||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2013)|
Official logo of the series
Action role-playing game
Beat 'em up
|Platforms||PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii U, PlayStation 4|
|Latest release||Ryū ga Gotoku 5
Yakuza, known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku (龍が如く, lit. Like a Dragon), is an action-adventure video game franchise created, owned and published by Sega. The series has sold 6 million copies as of August 2013. Strong sales of the games in its original Japanese market has led to the franchise's expansion to other mediums, including film adaptations.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Plot
- 3 Games
- 4 Characters
- 5 Production
- 6 Music
- 7 Adaptations
- 8 Reception
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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The Yakuza series storytelling is inspired by yakuza films, one of the most popular cinema genre in Japan, and was written by crime drama novelist Hase Seishu. It was ported on the screen by director Takashi Miike. The main story is presented in successive chapters much like as in Kinji Fukasaku's classic yakuza movie Sympathy for the Underdog and is completed with a hundred sub-scenarios per game which leads to a large amount of main, secondary and recurring minor characters.
During the 1970s three children, Kazuma Kiryu, Akira Nishikiyama (a.k.a. Nishiki) and his younger sister, Yuko Nishikiyama, are raised in Shintaro Kazama (a.k.a. Fuma)'s Sunflower Orphanage. In summer 1980 they are joined by Yumi Sawamura, a young girl who had her parents incidentally shot during a gang shootout. Following a yakuza tradition, the honourable Kazama secretly raises orphans whose parents he has directly or indirectly killed. In return, these children look to him as a father and he eventually introduces the teenagers to the Dojima Family, a Tojo Clan affiliate.
Years later the promising Kazuma Kiryu quickly rises the yakuza hierarchy and earns the nickname "the Dragon of the Dojima Family" for the Dragon irezumi tattoo on his back (hence the original title "Like a Dragon", ryu ga gotoku). His childhood friend Nishikiyama is torn between loyalty for his kyodai (yakuza "brother") and jealousy against the one who has always been Kazama's protégé. Another subject of rivalry between the two friends is their secret love for Yumi who looks at them as her older brothers. 1990, in order to remain close to both of them, she left the orphanage and moved to Tokyo's red-light district Kamurocho, where they found her a job as hostess at Reina's Serena bar. On October 1, 1995, Kazuma Kiryu told his friends he is ready to create his own yakuza Family, only lacks the Chairman of the Dojima Family Sohei Dojima's go ahead. Later that night the latter kidnaps Yumi from Serena, Nishikiyama tries to interfere but Dojima's men hold him. When Nishikiyama eventually reaches Dojima's office, he finds his boss raping Yumi and shoots him dead. Kazuma who was at a meeting with Kazama had been called by Reina and comes shortly after only to find Dojima on the ground, Nishikiyama and Yumi in shock. Then Kazuma takes the responsibility in order to protect Yuko who needs her brother Nishikiyama as she is about to get a last chance operation. Kazuma orders the pair to leave before the police arrives.
The game follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu (桐生 一馬 Kiryū Kazuma), a former promising yakuza whose released after a ten-year prison sentence for a murder cover-up. The Tojo Clan he was once a member of has had ten billion yen (at $1=100yen, approx. US$100 million) stolen from the Tojo vault, which the entire Japanese underworld is now searching for; forcing him back into their brutal, lawless world. A mysterious young girl will lead Kiryu to the answers if he can keep her alive.
One year ago, Kazuma Kiryu left his post as the Chairmen of the Tojo Clan, Japan's most violent crime syndicate. When an all out war erupts, Kiryu must return and uphold the honor of his former clan with brutal clashes with rival gangs, the police, and the Korean mafia through the back alleys and neon-lit nightclubs of Tokyo and Osaka.
March 2009, Kazuma Kiryu left Kamurocho and now runs the Morning Glory Orphanage in Okinawa where he raises nine children including Haruka Sawamura. Follow Kiryu's story from the beaches of Okinawa to the darkest side of Tokyo as he's pulled back to a post life he thought he had left behind.
March 1, 2010, an incident happens in Kamurocho involving Kazuma Kiryu one more time. First, a man takes a bullet on the turf of the powerful Tojo Clan. Then, a man investigating the murder is stabbed to death. The events spark a full-blown struggle for money, power, and above all, honor, in a story experienced through the eyes of four characters. In an authentic recreation of Toyko's "Sin City District", four men chose paths over beautiful women and a dead man.
