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Yakuza 5 continues on the story from Yakuza 4. Set a couple of years after the last entry, the story focuses on five different characters and the journeys they each make to become connected by the game’s end. To start with you take control of Kiryu, ex Tojo Clan chairman and former orphanage manager, who’s now living the life of a simple taxi driver under an assumed identity to hide who he is from those around him and keep those who do know who he is off his trail. It doesn’t take long for things to go sideways, giving Kiryu a reason to return to Kamurocho. Next up you take control of Saejima, a heavy hitter ex-con who’s going back to prison so he can claim an important role within the Tojo Clan when he gets out, choosing to serve his time so he can earn it rather than having his friends in the clan bail him out. After Saejima comes Haruka, adopted daughter of Kiryu who is now training to become the winner of the Princess League and follow her dream for stardom. After being discovered while out shopping by the president of a talent agency, Haruka’s days now see her training non stop to live up to the expectations of her president and become the idol she knows that she can be. Akiyama comes after Haruka, after opening a new branch of Sky Finance he’s now become tangled up in mystery and feels compelled to help for the sake of his client. Lastly you take control of Shinada, a down on his luck ex professional baseball player who relies on the generosity of those around him to help him get through the day while he spends his nights writing about various nightlife activities for a magazine.
While there are aspects of Yakuza 5 that are similar to the previous entry, namely the ability to play as multiple characters, there are a few big differences that change the whole dynamic of the game, to start with each of the character’s stories play out in a different city, with the exception of Haruka and Akiyama whose stories share the same location. As well as these different locations, each of the characters also has their own side story, these are different to the sub stories players of the other titles might be used to in that it’s a story unique to the character you’re playing as, for example; Kiryu has several taxi missions to complete whereas Shinada has a story which revolves around his abilities as a baseball player. These side stories coupled with the new locations makes each part of Yakuza 5 feel like a completely different game, it has all the street fighting and silliness fans have come to know and love but now there’s all this new extra content as well. There’s a new weapon skill system that rewards you with durability and effectiveness increases based on how often you use a particular weapon and each weapon has its own level up tree and while this sounds like a good thing, based on experience there’s barely any benefit to using the weapons since your characters’ attacks are stronger without them but on the other hand, if you don’t focus on leveling up your weapon skills, it locks you out of using some of the better weapons in the game.
There’s a few things that are the same for each character, regardless of the city they’re in; there’s always someone to learn new skills from, a chef who’ll teach you the value of food allowing benefits such as the ability to double your life bar and there’s always a tourism photographer who will pay you for shots of the cities. While the chef and photographer don’t offer much difference between characters, the masters all have their own mini stories as you complete their training and it makes going back for more especially engaging because you want to see how things play out for them. They all, with the exception of Haruka, can compete in an underground fighting tournament known as the Victory Road, these fights start out the same way as any other street fight except they follow a story that sees each protagonist defeat the strongest fighters in their respective cities and earn a place in the finals at the Purgatory coliseum in Kamurocho.
The main characters themselves all play differently, they each have their own fighting style and even though some of the skills they have are the same, they’re often called something else and some of the skills are switched up for the character that you’re playing as, for example Saejima has a skill that makes him unable to be knocked down in Heat Mode so it basically makes him a walking tank. Each of the characters has a different use for their Heat Mode and there’s an additional gauge known as Climax Heat which allows them to perform a special move and through training you can expand the amount of moves they have available to use with Climax Heat but you’re limited to one use at a time but it also takes a while to recharge so it can’t be used very often and some moves are more effective than others. Players familiar with other titles in the Yakuza series will already be aware but the Heat Gauge is primarily used to perform contextual finishers that vary depending on the environment or the weapon held.
Since the characters and their respective stories are all so different, leading to different gameplay styles, I’ll go in to them in a bit more detail separately.
Starting with Kiryu, his fighting style has the broadest range, combining kicks and punches for a devastating effect makes him a force to be reckoned with, add in that his training allows him to access moves that counter and reverse his enemies attacks and you might consider him the most effective fighter. When his Heat Gauge is full it allows him to access a kind of rage mode that increases his speed and power but it doesn’t last for a particularly long time so I found it best for finishing of weaker enemies rather than using it to chip away at the health of the tougher ones. As I mentioned above, Kiryu’s side story involves him being a taxi driver and that means there’s several missions available to the player where they can ferry around passengers while following the rules of the road for bonus points, there is a point however where the driving portion of the missions dries up and you’re left with a view inside the taxi as you give responses to your customers. The taxi driving missions you can do are considered the side objective to this side story while the main goal for taxi driver Kiryu is to take down a ring of illegal street racing by beating challengers in your taxi on a course made up on the highway. You can’t just dive into these main missions and expect to win though since you have to complete the side missions to be able to upgrade your taxi to make it handle better and drive faster so you have a better chance of winning when it comes to the races. If you’re not interested in any of that stuff, there is an option that allows you to drive around freely, on the highway to test your racing skills or on the roads of the town to get a feel for driving safely.
