Yakuza (franchise)

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Like a Dragon
Yakuza logo
The original Japanese logo, Ryū ga Gotoku (龍が如く, Like a Dragon)
Original international logo (top); and original Japanese logo (bottom)
Genre(s)Action-adventure, beat 'em up, role-playing
Developer(s)
Publisher(s)Sega
Creator(s)Toshihiro Nagoshi
Platform(s)
First releaseYakuza
December 8, 2005
Latest releaseLost Judgment
September 24, 2021

Yakuza, also known as Like a Dragon,[a] is a Japanese video game franchise created, owned and published by Sega. The franchise incorporates elements of the action-adventure, beat 'em up, and role-playing genres.

The storyline premise for each franchise installment is typically a crime drama, with plot lines inspired by yakuza films and pre-millennial Japanese crime dramas. The most frequently featured protagonist is Kazuma Kiryu, a reformed yakuza associated with the Kanto-based Tojo Clan. While Kiryu often finds himself working with the leaders of the Tojo Clan to thwart conspiracies aimed against them, the primary theme of the series is his desire to leave the yakuza for good and start over by raising orphans and trying to assimilate into civilian life. The gameplay of Yakuza has the player controlling Kiryu (or another character, depending on the title) in an open world where he can fight random groups of punks and gangsters, take on side missions and activities to earn experience and money, learn new moves from non-player characters (NPCs), eat and drink at various restaurants, visit hostess and cabaret clubs, craft items, and engage in a variety of mini games such as golfing, bowling, batting cages, video arcades, karaoke, and gambling games including poker, blackjack, Cee-lo, and Koi-Koi.

The franchise has become a commercial and critical success, and as of 2021, Sega has reported that the video game series has sold a combined total of 19.8 million units in physical and digital sales since its debut in 2005.[1] Strong sales of the games in its original Japanese market has led to the franchise's expansion to other media, including film adaptations.

Setting[edit]

Selected locations in Yakuza games:
1
Kabukichō, Tokyo ('Kamurochō' in-game)
2
Dōtonbori & Shinsekai, Osaka ('Sotenbori' & 'Shinseicho')
3
Kokusai Dori & Downtown Naha ('Downtown Ryukyu')
4
Nakasu, Fukuoka ('Nagasugai')
5
Susukino, Hokkaido ('Tsukimino')
6
Sakae, Nagoya ('Kineicho')
7
Onomichi, Hiroshima

The Yakuza game series is set primarily in the fictional district of Kamurochō (神室町), which is based on Kabukichō, an actual red-light district of Tokyo.[2][3] Other actual locations reproduced in the game series include Dotonbori and Shinsekai, Osaka (as "Sotenbori" and "Shinseicho" in-game, respectively, for Yakuza 2, 5 and 0);[4][5][6] Kokusai Dori [ja] and the surrounding downtown area of Naha, Okinawa (as "Downtown Ryukyu" in Yakuza 3);[7] Nakasu, Fukuoka (as "Nagasugai" in Yakuza 5);[8] Susukino, Hokkaido (as "Tsukimino" in Yakuza 5);[9] the Nishiki district of Sakae, Nagoya (as "Kineicho" in Yakuza 5);[10] Onomichi, Hiroshima (in Yakuza 6);[11][12] and Isezakichō, Yokohama (as "Isezaki Ijincho" in Yakuza: Like a Dragon).[13][14]

The appearances of the in-game districts and towns are based on their contemporary actual locations from the year each game came out, and are often renovated and remodeled in newer games.[15] However, specific stores and buildings are often different or carry fictionalized branding compared to their real life counterparts, replacing them with real-life product placements or plot-important locations.

Characters[edit]

The primary protagonist of the Yakuza franchise is Kazuma Kiryu, who is playable in every numbered entry of the main video game series through Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Some games, such as Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5, feature multiple playable characters, with players switching between them at predetermined points in the story.[16] Ichiban Kasuga became the new lead character of the main series games beginning with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, with up to six of his companions available as playable characters during combat sequences, though Kiryu appeared in a non-playable capacity and became playable again in subsequent installments.

