The best Yakuza in some ways.

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#1 Edited by deactivated-5a923fc7099e3 (534 posts) -

I remember vividly my excitement when I first played Yakuza 3. I had heard that it was a surprisingly off-beat fighting game but nothing had prepared me for just how quirky and engrossing this game turned out to be. I totally fell in love with the whole Japan-simulator side and all the strange side missions that sprung up. The main story was a bit overly dramatic but in a soap-opera kinda way that was hit or miss. Yakuza 4 was more of the same but it felt even more polished and the different playable characters mixed things up nicely. When Yakuza 5 hit the PS3 it felt like a real swansong for the series and for the system as a whole.

Cue Yakuza 0. I had held off buying a PS4 for a long time but a week ago I finaly picked up a Pro. Yakuza 0 was one of the main reasons I decided to get one. I managed to avoid too many spoilers so I went in as "blind" as I could. I am about 20 to 30 hours deep in the game at the moment and I am both delighted but also a bit disappointed by some aspects of the game.

The whole late eighties vibe is really great. I'm spending way more time on the Outrun machine then I probably should and seeing a modern city were not everyone is walking around staring at their phone conjures up all kinds off idealized memories from my childhood. The side missions are also fun for the most part, I really like the whole real estate management part for instance. The fighting mechanics are as good as they have ever been and it can get pretty challenging in boss battles. So far I also like the writing. Yakuza games can get REALLY talky and melodramatic but there are some brilliantly written twists and turns that help to keep you engaged. It is pulp but I love it.

But after a while the feeling sunk in that I was playing in the same environments as the previous titles but now clad in 80's garb. I was hoping for a completely new environment but it seems like Kamarucho and Sotenbori are the only 2 neighborhoods in the game. It all feels a bit too familiar. That also goes for many other aspects of the game. The stores are stocked with the same energy drinks and bento-sets as in the previous games and you will find loads of reused assets all over the place. It's nice to see these things at a fluid frame rate and in higher resolution though.

In some ways this is the best Yakuza has ever been. On a technical level they have delivered a solid experience. If you have played the PS3 games you will suffer from moments of strong deja vu however. I'm sure I will be putting many more hours in this game though if not only to beat my Outrun high score.

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#2 Posted by TheChris (440 posts) -

See, I don't get that same feeling you do because I see Kamurocho as the general main character of the series. It's not true that nothing changes between each titles, in Yakuza 2 the Park where the homeless roams gets set up for rennovation by Majima's Construction Company. They start building Kamurocho Hills, which doesn't finish until Yakuza 5. This is part of the charm, every game builds upon the last, the combat gets consistently better, but each entry also offers its own unique combat mechanics, Ishin has the sword,s Yakuza 3 has Red Heat, Yakuza 0 has 4 different combat styles and Yakuza 6 has Ultimate Heat Mode. Some stores changes in Kamurocho, and you get to see how they change dynamically with each entry, as they generally take place the same year they are released in Japan. There's an organic feel to it. In Yakuza 4 you can traverse the rooftops and the Underground Mall, in Yakuza 5 you have 5 different cities, in Yakuza 0 you have the Empty Lot and in Yakuza 3 you have Okinawa and the Orphanage.

Having said that, I do feel that after playing Yakuza 6, where they haven't had time to test the new engine with another samurai spin-off, that it's become barebones and the games might do with some more development time for the next entry. But I'm also not a fan of the new engine, and the respective combat system which I suppose probably contributed the most to my dislike of Yakuza 6.

Yakuza 5 alongside Ishin are probably the most content rich entries in the series.

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#3 Posted by Zeik (5185 posts) -

Coming into the series part way maybe gave you the wrong impression of what to expect from Yakuza. Kamurocho has always been the heart of the series and only undergoes minor changes from game to game. It wasn't until 5 that they actual gave you legitimate new areas to explore. 1 through 4 took place almost exclusively in Kamurocho. The fact that 0 gives you Sotenbori to explore is actually an outlier for the series. Even Kamurocho itself went under its most dramatic changes in 0 compared to any other game in the series.

If you intend to play 1, 2, and 6 after this you should temper your expectations for how dramatically the world changes. Kamurocho is as much a lasting and familar character in Yakuza as Kiryu.

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#4 Posted by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik said:

Coming into the series part way maybe gave you the wrong impression of what to expect from Yakuza. Kamurocho has always been the heart of the series and only undergoes minor changes from game to game. It wasn't until 5 that they actual gave you legitimate new areas to explore. 1 through 4 took place almost exclusively in Kamurocho. The fact that 0 gives you Sotenbori to explore is actually an outlier for the series. Even Kamurocho itself went under its most dramatic changes in 0 compared to any other game in the series.

