Yakuza (video game)
||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (February 2014)|
North American boxart
|Designer(s)||Toshihiro Nagoshi (general supervisor)|
Hidenori Shoji (sound director)
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2
Yakuza, originally released in Japan as Like a Dragon (龍が如く Ryū ga Gotoku?) is an action-adventure game developed and published by Sega in 2005 for the PlayStation 2. The western version was released in the following year. The story follows the Yakuza Kazuma Kiryu, who after spending ten years in jail for a crime he did not commit, learns of a change in the crime organization and starts protecting a young girl named Haruka who is said to have the key for the Tojo clan's lost money.
As an action-adventure game, the player controls Kazuma in an open world where he can have access to sidequests besides the main story. Combat is a major focus in the game as the player gains experience from every battle in order to level up Kazuma's stats and increase his fighting capabilities. In order to both support the game's expensive production and make Kamurocho a realistic recreation of Tokyo's Kabukicho, Sega contracted a tie-in campaign with famous Japanese companies.
Critical reception to Yakuza has been positive. Although criticized for some clunky mechanics, the game has been well receieved by video game publications. It sold a total of one million units. This game is the first entry in the Yakuza series. It spanned an entire franchise with the second game being released in the next year
The game is made of three distinct yet connected modes called Event, Adventure and Battle. The player controls former Yakuza Kazuma Kiryu from third person camera as he travels across the city accomplishing missions. The main character randomly encounters foes on his path (Adventure Mode). The ensuing fight is called Encounter Battle. Winning somes of these battles can result in the player winning money which can be used to purchase equipments or healing items. Encounter Battles caused by the story can end quicker by finishing the leader of the enemies. Some of these tend to include quick time events. Across his fights and encounters with civilians, Kazuma gains experience. This can be used to expand his stats and become a stronger fighter.
The Battle Mode includes the Underground Arena (地下闘技場) which is located in Kamurocho's Purgatory area. Cinematics, called "events", and cutscenes are enabled after completing specific actions or beating a certain character during the Adventure Mode. They also introduce the chapter's objectives. Various play spots are available within the Adventure Mode. These are UFO Catcher, batting cage, casino (baccarat, blackjack and roulette), toba and pachislot.
Although the game does not explicitly say it, much of the game takes place in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward, most noticeably a recreation of Shinjuku's red-light district Kabukichō, which is famous for its hostess bars (cabarets), host clubs, love hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and its organized crime presence. Although the area was recreated as a fictionalized "Kamurocho district", much of Kabukichō's landmarks remain such as the red neon sign Kabukicho Ichiban-kai (歌舞伎町一番街) portal in the district's main entrance (renamed "Kamurochō tenkaichidōri", 神室町天下一通り), Koma Theater (renamed Kamuro Theater), Theater Square, Milano Bowl (renamed Shunjiku Mach Bowl), Don Quijote discount store (a tie-in), Seibu Shinjuku Station, Kabukicho Sakura Street (歌舞伎町 さくら通り) portal renamed "Kamurocho Pink Street" (神室町ピンク通り), and its adjacent FamilyMart convenience store (renamed Poppo). Tokyo's area called Shinjuku Golden Gai (新宿ゴールデン街), which is located in eastern Kabukicho and is famous for its small bars, is also recreated in as the "Kamuro Champion Gai" (神室チャンピオン街).
Kabukicho's highest skyscraper Tokyo-to Kenko Plaza Hygea (東京都健康プラザハイジア) and its surroundings don't exist in Kamurocho though, and they have been replaced by different streets and a comparable yet fictitious building called "Millenium Tower", the game's main landmark.
The game follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a yakuza whose fiance was attempted to be violated by his own boss, Sohei Dojima. As the yakuza boss is murdered by Kazuma's best friend, Akira Nishiki, Kazuma decides to take the blame for the the murder and be in prison. During his ten years of stay in prison, Kazuma gets expelled from the Tojo clan and learns Yumi has gone missing. After his release, he learns Tojo Clan he was once a part of has had ten billion yen stolen from them, which the entire Japanese underworld is now searching for.
Kazuma tries to talk about this with his former boss Shintaro Fuma about what happened to Yumi but Fuma is shot by Nishiki after revealing Yumi was connected to the lost money. Kazuma then has to escape from the Tojo, who deem him as an enemy for Dojima's death. He is helped to escape by detective named Makoto Date who had been investigating Kazuma ever since the death of Dojima. and is now investigating the murder of Chairman Sera from the Tojo clan. In searching for Yumi, Kazuma finds a little orphan named Haruka who is searching for her mother and has an aunt named Yumi. Haruka is also searched by the mafia who find her pendant is the key to the ten billion yen.
