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 for the PlayStation 2. Yakuza was released in Japan in 2005, and outside Japan the following year. The story follows a yakuza named Kazuma Kiryu, who, after spending ten years in jail for a crime he did not commit, learns that 10 billion yen has been stolen from the Tojo clan, which the criminal underworld is searching for. He finds an orphaned girl Haruka who is being targeted, as she is believed to have the key for the Tojo clan's lost money, and he resolves to protect her. The game takes place in Kamurocho, which is a realistic recreation of Tokyo's Kabukicho.
Yakuza is an open world action-adventure game with RPG elements: the player gains experience from combat, which can be used to level up Kazuma's stats and increase his fighting capabilities. In order to finance the game's expensive production, Sega contracted a tie-in campaign with famous Japanese companies.
Yakuza was first announced in August 2005, although its genesis was in 2003, when Sega approached novelist Hase Seishu with the story of Yakuza, who was hired to help write the script.
Critical reception to Yakuza has been positive: although there was some criticism of its clunky mechanics, the game has been well received for its presentation and storyline. It was certainly well received by the public: Yakuza sold one million units, and spawned an entire franchise of games.
The game is composed of three distinct yet connected modes called Event, Adventure and Battle. The player controls former yakuza Kazuma Kiryu from a third person camera perspective, through a city full of missions and side quests. The main character randomly encounters foes on his path, in Encounter Battles. Winning the battle nets the player some cash, which can be used to purchase equipments or healing items, and experience, which can be used to buff Kazuma's stats. Sometimes, defeating the leader of an Encounter Battle will end the fight, even if some henchmen remain. Yakuza does utilize quick time events.
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.
The game follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a yakuza whose life changes when his boss, Sohei Dojima, attempts to violate Kazuma's childhood friend, Yumi. When yakuza boss is murdered by Kazuma's best friend, Akira Nishiki, Kazuma accepts blame for the murder, and is imprisoned for 10 years. During his incarceration, Kazuma is expelled from the Tojo clan and his fiance, Yumi goes missing. After his release, he learns that ten billion yen stolen have been stolen from the Tojo clan, and the entire Japanese underworld is now searching for the lost wealth.
Kazuma asks a former boss, Shintaro Fuma, about Yumi's disappearance, but Fuma is shot by Nishiki after revealing Yumi was connected to the lost money. Kazuma then has to escape from the Tojo, who now regard him as an enemy. His escape is aided by a 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 his search for Yumi, Kazuma finds an orphan named Haruka who is searching for her mother, and has an aunt named Yumi. Haruka is also sought by the mafia, who believe that her pendant is the key to the missing ten billion yen. On the way, Kazuma encounters several enemies including Futoshi Shimano who is seeking the position of chairman and the lost money, Goro Majima, Shimano's lieutenant, and Nishiki who has become corrupted. They are also allied with Terada from the Omi Family and Chinese mafia Snake Flower Triad all in search of the money.
Kazuma manages to meet Fuma and learns that Haruka is actually Yumi's daughter. As Fuma explains, Yumi suffered amnesia after she was attacked by Dojima and married a man named Kyohei Jingu. Jingu became corrupted, and hired a hitman to kill his wife and baby, in order to hide their relationship. Fuma saved Yumi and allied with Sera to protect the Tojo clan from Jingu, who had been using his ten billion yen to control the Tojo. After learning of the truth, Shimano attempted to kill Haruka and Fuma, but Fuma sacrificed himself to save Haruka.
Armed with the knowledge of the money's location, Kazuma and Haruka head to Millenium Tower where they meet Yumi, who has recovered her memories. Their reunion is interrupted by Jingu, who wishes to recover the money in order to control the Omi. Then, Nishiki arrives to challenge Kazuma and take the money, which plans to use to control the Tojo. Although Kazuma wins the fight, Yumi is shot by Jingu, and Nishiki sacrifices his life to kill Jingu and destroy the money at the same moment. Yakuza pulls through for Haruka's sake. In the aftermath, Kazuma is offered the position of the Fourth Chairman of the Tojo clan as selected by Fuma but he refuses the position and gives it to Terada.
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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).
The game was first hinted at in August 2005 as "Project J." Later that month, details were announced. Producer Toshihiro Nagoshi explained "For a while now, I've wanted to create a powerful, gritty drama where you feel the sense of humanity," Nagoshi explained. "After a lot of thought, this is the product that we've arrived at." The budget of the game was 2.4 billion yen (approx. twenty-one million dollars).
