Sega’s Yakuza 5 nearly never came to Europe. It’s certainly good to have it now, albeit only as a digital release, but does it still hold up after 3 years?
The series has a big cult following, big enough to put the pressure on the publisher at least, and it’s clear to see why. If you’ve played the series then you’ll know that it has a more old fashioned approach to gameplay. It’s far less GTA or Sleeping Dogs and more like Sega’s other masterpiece, Shenmue, in that missions are separated out from the main map.
It’s a good starting point for new players, too, as the story starts with a refreshed cast and the previously high ranking hero,Kazuma, having seen better days and facing life as a taxi driver. Cue moving on up through hard work to become someone again.
Yakuza 5 charms in cut scenes that move the story forward (sometimes in surprising ways) and reassuringly old-school fighting mechanics with the odd Quicktime event thrown in. It’s often less about the crime lords and the shady goings on that Kazuma has to deal with and more about the life of the city itself and its NPC inhabitants.
The other thing that links these games, 5 in particular, to Shenmue, is the need to talk to people to get the full picture and take part in missions which cover everything from driving to hunting and fighting (and in female character Haruka’s case, a lot of singing!). There is just so much to do that you might easily go off and forget the main story for days at a time with the game before you even release it. With a fully functional Virtua Fighter arcade machine to pump virtual coins into and more distractions waiting around the corner there’s never a dull moment.
What will probably turn out to be the last PS3 Yakuza game has also become the best. The fact that it’s out and that it’s already been so well received bodes well for a Western release of the next game, Yakuza 0, on PS4.