Other characters have appeared as the protagonists of various spin-off titles. The samurai-era titles Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan! and Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! are based around fictionalized versions of historical figures Miyamoto Musashi and Sakamoto Ryōma respectively, both of whom are modeled after Kiryu. The Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku subseries features its own protagonist, street punk Tatsuya Ukyo, while the Judgment subseries follows private detective Takayuki Yagami. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, a video game adaptation of the manga franchise Fist of the North Star by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara, features some thematic links to the Like a Dragon franchise, with many of its characters like Kenshiro voiced by the same voice actors who play recurring characters in the main series games.

Gameplay[edit]

Exploration gameplay of Yakuza 5. A recurring character, Shun Akiyama, is seen exploring Sotenbori, a recurring setting. Akiyama is drunk (a recurring status effect in the series) as indicated by the bottle icon in the game's HUD. An enemy approaches, in the process of interrupting the exploration mode by triggering a random battle encounter.

All Yakuza games feature a mixture of combat, story and exploration. The main character randomly encounters foes on their path, triggering combat. In fights, the player character uses hand-to-hand combat, using combos, grabs, throws and finishing moves, and some games allow the player character to select from and use multiple fighting styles. Players can also grab nearby objects on the street to beat the enemies. Despite the emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, weapons can be obtained and used by grabbing weapons dropped by the enemies or purchasing them from weapon shops. Some characters, such as Goro Majima and Tatsuo Shinada, have fighting styles centered around their trademark weapons, which have infinite durability. Winning some of these battles can result in obtaining money or items which can be sold or used to purchase equipment or a variety of items in shops, gamble, or play mini-games. Battles end quicker by finishing the enemies using powerful moves called Heat Actions, which require the filling of the 'Heat Gauge' to become usable. Some of these tend to include quick time events. As the player character fights, they gain experience points that can be used to increase their stats and become a stronger fighter. The seventh installment in the series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, includes a new battle system where the player character recruits party members to fight alongside them in turn-based role-playing game battles against enemies, and to play alongside them in mini-games. Due to its success, Sega has confirmed that future titles will continue to use turn-based gameplay, while the Judgment series will retain the action gameplay of earlier titles. However there is no solid plan, the type of gameplay is chosen depending on what is considered to be best suited for the story.[17][18]

The series has a high number of sub-stories, which are side missions that often complement the main story.[19] These give the player extra experience. There are many mini-games, series entry Yakuza: Like A Dragon featured a total number of 24 different minigames.[20] The games range from activities like bowling, darts, and arcade games, to much more complex ones, like professions, which can take a number of hours over the course of several sessions to complete. Examples include:

  • Coliseum Fights: where the player fights in three-round mini championships against various opponents in different challenges to earn points which can be spent on unique items.
  • Weapon/gear crafting: the player needs to find various components and blueprints to produce powerful and varied gear and weapons.
  • Cabaret Club Management: the player runs a hostess club in three-minute sessions and tries to earn as much money as possible by matching up the right girl with the right client and quickly responding to their calls for help. They also take part in battles against other hostess clubs.
  • Pocket Circuit: a minigame where Pocket Circuit cars (like slot cars, but bounded by the car's lane and self-powered, similar to Tamiya's Mini 4WD line of scale model cars) race against each other. In both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, there are several race series that take place and a number of side stories relating to this minigame.
  • Hostess/Cabaret Clubs: this involves talking to hostess girls to fill out their "love" gauge, as well as ordering the right food/drink, buying gifts and wearing the right accessories to please them as much as possible, until they can be taken out on a date. This was one of many aspects that was controversially cut from the western release of Yakuza 3, leading to criticism of Sega for ignoring western gamers' desire to experience Japanese culture.[21] This content was restored in the remastered version.
  • Club Sega: a virtual recreation of the real-life Sega arcade chain that features activities such as UFO catchers, darts, and playable emulations of classic Sega arcade titles such as Fantasy Zone and Virtua Fighter. The available games differ with each series installment.[22]

A recurring superboss known as Amon appears in most of the games. Depending on the title, there may be more than one. For example, Yakuza 5 features an Amon for each playable character, including an idol version for Haruka to face off against.

