Yakuza Remastered Collection
Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 have finally been remastered for the PlayStation 4, as part of the Yakuza Remastered Collection. Thus, signifying the first time every single main Yakuza game in the franchise has been playable on current-gen systems. While we could spend hours upon hours discussing the depth of the entire Yakuza franchise, this review will focus specifically on the games within the Yakuza Remastered Collection.
Japan Has Never Looked Better
The Yakuza series is without a shadow-of-a-doubt one of the best franchises of all-time. Anyone who has played a single game has found it impossible to not be hooked. The finely-detailed cities feature loads of side-quests, games, and diversions to keep you busy for hours. Combine that with stunning graphics and it’s a hard franchise to beat.
Even when SEGA released the first Yakuza game on PlayStation 2, it featured some of the best art direction, level design, and graphics ever seen on that console. The same could be said for each iteration of the game that came after on newer systems. In the case of Yakuza 3, 4, and 5, (all of which debuted on the PlayStation 3), this is especially true. Somehow, SEGA has made them look even better for PlayStation 4.
The three games in the Yakuza Remastered Collection have been updated both graphically and in terms of overall performance. The resolution and graphics have been massively improved going from 720p at 30fps to the more modern-desired 1080p at 60fps. In terms of visuals, all three games look much clearer with more depth in color than their previous-gen versions. Obviously, they don’t look like more recent games in the Yakuza series, but improvements are noticeable and well-received.
In terms of performance, the games have never felt smoother. Running through the real-life inspired streets of Kamurocho, Ryukyu, Sotenbori, Nagasugai, among others is an absolute treat. It is all so effortless with speedy load times and encounters.
Furthermore, the Yakuza Remastered Collection went through an extensive script review that saw English scripts reviewed, revised, and in some cases rewritten for accuracy. As I haven’t memorized the PS3 versions of the games, I didn’t notice a major difference, but I can say each game made sense and the story flowed well.
That said, there were times that the games still felt dated in terms text box design and NPCs dissolving when walking too close to Kiryu and any other main protagonist in scenes. However, those things can’t necessarily be helped in a remaster, alone. To fix those would require a more pain-staking overhaul that resembles a remake more than a remaster. Overall, the upgrades made to each Yakuza game should make Yakuza fans both in Japan and out West ecstatic.
Re-experiencing Three Masterpieces in One
If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, you’re missing out on what is one of the crown jewels in SEGA’s vaunted video game lineup. Each game in the series feels more like a season in a well-crafted HBO drama than it does an actual video game. The stories always have twists, turns, and deaths...so many deaths...you never see coming.
All three games in the Yakuza Remastered Collection take place after the series main protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, has left the Yakuza and is trying to lead a simpler life. The main theme for each game, in terms of Kiryu’s story, is that the ghosts of the past he’s trying to get away from will never leave him alone. It’s the case in Yakuza 3 when he leaves with his adopted daughter Hakura Sawamura to run the Morning Glory Orphanage in Okinawa. Eventually, he’s roped back into the Yakuza after the orphanage is threatened. His journey brings him back to the Kamurocho, the staple district in the Yakuza series, to quell the unrest in the Yakuza outfit he left behind and subsequently save the orphanage.
Yakuza 4 is a bit of a departure from Yakuza 3. While the story still takes place in a more expanded Kamurocho, Kiryu takes more of a backseat role with the stories of loan shark Shun Akiyama, Yakuza hitman Taiga Saejima, and Dirty Detective Masayoshi Tanamura taking featured roles for the first half of the game. Their stories feature everything from murders to frame jobs to prison escapes to a police drama in the center of Kamurocho. It eventually leads to Kiryu returning to help expose the corruption that’s weighing down the family he walked away from and devising a plan for the future for said family.
Yakuza 5 is even more of a far cry from Yakuza 3, as the story thrusts us into a brimming war between the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance. Once again caught in the middle of it is Kiryu, who is trying to live a simple life in Fukuoka after leaving the Morning Glory Orphanage to help Hakura’s chances of becoming a successful J-Pop star. Yakuza 5 is the most ambitious of the three as it tells the story of five different characters, spanning across five different locations. It even allows you to play as Hakura, on her journey to becoming a J-Pop star, which is somehow a delightful distraction from the seedier elements the Yakuza series typically dwells on. You also get to play as a pro-baseball player trying to uncover the mystery behind his surprise league ban.
Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, YOU GO BEAR HUNTING. The overall story, though, revolves around a giant conspiracy with multiple assassinations, kidnappings, and all manner of clandestine operations being carried out by key players in order to take over the coveted position of Chairman of the Tojo Clan. It’s an insanely intricate, well-directed story that leads to an epic climax featuring a clash of all five stories. It’s an absolute masterclass in storytelling.
The Journey of the Dragon is Now Complete
The Yakuza Remastered Collection is a must-own for any fan of the Yakuza series. Moreso, its release means that newcomers to the series can now experience the main series in its entirety on PlayStation 4. That means all seven stories from Yakuza 0 to Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and every side game of Karaoke, Virtua Fighter, Arcade Games, Cooking, Baseball, Street Fights, Street Races, and so so much more are now at your fingertips to experience or re-experience all on one console.
Each one is a highly-addicting, highly-entertaining video game that I really can’t gush about enough. If you haven’t played a Yakuza game they’re well worth the time and if you have, the Yakuza Remastered Collection will be a treasured part of your existing Yakuza Collection.