Video Game Review: The Yakuza Remastered Collection
Splitting heads on the PS4 is as fun as ever.
Announced last year, The Yakuza Remastered Collection began unlocking content back in August with Yakuza 3, followed by Yakuza 4 in October and now, finally, Yakuza 5 has been released as well, meaning the entire collection is available for purchase (and review!). All of which can mean only one thing: we’re going back to Kamurocho.
In terms of performance, all three titles have received a graphical bump from 720p to 1080p, and the frame rate has been cranked up to 60 fps. Content originally cut from the Western release of Yakuza 3 has returned as well to go along with a new translation. Make no mistake, however, these are not to be lumped in with other recent and upcoming titles like Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 2 (and RE3) that have been remade.
Originally released in North America a decade ago, Yakuza 3 finds long-time series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu running an orphanage in Okinawa with his adopted daughter Haruka. Kiryu isn’t able to leave the Yakuza life behind, however, getting involved with a leadership change to put Goro Majima back in charge of the Tojo Clan. That gives way to a dispute involving the sale of the property where Kiryu’s orphanage is located, which ties into a much larger plot.
This was our introduction to the series, having missed the first two games that launched on the PlayStation 2, so it was fun to revisit it. We were blissfully unaware of the controversy of having elements like the massage parlour removed from the U.S. launch, so it was fun to go back and tool around with a more complete version of the game. It’s also the only one of three here to feature Kiryu as the primary protagonist.
After being Kiryu’s story for the first three installments, Yakuza 4 tasks you with playing through four divergent yet intertwined storylines that follow the lives of four protagonists — Shun Akiyama (a philanthropic loan shark), Masa Tanimura (a cop that’s not above taking a bribe), Taiga Saejima (a legendary hitman imprisoned since 1985) and series stalwart Kiryu — in the attempt to unravel a series of mysteries.
While it’s interesting to branch out, the intricacies of the story can become difficult to follow, particularly toward the end when the twists are coming fast and furious. The character development is first-rate, though, and having each of them boast their own unique fighting style was a good way to keep combat from bogging down. Despite some overly convoluted storytelling, Yakuza 4 is a highly enjoyable ride.
Clearly, SEGA liked the idea of adding more protagonists from the last installment as that number jumps from four to five here with holdovers Kiryu, Akiyama and Saejima joined by a first-time playable Haruka and newcomer Shinada. Once again we see a reformed Kiryu trying to walk a different path, only to be drawn back into the world of the Yakuza. As with its predecessor, Yakuza 5 delivers on the character front with a story of honour, tradition and family.
In addition to more characters to follow, the game also introduced driving to the series via Kiryu’s new identity as a mild-mannered taxi driver. While it handles reasonably well, it does feel out of place with the rest of the series. Rest assured, however, the long-time strength of hand-to-hand combat is still there.
Although The Yakuza Remastered Collection didn’t get the same level of attention as the two Kiwami releases, the polish is evident, and all three games look appreciably better now than they did on the PS3. That being said, the price is a potential issue as you’re paying the same as a brand-new retail release — yes, you’re getting three games, but the newest is five years old and the biggest draw may be simply having all of the Yakuza games on one system.
In terms of story and quality, The Yakuza Remastered Collection brings a ton to the table and is a worthwhile acquisition for newcomers interested in the series. The question for returning Yakuza fans will be how much do they value having all of their stuff on the PS4, especially with a new console expected later this year.