December 2012, the 7th chairman of the Omi Alliance is on his deathbed. With the death of the 7th chairman it would mean that the truce between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance would be broken leading to a war between the clans. In order to prepare, the Tojo Clan is forced to strengthen their organization by aligning themselves with older clans based in other major cities across Japan, in order to create a new organization rivaling that of the Omi Alliance. This new alliance, would breach the old traditional barriers of Clan territories and so Daigo Dojima heads for Fukuoka.
As of 2010[update], the Yakuza series includes four main games; the games were released in chronological order, with each new instalment following the events of the previous title.
There are also several spin-off titles. One relates Kazuma Kiryu's supposed ancestor, historic figure Miyamoto Musashi (a.k.a. Kazumanosuke Kiryu) from the 16th and 17th centuries; another follows a zombie invasion of Kamurocho, the primary setting for the series; on the PSP, another series is about a teenage street fighter from Kamurocho that ends up in a fight where he kills a Tojo Clan Yakuza.
Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan!
Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinsh
Yakuza: Dead Souls
Of the End involves a zombie outbreak in Kamurocho. This spin-off entry was localised in the West as Yakuza: Dead Souls, and was released in North America in March 2012. Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Asyura hen is a sequel to Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinshō. It was released in Japan on March 22, 2012.
Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin!
The franchise's mixed gameplay is inherited from past Sega games including, the Shenmue series, the Virtua Fighter series, the SpikeOut series and the Jet Set Radio series. Explicit tribute is paid to these games through product placement of Virtua Fighter 4, Virtua Fighter 5 and SpikeOut arcade cabinets in Yakuza Club Sega game centers (the latters were first introduced in Shenmue) and cameo appearances (like Goji Rokkaku from Jet Grind Radio).
The series is known for its expanding video game tie-in and product placement marketing policy. Such strategy allows to support the game's costly production and in the same gives a realistic aspect to the environments which are based on real locations in Tokyo, Osaka and Naha.
The game's original voice actors are Japanese celebrities which can be voice actors, singers, tarento, film or TV series actors, radio or television celebrities. Cabaret girls and alike characters have featured models, gravure idols and adult actresses as voice actresses and likenesses. Since the 2008 spin-off, the game series' main characters have their face modeled in 3D after their voice actors. As in the Virtua Fighter series, Western main and minor characters don't speak (and course) in Japanese but rather in English.
When the series was internationalized and localized to fit the western market several changes occurred. These include changing the title of the game (Like a Dragon 龍が如く, ryū ga gotoku became Yakuza) and the names of several characters (Shintaro Kazama is Shintaro Fuma, Akira Nishikiyama is Akira Nishiki, Futoshi Shimano is Futo Shimano, Sai no Hanaya is Kage).
Yakuza 4 adjusted several of these localisation changes, following criticism of the previous games, and in particular the content excised from the Western release of Yakuza 3. Producer Noguchi noted that there was an attempt to "bring a more complete localization that was more faithful to the source material". This included reversing several name changes. In addition, some conventions were changed; in previous Western localisations, protagonist Kazuma Kiryu had been referred to primarily by his first name. In Yakuza 4, he is referred to primarily by his surname, Kiryu, which more closely reflects the original dialogue.
The three Yakuza original soundtrack albums are composed by Hidenori Shoji, Hideki Sakamoto et alii and are published by Wave Master. Additional soundtrack features songs from Japanese artists Crazy Ken Band, Zeebra, Ketsumeishi and Eikichi Yazawa.
The Yakuza franchise includes various types of merchandise and adaptations outside of the video games. Currently, this includes a direct-to-video movie, a feature film, original soundtracks, official guides, Kamutai Magazines (pre-order campaign limited book) and other licensed products such as Cropped Heads long tee shirts and parkas based on main characters tattoos, limited edition PlayStation 3 console packs, Kubrick toys and action figures manufactured by Maitan.
