kiwami was available, as was Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 6. A considerable gap in the middle of the story. While each entry offers up a decent recap of what came before, to capture four titles of considerable story in a brief synopsis does not do it justice - especially the rich tales of Kiryu. To wait for a Kiwami of three, four, and five would take a very long time - this is a decent middle ground. Delivering a quality remastered production, while allowing players to finally get up to speed before Yakuza 7 lands on English speaking shores later this year.

Those who have completed Kiwami 2 will know where the first in this trilogy picks up. It's 2009, and Kiryu has packed in the Yakuza lifestyle. Handing off the leadership to Daigo, and recruiting the mad dog Majima to keep an eye on his friend. Meanwhile, Kiryu is heading off to the sunny shores of Okinawa, where he decides to open an orphanage and become a father figure to a group of lost kids. Yakuza 3 gives a new locale to explore in the Okinawan town of Ryukyu. It's rather small but full of charm, a seaside town with old-fashioned stores and salt of the Earth type people.

It's impossible for Kiryu to escape his gangland links, though, and soon enough the local Yakuza family - the Ryudo - will drop by the orphanage with a land deed. There are bigger political machinations at play, where government officials are battling overusing the land for either a new tourist trap resort, or a new military base. A real-life, sensitive topic. This soon drags Kiryu back into the machinations of the Tojo family subsidiaries, back into fighting for his life in back-alley brawls, and taking on armies of thugs.

Yakuza 3 is a big departure from what has come before, seeing Kiryu step away from the responsibilities of the brotherhood of crime, and onto becoming a father. Although the tropical locale of Okinawa isn't the only environment in the game. By Chapter 5, Kiryu has to return to his old stomping grounds, once again, but the majority of the stories and the side-quests are based around looking after the kids. While this may put off some of the audience, it gives a whole new side to Kiryu, and a satisfying turn to his tale.

Screenshot for The Yakuza Remastered Collection on PlayStation 4

Yakuza 4 picks up in 2010, and for the first time breaks away from having Kiryu as the sole protagonist to the tale. Opening at first on Shun Akiyama, a debt collector and proprietor of 'Sky Finance' in Kamurocho. It's a bold move but it feels fitting considering the ending of Yakuza 3. It helps that Akiyama is instantly pretty likeable, both in his attitude and design, he's a smooth, interest-free moneylender who goes out of his way to help those desperate and in need. He's also voiced by Koichi Yamadera, also known as Spike Spiegel! Akiyama is dragged into a turf dispute between the Tojo Clan and the Ueno Seiwa that threatens to turn Kamurocho into a warzone.

That is when he isn't fixing the problems of the little people who have nowhere else to go. He offers his loans to those who are able to complete a "test" he assigns them, and much of his side stories in the opening hours are based around this story thread. This reintroduction to Kamurocho through fresh eyes makes up the first few hours of the game, until the story switches over to the next protagonist. This next protagonist lacks the swagger and charm of the first, replacing it with an aura of intimidation. A brick powerhouse of a man. The man's name is Taiga Saejima, and he's introduced via a flashback to 1985, where he's working along with series legend Goro Majima in a plot to assassinate the boss of the Ueno Seiwa. Jumping to modern day, the big man is serving time, still awaiting the execution he has been sentenced.

Saejima is out for revenge, and more importantly for the truth, but he soon finds his whole family is long gone, seemingly the sacrifice he made utterly meaningless. He's soon on his way back to the streets where he grew up, but the place he knew has become a completely different world. Saejima's perspective is one of the downtrodden, focusing on the homeless and sewers of Kamurocho. Collecting garbage and having to stick to the shadows as the police desperately search for this fugitive. Then onto a cop who follows his own code of justice, Masayoshi Tanimura. Masayoshi's father was a cop here, and part of the slaughter back in 1985. Masayoshi is out to establish the truth to what happened to his father. He's introduced as a bit of a dirty cop, taking bribes and cash, but as the story develops, it's easy to see he's got a heart of gold. Constantly helping the other Asian people of Kamurocho.