Development[edit]

Toshihiro Nagoshi, who initially conceived the series

The series originated from creator Toshihiro Nagoshi's desire to design a game that would tell the way of life of the yakuza. Nagoshi initially struggled to greenlight the project. Portrayals of the Japanese underworld were common in manga and movies, but not in video games. Toshihiro Nagoshi brought his story for Yakuza to scenario supervisor Hase Seishu two years before the game started development. Seishu had been a video game player 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 though, and he decided to accept the project even though it came at the busiest point of his professional writing career. Touching upon the game's name, Nagoshi revealed that it was his idea: the original Japanese name Ryū ga Gotoku translates to "Like a Dragon", as Nagoshi felt 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.[23]

Sega's leadership was hesitant about the perceived limited appeal, but eventually approved the development of the project. Sony and CERO were initially disapproving about the depiction of violence and adult material, though Sony eventually showed interest in the prospect of the game after Nagoshi persevered.[24][25]

Music[edit]

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.

Voice cast[edit]

A Yakuza 3 Event Mode minor character's face is being modeled in 3D through Softimage XSI 6.5 and during 3D scan the actor wore a swim cap because his character wears a police peaked cap[26]

The game's original voice actors are Japanese celebrities who encompass 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 Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan!, 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 do not speak in Japanese, but rather in English. Minor Chinese and Korean characters also often speak their native tongues.

The first game in the series to be released to the United States and PAL regions was dubbed in English. However, due to criticism of the English voice acting, each subsequent Western release through Yakuza 6 retained the original Japanese voice acting. Later spinoff titles such as Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise and Judgment have featured dual language voiceover support. 2020's Yakuza: Like A Dragon marks the series' first mainline entry to receive an English dub since the release of the original.

The PlayStation 3 installments' realistic character design is based on Cyberware 3D scanner, Softimage XSI 6.5 3D models[26] and Sega's Magical V-Engine.

Localization changes[edit]

"Like a Dragon" English logo used for the seventh main entry in the series

When the series was internationalized and localized to fit the Western market several changes occurred. For example, 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). Prior to 2022, the series was renamed to Yakuza outside of Japan, although the seventh entry used its original name as a subtitle. Following the reveal of three titles at RGG Summit 2022, Sega confirmed plans to rebrand the series as "Like a Dragon" to more closely align with the original Japanese title.[27]

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 given name. Beginning in Yakuza 4, he is referred to primarily by his family name, Kiryu, which more closely reflects the original dialogue.[28]

Games[edit]

As of 2020, the Yakuza series includes eight main games, released in chronological order (with the exception of the prequel Yakuza 0), with each new installment following the events of the previous title. There are also several spin-off titles. One, Kenzan!, relates Kazuma Kiryu's supposed ancestor, historic figure Miyamoto Musashi from the 16th and 17th centuries; another, Dead Souls, follows a zombie invasion of Kamurocho, the primary setting for the series; a PlayStation Portable spinoff series, Kurohyō, is about a teenage street fighter from Kamurocho that ends up in a fight where he kills a Tojo clan yakuza.[29]

With the exception of the Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku titles, which were developed by Syn Sophia, all games were developed by Sega's CS1 R&D team, later renamed Ryū ga Gotoku Studio.