If you intend to play 1, 2, and 6 after this you should temper your expectations for how dramatically the world changes. Kamurocho is as much a lasting and familar character in Yakuza as Kiryu.

You spent a lot of time in Okinawa in 3 though--It is true, however, that most of your time will be spent in Kamurocho as it is the city that changes the most because it has a place in the hearts of its characters, specifically Kiryu, Majima and Akiyama to name some.

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#5 Edited by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@thechris: Okinawa is just a tiny set piece though. You are forced to spend a decent chunk of time there in 3, but it's not a fleshed out area like Kamurocho or Sotenbori or the other locations in 5. I would argue 3 doesn't really "start" until you leave Okinawa.

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#6 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik: It's roughly the size of Onomichi in Yakuza 6, and has a few noteworthy mini-games and locales. If you wanna talk about set pieces, then I would point out that city district Kiryu and Date goes to Yakuza 2 near the end-game. It doesn't have content that rivals that of Fukuoka, Tsukimino, Sapporo or Feudal Kyoto from Ishin that is true.

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#7 Posted by odinsmana (982 posts) -

@zeik said:

@thechris: Okinawa is just a tiny set piece though. You are forced to spend a decent chunk of time there in 3, but it's not a fleshed out area like Kamurocho or Sotenbori or the other locations in 5. I would argue 3 doesn't really "start" until you leave Okinawa.

While it`s not as big as Kamurocho I wouldn`t call Okinawa a tiny set piece. If I remember correctly I think it`s about the same size as Sotenbori in 0 and has it`s own set of stores, substories and minigames just like Kamurocho.

I think them introducing other decently sized areas for you to explore outside of Kamurocho (as they have in every game other than 1 and 4) is also kinda what allows them to reuse Kamurocho in each game. I also love coming back to the city in each game and see the small ways it changes each time, but if that was the only location the games took place in it would become really stale after a while /for me at least). Having other cities to explore helps freshen things up.

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#8 Posted by TheChris (440 posts) -

@odinsmana: Weird how I got notified for this since I agree :P

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#9 Edited by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@odinsmana: Maybe calling it a "tiny set piece" is underselling it, but it's definitely not on the same level as Sotenbori in terms of scale and content. Sotenbori is the most well realized alternative location in the series so far. I kinda found most of Yakuza 5's alternate locales pretty forgettable compared to Kamurocho, but Sotenbori rivals it.

If the next Yakuza decides to have more alternate areas I hope it's more like Sotenbori than any of the others. Assumming they don't ditch Kamurocho entirely for a clean slate. Which maybe they should?

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#10 Posted by OurSin_360 (6117 posts) -

I have only played 1,2 and parts of 4 so far(couldn't get a working copy of 3 for a reasonable price ) and watched the ER of 0. So far my favorite game has been 2, i think it was just a fun ass game to run through even though it was a ps2 game. I liked the characters, the combat was much improved over 1 and the story moved at a good pace. I burned out on 4, maybe cause i couldn't play 3 but it starts you with a brand new character that you have 0 connection for and doesn't do a good job of setting him up at all. Probably will get good but for now i haven't felt the desire to play it.

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#11 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik: Ichiban is based in Kamurocho, him being the new protagonist means they won't move away from it. I think the city has become too integral a character at this point for them to move away from it. They just need more development time, so they can actually add more nuance to the town, more locations.

I thought Sapporo, and its snowy covered streets were great and really memorable. Sotenbori isn't all that big at all, it's slightly bigger in Yakuza 0 than it is in Yakuza 2 though. 0 adds a few new locations, which for some reason have been omitted in the remake of 2.

I do agree that Sotenbori is immensely detailed with how it recreates the streets of Dotenbori, it has a few memorable locales but it hasn't had many unique mini-games. I'm bigger on Feudal Kyoto in Ishin, due to its mini-games, the old lamps, the mudded streets and pretty rivers that covers a lot of the streets. Okinawa is one of the most pleasingly designed cities with its Hawaiian based aesthetic, a nice juxtaposition from the neon lit streets of Kamurocho and the other big cities.