Most of the team members are from Amusement Vision and Smilebit. During development, the team researched hostess clubs, which are prominently featured in the story, even attending hostess clubs themselves, including Roppongi and Kabukicho. The development team wanted to accurately portray yakuza, especially such as their obsession with jingi, their code of honor. Originally the game had scenes where pinky fingers were cut off, a traditional punishment, but these scenes were removed so that CERO would give Yakuza a favorable rating. Yakuza uses the StandOut engine as a basis for the combat, but the game's engine was entirely original.
The game's development team was divided into two groups: one writing the main plot and the other writing the subplots. Novelist Hase Seishu was the lead writer of the central plot. Seishu was brought on board two years before the game development started. Seishu had been a gamer since the days of Space Invaders, but over the past four or five years, he had lost interest, as he was less concerned with 3D visuals and gameplay than he was with story. Yakuza caught his attention, and he decided to accept the project even though it came at the busiest point of his professional writing career. Nagoshi wanted players to get enjoyment from merely walking through Kamurocho. Nagoshi reveals that the protagonist's name, which translates to "Like a Dragon," was his creation; Nagoshi felt that dragons have a strong image, which would contribute Kazuma's to the strength and manliness.
Although Sega did have a plot in mind when they approached Seishu, they hoped that he could add realism and emotional weight to the scenes. Under Seishu's direction, the ages of Makoto Date and Kazuma Kiryu were modified. Writing the subplots did not prove challenging, as there was not a strict pattern to follow. The team wanted all subplots to keep the feeling from the main storyline. Several ideas did not make it into the game because the staff members found them silly. One subplot that made the final cut, which involves a man who tried to commit suicide when he was rejected by a girl, was nearly removed from this game for this reason.
In localizing the game, Sega funded 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. Scott A. Steinberg at Sega of America commented "in bringing the game to the U.S. market, we wanted to ensure that the subtle nuances of the game were brought to life."
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, including making Kamurocho a realistic recreation of Tokyo's Kabukicho, Sega contracted a tie-in campaign with famous Japanese companies. As a result, some in-game locations, 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, 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 purchasable 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. In promoting the game, Sega hired Takashi Miike. A member from the team had previously worked with Toei Company on V-cinema. Sega approached many companies to try to secure product placement, like car companies and fashion companies. But because of the mature nature of the Yakuza game, they were rejected by most of them. The whiskey distributor Suntory accepted, however, since they felt the game's demographic meshed nicely with the whiskey-drinking demographic.
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 edition 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.
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.
There were no special editions of the game released outside Japan, but Sega Europe and America did use 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.
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. The difficulty of both games was modified so that it would be more accessible.
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 earning a 75 out of 100 in Metacritic and a 77.67% in GameRankings. IGN praised its combat system and sense of style but criticized its tedious gameplay. Newtype USA called it "the adult-themed spiritual successor to the Dreamcast's Shenmue series" and found that the fighting system would interest many players. GamePro similarly compared it with Shenmue based on the amount of subscenarios. 1UP.com saw the potential of the fighting as it often earned the player money which can be used to buy items in the city. GameRevolution criticized the number of random encounters which resulted in a large amount of loading times. He also criticized the simplicity of the fighting system and few notable issues with GameTrailers agreeing on the difficulty in centering on an enemy. The amount of sidequests available received generally favorable response.
The game has been praised for the design of the city and delivery of the English voice acting. GameRevolution also praised it as "From an audio/video standpoint, Yakuza is exceptionally well-produced. Although the cut-scenes are all use the in-game engine, the complicated facial expressions are shockingly intricate and colorful, while some of the floral tattoos look too good to be true." UGO Networks praised the seriousness of the story as the game "respects and appreciates yakuza culture and its often forgotten roots in the samurai tradition/bushido code" and thus lammented the lack of the Japanese audio. GameTrailers also wished for a Japanese audio option, despite noting the English dub did a fine job. GameZone called it a "epic story that will keep you exploring the world filled with criminals and Kazuma's only friends who will help him along the way."
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 "[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." The game was also recognized for excellence in the 2007 Japan Game Awards.
A sequel, titled Yakuza 2, was released in Japan on December 7, 2006, and in North America and Europe on September 9, 2008 and September 19, 2008 respectively. The game was followed by Ryu ga Gotoku a PlayStation 3 spin-off where the player controls Miyamoto Musashi, also known as Kiryu. Although this game did not make it to the west, the sequel Yakuza 3 for the PlayStation 3 It was then followed by Yakuza 4 which for the first time incorporated multiple playable characters. The next game, the spin off Yakuza: Dead Souls, also made it to English releases while Ryu ga Gotoku 5 and Ryu ga Gotoku Isshin remained as Japan exclusive games.
In 2006, Takashi Miike directed a prequel Like a Dragon: Prologue (龍が如く 〜序章〜, ryu ga gotoku -joshou-) with mixed martial artist and puroresu wrestler Masakatsu Funaki as Kazuma Kiryu. 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)