List of Yakuza games
Year Game Platforms
2005 Yakuza PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3,[b] Wii U[b]
2006 Yakuza 2 PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3[b], Wii U[b]
2008 Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan! PlayStation 3[b]
2009 Yakuza 3 PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2010 Yakuza 4 PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinshō PlayStation Portable[b]
2011 Yakuza: Dead Souls PlayStation 3
2012 Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Ashura Hen PlayStation Portable[b]
Yakuza 5 PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2014 Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! PlayStation 3,[b] PlayStation 4[b]
2015 Yakuza 0 PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2016 Yakuza Kiwami PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2017 Yakuza Kiwami 2 PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
2018 Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise PlayStation 4
Ryū ga Gotoku Online Android,[b] iOS,[b] Windows[b]
Judgment PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox Series X/S
2020 Yakuza: Like a Dragon PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
2021 Lost Judgment PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
2023 Like a Dragon: Ishin! PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
2024 Like a Dragon 8 PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Notes:
  •  Spin-off 
  •  Remake 

Main series[edit]

Release timeline
2005Yakuza
2006Yakuza 2
2007
2008
2009Yakuza 3
2010Yakuza 4
2011
2012Yakuza 5
2013
2014
2015Yakuza 0
2016Yakuza Kiwami
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
2017Yakuza Kiwami 2
2018
2019
2020Yakuza: Like a Dragon
2021
2022
2023
2024Like a Dragon 8

The storytelling of the series is inspired by yakuza films, one of the most popular cinematic genres in Japan. The stories of the first two games in the series were supervised by novelist Hase Seishu, a writer of yakuza crime fiction. The main story in each game is presented in chapters, much like Kinji Fukasaku's classic yakuza movie Sympathy for the Underdog and is expanded upon with around a hundred subplots per game. The depth this provides leads to the series having a large cast of characters, including many which recur in minor roles.[citation needed]

  • Yakuza: The first game follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a formerly promising yakuza who is released from a ten-year prison sentence in December 2005, having taken the fall for the murder of his family's patriarch to protect his sworn brother, Akira Nishikiyama. He discovers that the Tojo Clan, whom he was once sworn to, has had ¥10 billion (approximately US$100 million) stolen from their accounts, and the clan's third chairman has been murdered, resulting in a power vacuum. Kiryu finds himself forced back into the brutal, lawless world of the yakuza, until he meets a mysterious young girl. If he can keep her alive, he just might be able to learn who was responsible for the missing ten billion, and finally confront the man he sacrificed everything for.
  • Yakuza 2: A year after restoring order within the Tojo Clan, Kazuma Kiryu resigns from his position as Fourth Chairman, hand-picking an old associate of his to become fifth chairman in his place. When an all-out war erupts after the fifth chairman is gunned down, Kiryu is forced to take action against an ambitious yakuza from a rival clan, the Omi Alliance, who seeks an all-out war with the Tojo Clan. The game sees Kiryu engage in brutal clashes with rival yakuza, the police, and the Korean mafia through the back alleys and neon-lit nightclubs of Tokyo and Osaka, as he forms new partnerships to stop the Omi Alliance.
  • Yakuza 3: In March 2009, Kazuma Kiryu now runs the Morning Glory Orphanage in Okinawa, where he raises nine children, including his surrogate daughter Haruka Sawamura. When a business deal backed by members of the Tojo Clan threatens to tear down the orphanage, Kiryu travels from the beaches of Okinawa to the darkest side of Tokyo as he is pulled back to a life he thought he had left behind, coming into conflict with scheming gangsters, mysterious foreigners, and a man determined to reshape the entire Tojo Clan in his image.
  • Yakuza 4: In March 2010, Kazuma Kiryu finds himself once again caught up in events beyond his control. First, a yakuza from a syndicate allied with the Tojo Clan is fatally shot by a member of the clan. Then, a man investigating the murder is stabbed to death. These events spark a full-blown struggle for money, power, and above all, honor, in a story experienced through the eyes of four characters, including a loan shark with a heart of gold, a former yakuza looking for answers, and a police detective with a knack for bending the rules.
  • Yakuza 5: In December 2012, the seventh chairman of the Omi Alliance is on his deathbed. His death would end the hard-won truce between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance, opening the door for renewed conflict. Anticipating this, the Tojo Clan is forced to strengthen their organization by aligning themselves with older clans based in other major cities across Japan to create a massive new syndicate rivaling that of the Omi Alliance. This new alliance would breach the old traditional barriers of clan territories, leading Tojo clan chairman Daigo Dojima to head for Fukuoka. Kiryu, now working as a taxi driver, reluctantly returns to his old organization, determined to end the old struggle between the clans for good.
  • Yakuza 0: In December 1988, many years before the original Yakuza, a young Kazuma Kiryu is framed for the murder of a civilian, leaving him stripped of his place in the Tojo Clan and forcing him to rebuild his reputation from scratch. At the same time, cabaret club manager and hitman Goro Majima finds himself protecting a helpless blind girl whom he was ordered to assassinate, making him a target for defying orders. The two must each attempt to protect themselves and uncover the truth, including how both incidents are tied to the mysterious "Empty Lot".
  • Yakuza 6: In 2016, after willingly spending three years in prison for his past crimes, Kazuma Kiryu is released only to discover that his adopted daughter Haruka has disappeared, later found comatose and critically injured after a hit-and-run accident. A devastated Kiryu decides to travel to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima, hoping to find the truth behind what happened to Haruka while protecting her infant son.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: In 2019, Ichiban Kasuga, a former member of the Tojo Clan's Arakawa Family, is released after eighteen years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. Expecting to be welcomed back, he instead discovers that his former patriarch has aligned himself and his family with the Omi Alliance and the police to destroy the Tojo Clan. Shot and left for dead in Yokohama by the man he looked up to as a second father, Kasuga, joined by a group including a homeless nurse, a disgraced cop, and a hostess who lost her employer to gang violence, sets out to uncover the truth behind his patriarch's betrayal while becoming a hero to the outcasts of Yokohama.