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#12 Posted by deactivated-5a923fc7099e3 (534 posts) -

@zeik: It's not that I don't like Kamarucho and I realize that it is partly a story about that particular neighborhood. It's just that I think they did a bit of an half assed job in transporting the environments into a different decade. The same shops are in the same place and offer generally the same goods. Especially Sotenbori feels extremely similar to the Yakuza 5 version. I get the feeling like the people at Sega have spread their resources too thin between all the different Yakuza releases lately. It seems like Yakuza 6 has suffered the most in the process resulting in what many say is a partly unfinished game. And I feel the same goes for 0, what is there is good but it relies too heavily on recycled content IMO. I hope that they really focus their energy on whatever they plan to do next.

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#13 Posted by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@thechris: That's fine I suppose. Ditching Kamurocho would mean devoting a lot of extra resources to that and I just want a good game first and foremost.

When I say "scale" I don't just mean size, but how densely packed it with stuff and personality, but also without feeling too cramped. That's something I didn't like about places like Sapporo. The map was decently large, but navigating it felt weirdly claustrophobic.

I didn't count Ishin, since I haven't played it, and it's knd of its own separate thing, even more than Dead Souls.

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#14 Posted by TechnoSyndrome (1605 posts) -

I have only played 1,2 and parts of 4 so far(couldn't get a working copy of 3 for a reasonable price ) and watched the ER of 0. So far my favorite game has been 2, i think it was just a fun ass game to run through even though it was a ps2 game. I liked the characters, the combat was much improved over 1 and the story moved at a good pace. I burned out on 4, maybe cause i couldn't play 3 but it starts you with a brand new character that you have 0 connection for and doesn't do a good job of setting him up at all. Probably will get good but for now i haven't felt the desire to play it.

If you aren't feeling Akiyama getting to the second playable character might be where things pick up for you, as he's much more attached to the characters from previous games.

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#15 Edited by odinsmana (982 posts) -

@zeik said:

@odinsmana: Maybe calling it a "tiny set piece" is underselling it, but it's definitely not on the same level as Sotenbori in terms of scale and content. Sotenbori is the most well realized alternative location in the series so far. I kinda found most of Yakuza 5's alternate locales pretty forgettable compared to Kamurocho, but Sotenbori rivals it.

If the next Yakuza decides to have more alternate areas I hope it's more like Sotenbori than any of the others. Assumming they don't ditch Kamurocho entirely for a clean slate. Which maybe they should?

You`re right that Okinawa (or the areas in 5 which I agree were a bit bland, though I think it kinda makes up for it by having a bunch of them) is not as fleshed out as Sotenbori in 0, but they had also featured Sotenbori in 2 games before that (2 and 5) and had time to flesh it out the same way they have fleshed out Kamurocho as the series as gone on so I think it makes sense that Sotenbori is mroe detailed than the other alternate areas they have done.

As for ditching Kamurocho I am torn on it. As you said earlier in the thread Kamurocho is the heart of the series and I love returning to it in each game, but 7 games (10 if you count spin-offs) featuring Kamurocho is a lot even with the small changes made to the city and various alternate areas, so making a clean break for the next game and maybe even establish a new central location for the series might be a good idea. If 6 really is the last game with Kiryu as the lead as they said before 6 was released it might be even more fitting.

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#16 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@bdead: They don't always offer the same goods, a lot of branded stuff gets switched out between releases, especially in Don Quixote. In Yakuza 6, the bowling alley has been replaced with a gym for instance.

Reusing assets is fine with me as long as it isn't bloated like in Kiwami to a point where nothing has overly changed at all. Plenty of things changed between Yakuza 4 and 5, even more so with 0 -- 0 builds upon Ishin's 4 combat styles, and utilizes that for something unique for Yakuza 0. Yakuza 6's problem I feel is its engine, the reliance on pretty graphics and physics comes at the expense of content, now that every substory is voiced there are also less of them. There are no samurai spin-offs this time, where they can spent time getting to work out the engine, and thus their resources have spread too thin.

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#17 Edited by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@bdead: But that's the thing, Yakuza is not a big budget series and never has been. They've always gotten by with recycled content. That's something that can be very deceptive about the franchise at first glance. You see those highly detailed and well produced cutscenes and it looks like a AAA game, but in reality their budget is pretty modest. Recycling content or various other tricks is how they can still appear as grand as it is on a less grand budget. If they were devoted to making everything new I don't think they could afford to make a proper Yakuza game.

I kinda feel like that's what went wrong with Yakuza 6. They got a little too ambitious and they couldn't afford to polish it enough.

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#18 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik: It being a spin-off doesn't mean it should be negated, especially since its mechanics were the basis for Yakuza 0's combat. Also 0 makes references to it. I would highly suggest importing it if you want a really good Yakuza game, with an excellent story that gives you a bit of Japanese history lessons too.