In his way, Kazuma encounters several enemies including Futoshi Shimano who was after the position of chairman and the lost money, Goro Majima, Shimano's lieutenant, and Nishiki, who has changed in the last decade into a corrupted yakuza. Kazuma and Date learn of a secret criminal organization named MIA who has a member involved with the lost money: Kyohei Jingu. He had given the money to the Tojo as part of a scheme to manipulate the clan. Kazuma manages to meet Fuma again this time alongside Terada from the Omi Alliance. Fuma reveals that Yumi had married Jingu and that upon learning of his true motivations, they stole the money from the Tojo alongside the late Sera. Shortly afterwards, Shimano tries to kill Haruka and Fuma, but the attack only kills the latter who uses his body to protect the former.
Now aware of the money's location, Kazuma and Haruka head to Millenium Tower where they meets Yumi who is revealed to be Haruka's mother. Their reunion is interrupted by both Jingu and afterwards Nishiki with the former wishing to recover his money and the latter wishing to settle his fights with Kazuma. Although Kazuma is victorious in both fights, Yumi is shot by Jingu and Nishiki sacrifices his life to kill Jingu and destroy the money at the same moments. Date later convinces Kazuma to keep on living by taking care of Haruka as the last deed he can make to Yumi.
This is the only game in the series to feature English voice acting for its U.S. and PAL releases. Following titles use the original Japanese cast with localized subtitles.
- Takaya Kuroda (Japanese) / Darryl Kurrylo (English) as Kazuma Kiryu (桐生 一馬)
- Rie Kugimiya (Japanese) / Debi Derryberry as Haruka Sawamura (澤村 遥)
- Kazuhiro Nakatani (Japanese) / Michael Rosenbaum (English) as Akira Nishikiyama (錦山 彰) / Akira Nishiki
- Miyako Uesaka (Japanese) / Eliza Dushku (English) as Yumi Sawamura (澤村 由美) / Mizuki Sawamura
- Tetsuya Watari (Japanese) / Roger L. Jackson (English) as Shintaro Kazama (風間 新太郎) / Shintaro Fuma
- Junko Mihara (Japanese) / Rachael Leigh Cook (English) as Reina (麗奈)
- Kazuhiro Yamaji (Japanese) / Bill Farmer (English) as Makoto Date (伊達 真)
- Naomi Kusumi (Japanese) / Michael Madsen (English) as Futoshi Shimano (嶋野 太) / Futo Shimano
- Hirooki Yoshida (Japanese) / Robin Atkin Downes (English) as Kyohei Jingu (神宮 京平)
- Takafumi Yamaguchi (Japanese) / Daniel Capellaro (English) as Shinji Tanaka (田中 シンジ)
- Hidenari Ugaki (Japanese) / Mark Hamill (English) as Goro Majima (真島 吾朗)
- Shinichi Tatsuzawa (Japanese) / James Horan (English) Lau Kar-long (ラウ・カーロン, 劉家龍) / Lau Ka Long
- Ryūji Mizuki (Japanese) / Alan Dale (English) Masaru Sera (世良 勝) / Masa Sera
- Akina Okada (Japanese) / Nan McNamara (English) as Saya Date (伊達 沙耶)
- Yoshiaki Fujiwara (Japanese), Dwight Schultz (English) as Sai no Hanaya (サイの花屋) / Kage
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The Yakuza & Yakuza 2 Original Sound Track (HCV-287) dual-disc boxset was published by Wave Master in Japan on January 25, 2007. The music was composed by Hidenori Shoji, Sachio Ogawa, Keitaro Hanada, Fumio Ito, Yuri Fukuda. The closing theme is John Newton's Amazing Grace, a classic gospel sung in English by Eri Kawai; additional performers are Makotch (vocals), Yuri (chorus) and Tomica (chorus). The tracklist for Yakuza has 23 titles (details are available below).
Most of the team members are from Amusement Vision and Smilebit. In the making of the game, the team made research into hostess clubs, prominent in the story. The team often went there to make research. They often went to Roppongi as well as Kabukicho. In promoting the game, Sega hired Takashi Miike. There were no problems in doing this due to a member from the team who was originally from the film industry who worked with Toei Company on V-cinema. Sega went to a lot of companies to try and get brands into the game, like car companies and fashion companies. But because of the nature of the Yakuza game, they were rejected down by most of them. The company Suntory accepted them though. Suntory wanted to sell whiskey, and they felt the game's demographic and the whiskey-drinking demographic mesh nicely.
The group wanted to explain the audience the traits of a yakuza such as their obsession with jingi, their code of honor. Originally the game had scenes involving punishment through pinky fingers being cut off because it dated back to samurai days but had to remove them due to rating issues as CERO would not give them a favorable rating. For the gameplay, the team used the engine StandOut as a basis for the combat. However, the game's engine was entirely original.
The game's development was divided in two groups: one writing the main scenario and another writing the subscenarios. For the main scenarios, novelist Hase Seishu was involved as the main writer. Sega wrote the scenario they had in mind and showed it to Seishu to have it edited based on how realistic or emotional some scenes could be. As a result, the age of Makoto Date and Kazuma Kiryu was modified to make them look as realistic characters.