With the original game in 2005, Sega created a pre-order campaign limited item called Kamutai Magazine (カムタイマガジン). This color book was a monography dedicated to the game with Mai, a sub-scenario female character, as the cover girl. This character's physical aspect was inspired by its voice actor, Mihiro, a Japanese adult video idol acting in porno films. Since then, each new game release coincides with a new Kamutai Magazine issue featuring a voice actress as cover girl. Hence this December 2005 issue was followed by a December 2006 issue (cover girl is Japanese porn star Nana Natsume), a March 2008 issue (cover girl is Taiwanese porn star Yinling of Joytoy) and a February 2009 issue (cover girls are Shizuka Mutou, Sayaka Araki & Rina Sakurai). The fifth issue was bundled with Ryu Ga Gotoku 4 and released in March 2010.
Takeshi Miyasaka directed an original video during the promotion period for the western release of the game which depicted Kazuma, Nishiki and Yumi growing up at the Sunflower Orphanage and then leaving for Tokyo. This short film called Like a Dragon: Prologue (龍が如く 〜序章〜, ryu ga gotoku -joshou-) serve as a prequel and set up the events which take place in the game.
A film adaptation was released in Japanese theaters on March 2, 2007, called Like a Dragon: movie version (龍が如く 劇場版, ryu ga gotoku: gekijoban). It was based on the first installment of the game and is directed by Takashi Miike. The movie was premiered in the USA on June 23, at IFC theater.
American distributor Tokyo Shock, a Media Blasters affiliate, has released a licensed DVD on February 23, 2010. The original release date was actually March 2010 in order to coincide with the North American localization of Yakuza 3.
Since September 2008, Japanese voice actors from the Yakuza series, including Takaya Kuroda (Kazuma Kiryu) and Hidenari Ugaki (Goro Majima), are running a radio drama which is known as Ryu Ga Gotoku Presents Kamuro-cho Radio Station (龍が如くPresents神室町RADIOSTATION). The second season Shin Kamuro-cho Radio Station (新・神室町RADIOSTATION), which covers 2009~2010, is currently ongoing with back number episodes available for download as podcasts. Past episodes from the 2008~2009 season, Kamuro-cho Radio Station (神室町RADIOSTATION), are also available as archived podcasts.
The Kamurocho Caba Jou TV (神室町キャバ嬢 T V) is a Japanese web television dedicated to the series's cabaret girls. Main contents are audition and girls profile but it can also be related to other aspect of the game series; for example volume 15 focuses on its soundtrack artists. All shows, called "volumes", are archived within the web TV's official website.
The series sold 3.2 million games worldwide as of 2009 and 4 million copies as of September 2010; the best sellers being the first two games which sold between 500,000 – 1 million worldwide, each winning the PlayStation Gold Award. Yakuza 3 sold 500,000 copies in the Asian markets as of 2010, also winning SCEJ's PlayStation Gold Award. However, after Yakuza 4, Sega said that sales were slow in North America and Europe due to "the adverse market condition," noting "sluggish personal consumption" in those regions.
The original game was heavily acclaimed in Japan for combining innovative game play with cinema like story telling and character development on the back of Japan's criminal underground. Weekly Famitsu gave high scores to the series, Yakuza scored 37/40 (92.5/100), Yakuza 2 scored 38/40 (95/100), Yakuza Kenzan! scored 37/40 (92,5/100), Yakuza 3 scored 38/40 (95/100) and Yakuza 4 scored 38/40 (95/100).
Each installment earned an excellence award at the Japan Game Awards and had a PlayStation the Best re-release in both Japanese, Asian and Korean markets. The Japanese entertainment industry gave Yakuza 3 the "Award for Excellence" in the 2009 Japan Game Awards "Games of the Year Division" for its "dramatic story development, freedom of the story and the graphics elaborated up to the details of the work. In addition, amusement found in every portion of the game including the vast number of sub-stories and mini games. This work was awarded the prize for the high quality of entertainment." In 2010, the Japan Game Awards once again gave a Yakuza series game the "Award for Excellence". [Yakuza 4 won due to "a rich story with a high degree of freedom that is developed from the different perspectives of the 4 characters. There are also many play spots that boast several sub-stories and mini games. The astounding quality and volume provide a high level of entertainment and was the reason for granting this award".
The western localized versions were released between one and two years after the originals and received generally favorable reviews.
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- Official website
- Official website (Japanese)
- Yakuza (series) on Twitter (Japanese)
- Official lbog (Japanese)