I think personality can be derived a lot of from the outlook, and to me the snowy streets of Sapporo had a lot of personality. Given that almost every mainline Yakuza takes place during the holidays, this city basically embodies the spirit of the series. Also it had some of the most memorable substories, like when Saejima is dressed as Santa, beating up thugs. And I really loved the hunting mini-game myself.

Personally I found Sotenbori, most of the time anyway, to be really cramped as the streets are generally narrow but it does come alive during night-time. Yakuza 2's murky graphics really added to the town's atmosphere at the time. As someone said above though, Sotenbori is the epicenter of the Kansai region where the Omi Alliance rules, so it's an integral part of the series as much as Kamurocho.

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#19 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@oursin_360: Yakuza 4 is a game that feels it was designed to pull in newcomers, like myself. I started with Yakuza 4 back in the day, when it released so I have some bias on it. Personally, it's among my favorites and Akiyama is one of the most well realized characters in any video game I've played. I just love his Spike Spiegal roguish swagger he's got going for himself, you'll get to know him more through the game and its substories, as well as Yakuza 5. I also agree that Yakuza 2's story felt properly paced, with not too much unnecessary subplots like in the first game.

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#20 Edited by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@thechris: Like I said, I haven't actually played Ishin (for obvious reasons), which is the main reason. I can't speak for it one way or the other, so I won't.

When I think of Sapporo the only part that stands out to me is the mall area. Oh, and I guess the place with the snow sculptures. Maybe it's just that only appeared as a small part of one game, but I don't remember them doing much to give real identity to the town. There's nothing like Serena or Stardust or Sky Finance in Kamurocho or The Grand or Club Sunshine or The Dragon & Tiger in Sotenbori. It was just a place you were at for a few chapters before moving on.

That little hunting village that Saejima visits had way more personality. I still remember almost everything about it quite vividly, and it's one of the high points of 5.

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#21 Edited by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik: If the obvious reasons are language barriers then KHHSubs have made an incredibly thorough translated guide for the game--I doubt we are ever seeing it west-side, so all I'm saying is that you're in for a ride if you decide to play it.

Sure, Sotenbori has a history as it's appeared in more games, Lee's Massage Club, The Grand (thought you barely spent time in the Grand) and the Workshop. Sapporo had a lot of shit too, unique to the snowy Hokkaido region where it resides. Ambitious, the bar, where Saejima also spends a bit of his time. The snowball minigame, the characters in the substories, as well as the hunting village are all part of it. And I thought it made for a really memorable location.

Like I said in a previous post, I do realize Sotenbori has more history, and in Yakuza 5 you could add Dyna Chair to the list of landmarks. Being the seat of the Omi Alliance means it's pretty integral to the overall story of the series. Having said that, I like snow, and given how it compliments the time period of most of the games, I think Sapporo (being a red light district too) really adds a lot of personality.

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#22 Posted by Zeik (5185 posts) -

@thechris: Ishin seems a little too dense and complex to enjoy playing with a translation guide (I've done it with it significantly smaller games and it was still kind of a chore), but maybe someday when we aren't getting several Yakuza games in a year I'll give it a try.

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#23 Posted by TheChris (440 posts) -

@zeik: I'm doing just fine myself, if you have a general understanding of how Yakuza games play, you won't be having any issues at all. I don't understand too much Japanese, a bit, but KHHSubs guide is pretty damn thorough.

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#24 Posted by BoOzak (2517 posts) -

I played all of them in order starting in 2007 (excluding the spinoffs like Kenzan & Ishin) and Yakuza 0 is my favourite.

3 had the biggest impact from a technical stand point (and I never thought it would be localised, so I was stoked) but I wasnt a fan of the story (I hear 6 has similar strengths/weaknesses) I also wasnt a fan of how 4 & 5 spread it's narrative across too many characters.

In 4 I remember thinking it was dumb that everything took place in Kamurocho but then 5 changed that and I ended up missing it. The way Zero's story is spread across just two (important) characters in two detailed locations (5 was quantity over quality in that aspect) made the game flow much more nicely, it also helped that it had arguably the best side content of any of the games. The late 80s setting was great too as were the clean visuals and steady frame rate. The new styles were also welcome as were a bunch of other gameplay changes. (which I hear were introduced in Ishin)

I get why you might have some fatigue playing these games as they do recycle quite a bit from game to game but Zero is the most refined and fun these games have ever been.

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