Writing the subscenarios did not prove challenging as there was not a strict pattern to follow. The team wanted all subscenarios to keep the feeling from the main storyline. Several ideas did not make it into the game due to the staff members finding them silly. The substory involving a man who tries to committ suicide as a result of being rejected by a girl was almost removed from this game for this reason.
In localizing the game, Sega put down the money for an aggressive web and print advertising campaign, as well as an English voice cast comprised almost entirely of cult performers like Michael Madsen, Eliza Dushku and Mark Hamill. Localizator Kevin Fane recalls "When we released the original Yakuza, we knew that the game had been a hit in Japan, and we wanted to make sure that we put our best foot forward in releasing a new and unique product to the Western market that would draw just as much acclaim." However, technical limitations of the format made it impossible for the team to include both audio tracks on the disc. There were also problems with promoting Yakuza before its English release. Fane added that the first trailer for the game "was constructed using an old scratch track [an unfinished soundtrack]. This made the rounds fairly quickly across gaming fan sites, highlighting what was considered poor quality, but this trailer actually wasn't at all representative of the voice quality of the finished product. The damage had already been done, though, for the most part, and so a lot of fans probably still don't realize that."
In order to both support the game's expensive production and make Kamurocho a realistic recreation of Tokyo's Kabukicho, Sega contracted a tie-in campaign with famous Japanese companies. As a result some places found in the game, such as the Don Quijote discount store and the Club Sega game centers are modeled after the real life buildings.
Sega also used product placement strategy and introduced ads within the game. This includes a collaboration with the Japanese Suntory group which advertises in-game with ad banners, Boss Coffee ads and vending machines are also visible in Kamurocho; cans are purcheasable within Kamurocho stores. Since the group produces local drinks and is a distributor of foreign alcohols, all brands appearing in Kamurocho's bars and pubs, being Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Bourbon or Carlsberg Beer, are real brands of Suntory.
Other product placements include Shogakukan's Sabra magazine, Fujisankei Communications Group's SPA! magazine and Panini Group's World Club Cup stickers. The latter appears in a TV ad, together with a Suntory drink and a Sega mahjong game, which is displayed in the Kamurocho theater wall screen. Sega's UFO Catcher crane game machines are included as a minigame, and arcade cabinets of Virtua Fighter 4 and SpikeOut can be seen in the Club Sega game centers.
As part of the pre-ordering campaign, the Japanese first print was bundled with two limited items, a Tojo Clan lapel pin replica (特製ピンバッジ, tokusei pin baju, lit. "deluxe pin badge") and a monography called Kamutai Magazine (December 2005 issue). Since then a new issue of Kamutai Magazine is bundled with each franchise episode pre-order.
Also the original PlayStation 2 the Best edition (SLPM-74234) included a bonus DVD with the trailer of Yakuza 2, while the reprint (SLPM-74253) which was released during the production of the spin-off was repackaged with a rose cover art instead of white (a.k.a. リパッケージ版, ripakkeji han lit. "repackage edition") and a bonus DVD with the trailer of Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan!, a voice cast message and a 20-minute producer interview.
The western releases were only regular copies, instead Sega Europe and America used online marketing. A flash game, "CodeYakuza.com", was created and an English subtitled version of the game's 2006 live-action adaption directed by Takashi Miike, Like a Dragon: Prologue, was freely downloadable on the game's official website.
The game was heavily acclaimed in Japan for combining innovative gameplay with cinema-like story telling and character development on the back of Japan's criminal underground. Yakuza received generally positive reviews among Western critics. IGN praised its combat system and sense of style but criticized its tedious gameplay.
The game sold 232,650 units in Japan during 2005. In 2006 it shipped 345,323 units. Due to its commercial success on the Japanese market, Yakuza had a PlayStation 2 the Best edition on October 26, 2006, and an exceptional reprint on December 6, 2007. In contrast, this Asian long seller title never had a Platinum or Greatest Hits re-release on the western markets. Though, total sales reached 1 million.
According to Toshihiro Nagoshi says, "[Ryu ga Gotoku was successful] because there were only a few titles which directly portray original Japanese culture. Also, there is no other title which attempts to represent such a Japanese world view with a big budget title."
On July 13, 2012, a listing for Yakuza 1 & 2 HD Edition popped up on Sega's Japanese website, spotted by Andriasang, for launch on PlayStation 3 on 1 November 2012, on May 17, 2013 Nintendo and Sega announced Yakuza 1 & 2 will be coming to Wii U and is the first Yakuza game on a non-Sony console.
A film adaptation Like a Dragon (龍が如く 劇場版, ryu ga gotoku: gekijoban) was directed by Takashi Miike in 2007. Kazuma Kiryu's role is played by actor Kazuki Kitamura known overseas for his roles in Shohei Imamura's The Eel, Takeshi Miike's Dead or Alive and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.
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- LIKE A DRAGON (Japan, 2007)
- Official website (Japanese)
- Official website (English)
- Like A Dragon (Feature Film Official website) (Japanese)