Spin-offs[edit]

The first franchise spin-off, Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan! is set in Kyoto during the Edo period, in 1605, and follows the life of legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. The game was released in Japan and Asia on March 6, 2008.[30]

Formerly known under the working title "Project K", Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinshō is a spin-off that follows Tatsuya Ukyo, a street punk who gets into trouble with the Tojo Clan after accidentally killing one of their captains. Co-developed by Syn Sophia, it was released in Japan on September 22, 2010 for the PlayStation Portable.[31] A sequel, Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Ashura hen, was released in Japan on March 22, 2012.

Yakuza: Dead Souls, known as Ryū ga Gotoku Of The End in Japan, is a non-canon story set during a zombie outbreak in Kamurocho. It was initially scheduled for Japanese release on March 17, 2011,[32] but the release was delayed to June 9, 2011 following the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011.[33] The game was later released in the west in March 2012.[34]

Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! is a spin-off set during Japan's Bakumatsu period (between 1853 and 1867) that follows the adventures of samurai Sakamoto Ryōma. It was released in Japan on PlayStation 3 and as a launch title for PlayStation 4 on February 22, 2014.[35]

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, known in Japan as Hokuto ga Gotoku, is a spin-off for the PlayStation 4, based on the manga series Fist of the North Star. The game was released in Japan on February 22, 2018,[36] and worldwide on October 2, 2018.[37] This is the first Yakuza title since Yakuza to release with an English dub, and the first overall with dual audio options. Kazuma Kiryu appears as an equippable DLC skin, while other Yakuza characters make minor cameo appearances.

Ryu ga Gotoku Online is a free-to-play spin-off released on Android, iOS, and PC on November 21, 2018.[38] The game features both Kazuma Kiryu and new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga.