Screenshot for The Yakuza Remastered Collection on PlayStation 4

Finally, the game returns control of the legendary Dragon of Dojima himself, Kiryu. As is always the way, he finds himself dragged back into the machinations of the Tojo family, and discovers that everything that has made up his story thus far is all linked to the current situation. Each of these individual tales is rich and complex; filled with interesting characters, and genuinely surprising developments - but, it's in the finale that the story truly shines, where the plot threads all intersect, bringing each disparate narrative together, each piece of the puzzle coming together to a sublime conclusion.

Not only are the stories drastically diverse, but the characters are as well. Each plays very differently, though all with little familiar little elements reminiscent of the Dragon of Dojima. Each of the four characters are based around one of the four Eastern Gods. Kiryu is, fittingly, the Azure Dragon; the Vermilion Bird Akiyama moves quickly and fluidly, kicking like a Taekwondo master and able to level enemies with lightning-fast combos; the White Tiger Saejima is a lumbering powerhouse that can smash thugs to pieces; and, finally, The Black Tortoise Tanimura is built around counters and blending finishing moves into combo chains. All of the characters have some elements of Kiryu's moveset, but they make them their own.

Then there is Yakuza 5. Whilst Yakuza 4 held off on returning Kiryu to centre stage, this instalment puts him straight back in the driving seat, though, once again, this is an ensemble tale, this time with five playable protagonists. Set two years following the last game, Kiryu is in a whole new city once more, now playing taxi driver in the bustle of Fukuoka, and he's not the only Tojo clan member dropping in. As this opens, Daigo is in attendance too, looking to gather new allies from the small Yakuza clan of the area.

In a series that has delivered the very best in terms of storytelling, Yakuza 5 manages to set the bar even higher. With the current head of the Omi Alliance at death's door, the long-standing truce between the Omi and the Tojo is at risk once again. This would ignite a war that would see the backstreets of Japan running red with blood. Hence why Daigo is desperately looking to enlist allies before the first shot rings out. Fukuoka becomes ground zero for this, as the Omi find out what the Tojo is up to, and they're determined not to let the Tojo gain the advantage before the war even begins.

Kiryu, of course, finds himself at the heart of this conflict, and, as the story spreads, fan favourite characters from the previous instalment are drawn into the fray. After playing as Kiryu, the story switches to Taiga Saejima. Despite clearing up the small issue of an 18-person murder and a jailbreak, he's been paying off a three-year sentence since the conclusion of the fourth instalment. The war against the Tojo has conspirators sabotage Saejima's parole, and even excommunicates him from his beloved clan, worse yet, he hears a terrible fate has befallen Majima. It'll take another jailbreak to find out the reason behind his expulsion from the Tojo, and the fate of his friend.

…Then this takes a strange twist. Shelving the dark drama of the Yakuza tale to instead focus on Haruka. She's a playable character in this title, but she's not going to be walking the streets and whooping the behinds of punks who look at her wrong. She's a budding junior idol, and her section of the game is made up of mini-games to increase the core stats that make up her idol abilities. She takes part in numerous QTE-style rhythm games, along with some positively weird mini-games like shaking the hands of fans, and taking part in interviews.

Following the bad taste of Haruka, comes a returning pleasant surprise. One of the finest new characters to join the franchise, and a major highlight of Yakuza 4. Shun Akiyama is back! He's looking better than ever with his slick demeanour, and lightning-fast kicks, and he's in town to set up a Kyoto branch of Sky Finance, but one of his first customers takes a jump off a roof, and in doing so intersects the paths of Haruka and Akiyama.

Screenshot for The Yakuza Remastered Collection on PlayStation 4

The final playable character is a completely new one: Tatsuo Shinda, a disgraced ex-baseball player who left the sport thanks to game-fixing, now trying to make his way as an adult entertainment writer. While this character seems removed from the war in the shadows between the Tojo and the Omi, the mysterious figure that enlists his help binds everything of this story together. Tatsuo feels completely different to the other characters in terms of combat too, being based around holds, joint locks, and squeam-inducing bone breaks, with some fun wrestling moves mixed in.

Yakuza 5 was the biggest overhaul of the series. Not only did it finally receive a much-needed overhaul of the engine, but it also introduced a far broader slice of Japan to explore. Giving five diverse zones to see alongside the five characters. There's the classic Kamurocho, a returning Sotenbori, based on Dotonbori, previously seen in Yakuza 2, the Fukuoka-based Nagasugoi, the snowy Sapporo locale of Tsukimino, then finally the Nagoya based Susukino. This is the biggest entry in the series, in every sense of the word.