Next up is Saejima, his fighting relies on heavy hits and charged up attacks and is by far the strongest fighter among the group, thanks largely in part to the skill mentioned above, boss fights with Saejima are a breeze. Being as strong as he is, his attacks often involve throwing his enemies around and using them to beat up the others, he’s also the only one strong enough to use the larger items as weapons, such as scooters and he can even rip street signs from the ground. In Saejima’s side story you become lost in the mountains and after being rescued by a local villager he takes to hunting as a way to earn his stay, this means that he can head up into the wilderness with a gun in hand and shoot game for food and he can also sell what he hunts for a considerable amount of money. The bulk of these missions involves learning the ropes of hunting and trapping but it’s not long before you’re heading up the mountain of your own accord, fulfilling the various requests of the villagers who are too frightened to venture up there thanks to the monster of a bear that lives up there. The main portion of these hunting missions has you confronting the dangerous bear, tracking it and eventually driving it off so it no longer poses a threat to the village. Eventually you’ll be allowed to go up the mountain just for fun and it’s a great way to earn money.
When the story reaches Haruka’s portion of the game, the whole premise of Yakuza seems turned on its head, gone are the viscous fist fights and violence and in its place are dance battles and training to become an idol superstar. Haruka can take lessons to improve her star qualities that will make her part of the game easier to get through since she’ll have access to abilities that give her an advantage over her opponents she can also take on various jobs that will also improve those stats and these are things like handshake events, appearing on TV spots and game shows or putting on live performances. Switching to Haruka brings with it a change to the formula of Yakuza and now it’s become a rhythm based game where you have to press the corresponding button as it enters the circle, similar to how the karaoke minigame is played whereas the dance battles will have you swapping between four places using the d-pad and then pressing the correct button. The dance battles also allow the use of Heat moves to restore your health or give you more points so it becomes easier for you to win. The dance battles can be taken on at any time as you find people around the city who want to compete against you and they have vary degrees of difficulty, the main goal however is to take Haruka through the Princess League and come out on top to become a star.
Akiyama shares his part of the story with Haruka with both of them taking one half each of the same part, his story takes place within the same city as Haruka and is story is interwoven with hers and as such he doesn’t really get the chance to shine on his own and feels much more like a secondary character, especially considering he doesn’t have his own side story. The closest Akiyama gets with a side story is if you choose to take up his training with an unorthodox military dressed man with outlandish stories. His fighting style is based on speed and he prioritises his legs as a means to attack, out of all of the fighters with their various skill sets I find that Akiyama is probably the most effective because of his speed and that his Heat actions usually involve taking out more than one enemy.
Finally the last character you control is Shinada, he unlike the others doesn’t seem particularly tough from the outset and is quite a bit on the dopey side and although he’s generally a good person, due to his circumstances of being poor and deeply in debt, he’s reluctant to help others unless there’s a promise that he’ll get to fill his belly at the end of it. His fighting is based on the use of weapons and as such his skills tend to involve weapon based finishers and increasing the durability of ones that you use so they last longer, he also has access to weapons that have unlimited uses. While he is a weapon based fighter, there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to use them since his fists are still stronger but he does have a different way of fighting with them to the other characters and gets access to more effective finishers. Being a lover of baseball, there is one weapon I noticed Shinada wouldn’t use regardless of how many times I picked one up and that was a baseball bat, he’ll pick it up to admire it for a moment and then put back where he found it for it to then disappear. Since Shinada is an ex baseball pro, his side story revolves around the local batting cages and dealing with the challenges people present him with when they think they can best his batting skill. You can train up his batting skill and also buy new equipment to make his side story easier and this in turn will also make the main goal easier, the main goal being to prove to his old high school teammate that he can best him and his skill is genuine.
As with Yakuza 4, Yakuza 5 culminates in the main characters coming together to unravel a giant plot that has affected their lives in different ways but has still given them a common goal to fight for. When you reach the end of the game, you’ll constantly be swapping between the playable characters as you work towards the end of the game and it’s here where you have access to all of them that you can finally finish up anything you have left to do since they are all able to travel back to their respective cities.
Yakuza 5 is a great game, one that has seen a far more drastic change in terms of gameplay over its predecessors thanks to all of the new additions and it’s because of these additions that it took me longer to play it than both Yakuza 3 and 4 put together. While I personally felt that Akiyama was a bit underutilised and I wasn’t a fan of Haruka’s portion of the game, these were just personal gripes with it, for one because Akiyama was my favourite character and two because I’m terrible at rhythm based games. The rhythm based gameplay took a bit of my steam away but the completionist in me compelled me to see to all of her side content to the end. It’s a fantastic game and although I finished a lot of it there were still some things I didn’t see on my playthrough which itself was bordering 100 hours.
When it comes to questioning whether or not you get your moneys worth with this title the answer would be a resounding yes and when you take into consideration that this remastered iteration comes bundled with Yakuza 3 and 4 to complete the remastered trilogy then it’s sure to offer anyone who plays hours of fun. Not only does Yakuza 5 complete the remastered collection but it also completes Kiryu’s saga on the PS4 so now his entire journey is available on a single platform meaning if you ever wanted to get into Yakuza, now’s the time to do it.
If you want to learn more about the Yakuza Remastered Collection you can do so at this link or if you’d like to read our reviews of Yakuza 3 and Yakuza 4 to get a complete view of the collection then you can click the titles of those games for the links. If you want to buy the Remastered Collection you can do so at the link below;