Yakuza (video game)

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For the franchise, see Yakuza (series).
North American cover art
North American boxart
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Hiroyuki Sakamoto
Producer(s) Toshihiro Nagoshi
Masayoshi Kikuchi
Designer(s) Toshihiro Nagoshi (general supervisor)
Writer(s) Hase Seishu
Composer(s) See Soundtrack
Hidenori Shoji (sound director)
Series Yakuza
Platform(s) PlayStation 2
PlayStation 3, Wii U
Release date(s) PlayStation 2
  • JP December 8, 2005
  • NA September 5, 2006
  • EU September 15, 2006
The Best Release
  • JP December 6, 2007
PlayStation 3
  • JP November 1, 2012
Wii U
  • JP August 8, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution DVD, Blu-ray

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.

Yakuza was first announced in August 2005 although it was first planned in 2003 when Sega approached novelist Hase Seishu with the script for their game. Interested, Seishu started working with them to make a realistic plot. The team was divided in two groups when writing the story. There was a focus in making the player understand the yakuza's personalities and move across a city in a realistic manner in contrast to other games.

Critical reception to Yakuza has been positive. Although criticized for some clunky mechanics, the game has been well received by video game publications for its presentation and storyline. 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.


Gameplay of Yakuza. In this fight Kazuma is wielding a dagger. The top bars shows Kazuma's health and Heat while the bottom's one show the enemy's health. Bottom left displays a map.

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. 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.[1] 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.


The game follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a yakuza whose fiance was attempted to be violated by his own boss, Sohei Dojima.[2] As the yakuza boss is murdered by Kazuma's best friend, Akira Nishiki, Kazuma decides to take the blame for 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] In searching for Yumi, Kazuma finds a little orphan named Haruka who is searching for her mother and has an aunt named Yumi.[7] Haruka is also searched by the mafia who find her pendant is the key to the ten billion yen.[8] 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.[9][10] 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 being attacked by Dojima and married a man named Kyohei Jingu. While the couple lived happily, Jingu became corrupted and went to the point of hiring a man to kill his wife and baby to hide their relationship. Fuma saved Yumi and allied with Sera in protecting the Tojo clan from Jingu; The man has been using his ten billion yen to control the Tojo.[11] After learning of the truth, Shimano tries to kill Haruka and Fuma, but the attack only kills the latter who uses his body to protect the former.[12]

Now aware of the money's location, Kazuma and Haruka head to Millenium Tower where they meet Yumi who has recovered her memories.[13] Their reunion is interrupted by Jingu who wishes to recover the money to use the Omi but is defeated by Kazuma.[14] Afterwards, Nishiki arrives to settle his score with Kazuma and use the money to lead the Tojo. Although Kazuma win the fight, Yumi is shot by Jingu and Nishiki sacrifices his life to kill Jingu and destroy the money at the same moment.[15] Date later convinces Kazuma to keep on living by taking care of Haruka as the last deed he can make to Yumi.[16] In the aftermath, Kazuma becomes the Fourth Chairman from the Tojo clan as selected by Fuma but he quits the position and gives it to Terada.[17]


Music Sample:
Ending theme (John Newton) featuring Eri Sendai.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The Yakuza & Yakuza 2 Original Sound Track (HCV-287) dual-disc boxset was published by Wave Master in Japan on January 25, 2007.[18] 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 Kamuro Theater, modeled after the Koma Theater, is a main landmark in the game. TV ads are displayed in-game and can be viewed in full screen.

The game was first hinted in August 2005 as "Project J."[19] Later that month details of the game 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."[20] The budget of the game was of 2.4 billion yen (approx. twenty-one million dollars) for production costs. The game was at 80% of development during August 2005 with Sega expecting to release it next Winter.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]


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.[23] Nagoshi first brought his story for the scenario to Seishu two years before the game started development. 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 is less concerned with 3D visuals and gameplay than he is with story. Yakuza caught his attention, though, 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. Touching upon the game's name, Nagoshi reveals that it was his concoction. The name translates to "Like a Dragon." Nagoshi feels that dragons have a strong image about them, and that when players sample it, they would, as the title suggests, get a feel for the strength and manliness of the main character.[24]

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 ages of Makoto Date and Kazuma Kiryu were modified to make them look as realistic characters.[23] 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 commit suicide as a result of being rejected by a girl was almost removed from this game for this reason.[25]


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.[26] 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."[27]

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."[28]


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. 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.[23]

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")[29] and a monography called Kamutai Magazine (December 2005 issue).[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

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,[33] 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.[34]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 77.67%[36]
Metacritic 75/100[35]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A-[1]
Eurogamer 8 /10[37]
Famitsu 37 / 40[38]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars[39]
Game Revolution C- [40]
GameSpot 7.4 / 10[41]
GameTrailers 8 / 10[42]
GameZone 8.5 / 10[43]
IGN 8.2 / 10[44]
UGO Networks A-[45]
Publication Award
Japan Game Awards Award for Excellence[46]

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.[47] Yakuza received generally positive reviews among Western critics earning a 75 out of 100 in Metacritic and a 77.67% in GameRankings.[35][36] IGN praised its combat system and sense of style but criticized its tedious gameplay.[44] 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.[48] GamePro similarly compared it with Shenmue based on the amount of subscenarios.[39] 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.[1] 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[40] with GameTrailers agreeing on the difficulty in centering on an enemy.[42] The amount of sidequests available received generally favorable response.[39][42]

The game's presentation has been praised for the design of the city and delivery of the English voice acting within the main cast.[1] 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."[40] 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.[45] GameTrailers also wished for a Japanese audio despite noting the English dub did a fine job.[42] 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."[43]

The game sold 232,650 units in Japan during 2005.[49] In 2006 it shipped 345,323 units.[50] 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.[51]


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."[52] The game was also recognized for excellence in the 2007 Japan Game Awards.[46]

A sequel, titled Yakuza 2, was released in Japan on December 7, 2006,[53] and in North America and Europe on September 9, 2008 and September 19, 2008 respectively.[54] 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[55] It was then followed by Yakuza 4 which for the first time incorporated multiple playable characters.[56] 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.

Live-action adaptations[edit]

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.[57]


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External links[edit]