Another area where it is the biggest is in the side activities. Best of all, the arcades of Japan are finally represented by a mainstay that will be a favourite of anyone who has been lucky to visit them. Taiko no Tatsujin This joins many familiar activities like Karaoke, MahJong, Billiards, more Karaoke, and many more. Each of the five characters also has a major set of side stories to undertake. Kiryu gets to be a taxi driver, taking on three different mini-games, racing against others. Driving people safely, taking into account people running into the road, turn signals, traffic lights etc. Mini-games picking the correct answers to passengers queries. This culminates in a mission to get some street racers off the road. Saejima gets to learn to become a hunter in the snowy mountains of Sapporo. Haruka's entire part is all centred around her mini-game focus on her climb to fame. Shinada's activities are all based around regaining his athletic prowess, with the heart of this being an improved baseball mini-game.

Regardless of which of the three games is being played, playing through the story is a drop in the ocean of the experience. The Yakuza titles have long mastered the open-world style gameplay where there are a million things to do, and they couldn't be more diverse. Best of all, the balance between story and open-world is absolute perfection. Every entry has a huge, sprawling tale running through it, with tons of dialogue and FMVs, but after each there's opportunity to engage in everything from bowling to batting cages, hostess clubs to karaoke, or even just walking the streets cracking skulls.

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These types of side activities have become par for the course in open-world games these days, but Yakuza goes beyond. The pub games and arcade games like darts, UFO Catchers, Darts, and Billiards are decent little distractions, but for those who want to make the most of them, or for those aiming for the platinum trophy, they can open up countless hours of gameplay. As can the classic Asian games like Shogi, Mahjong, and various card games. But each title introduces some huge side activities within which players can get absolutely lost.

There's a perfect balance of the serious and the surreal. The gritty, hard-boiled Yakuza tales of the main story often carry over to the side stories of the people of Japan, but more often than not, these are wonderfully wacky. Showcasing some absolutely loveable weirdos. Filled with hilarious moments one minute and heartfelt the next.

The core gameplay remains the same between each title, but considering these are three numbered entries in a long-running series, it's interesting to see how they develop game on game. For example, the experience and levelling system. In Yakuza 3 Kiryu gains experience by completing tasks and winning fights - this just increases a pool of experience. That experience can then be spent to upgrade abilities within one of five categories, and these in turn unlock abilities. In Yakuza 4 gathering up enough experience grants a 'Soul Orb.' These can be used to purchase specific abilities, with stronger ones requiring more orbs. Yakuza 5 combines the two systems. It's fascinating to see this progression.

Now, this isn't a Kiwami collection, and the quality of these remasters does not live up to those instalments. However, it's a quality production nonetheless; the performance is a constant 60fps and it all runs perfectly smoothly. The remaster adds plenty of quality of life improvements too. For example, side stories now appear on the mini map - a huge improvement to the vast amounts of wandering previously required. The large amount of cut content around hostesses from the original English release has now been restored at last also, finally giving a full localisation.

Worth a mention, especially, is the voice-acting talent at hand. Some of Japan's finest actors are on board, and they put out performances worthy of Takashi Miike films. Best of all for this release, there's a whole new localisation provided just for this release, that is absolutely out of this world. The translations and language used throughout, help to finally deliver the heart of the series to non-Japanese speakers, adding a deeper level of character and personality to each of the cast.

Screenshot for The Yakuza Remastered Collection on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Yakuza series has finally started to receive some of the acclaim and audience it has long been due. It deserves even more, however. These are some of the finest video games ever made, with no hyperbole. The storytelling is absolutely masterful, gripping and enthralling, filled with characters that the audience will fall in love with. Each title filled with magnificent cinematography and choreography, in not just the dramatic FMV sequences, but just as much so in the fights on the streets. Watching the huge showdown between Kiryu and other Yakuza bosses, seeing the camera pan around as they strip off to reveal their backpieces is sensational every time. While the combat offers up countless impacts that translate through the screen with a bone-rattling shake, the side activities and sub-stories enthralling enough to actually pull attention away from the wonderful main story. While it seems Yakuza should be a cult classic, it has broader appeal given a chance, and deserves the moniker without the caveat. A true classic.

Developer

Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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