Judgment, known in Japan as Judge Eyes: Shinigami no Yuigon, is a legal thriller set in the same world as Yakuza, and follows private detective Takayuki Yagami, who investigates a serial murder case in Kamurocho.[39] It stars Japanese actor Takuya Kimura. Sega released a demo of Judgment on the Japanese PlayStation Network. The game employs a fighting system similar to the one from Yakuza 0 where players can change into different styles. Additionally, it features an investigation mode where the player has to find traces of the criminal. It was released for PlayStation 4 on December 13, 2018, with a Western release following in June 2019.[40] A sequel, Lost Judgment, was released worldwide in September 2021 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.[41] Both games in the Judgment series were released on Steam on September 14, 2022.[42]

Streets of Kamurocho is a side scrolling beat 'em up minigame inspired by the Streets of Rage series, featuring characters from the Like a Dragon franchise. The minigame was developed by Empty Clip Studios and was available on Windows via Steam between October 17–19 and November 13–16, 2020, as part of Sega's 60th anniversary celebration.[43][44]

Re-releases and compilations[edit]

A high-definition remaster of the first two games in the series was released in Japan on November 1, 2012 for PlayStation 3.[45] The high-definition remaster was ported to Wii U and released in Japan on August 8, 2013 under the title Ryū ga Gotoku 1&2 HD for Wii U.[46][47] Both versions of the compilation were only released in Japan.

Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of Yakuza, was released in Japan on January 21, 2016 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4; the PS4 version received a Western release in August 2017.[48] The two versions were the top two best-selling games in Japan during their release week, selling 103,256 copies for PlayStation 4 and 60,427 for PlayStation 3.[49] The game was later released for Windows on February 19, 2019,[50] and for Xbox One on April 22, 2020.[51]

Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of Yakuza 2, was released for the PlayStation 4 on December 7, 2017 in Japan, and in North America and Europe on August 28, 2018. The game runs on the Dragon Engine, which was previously used in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. The remake also adds new story chapters that feature Goro Majima as a playable character, continuing stories of his that were previously established in Yakuza 0. Kiwami 2 was released for Windows on May 9, 2019,[52] and for Xbox One on July 30, 2020.[53]

A compilation re-release, titled The Yakuza Remastered Collection, was announced and released digitally in English-speaking territories on August 20, 2019 for the PlayStation 4. The collection contains the remastered versions of Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5, which were released in Japan individually between 2018 and 2019. The remasters feature re-translated game scripts and include most content removed from the original English releases,[54] though some content was removed from all versions, such as a set of missions in Yakuza 3 featuring a transphobic character depiction.[55] At the time of the collection's launch, only Yakuza 3 was available; Yakuza 4 was released on October 29, 2019 and Yakuza 5 was released on February 11, 2020. A physical release containing all three games was released alongside Yakuza 5 with a collectible PlayStation 3 styled case for Yakuza 5, which came out digitally in the west.[54] The Yakuza Remastered Collection was released for Xbox One and Windows on January 28, 2021.[56]

Adaptations[edit]

The Yakuza franchise includes various types of merchandise and adaptations outside of the video games. 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,[57] limited edition PlayStation 3 console packs,[58][59] Kubrick toys[60] and action figures manufactured by Maitan.[61]

Books[edit]

Kamutai Magazine (カムタイマガジン)
Date Game Cover Model(s) Ref.
Dec 2005 Yakuza Mihiro
Dec 2006 Yakuza 2 Nana Natsume
Mar 2008 Kenzan Yinling of Joytoy [62]
Feb 2009 Yakuza 3 Shizuka Mutou
Sayaka Araki
Rina Sakurai
[63][64][65]
Mar 2010 Yakuza 4 [66]
Sep 2010 Kurohyō Takumi Saitoh [67][68]
Mar 2012 Kurohyō 2 [69]
Mar 2015 Yakuza 0 [70]

For the Japanese and Asian market releases of the original game in 2005, Sega created a pre-order campaign limited bonus item called Kamutai Magazine, a full-color magazine which was a travel guide to the fictional in-game location of Kamurocho.[71] The first 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.

Many of the new Yakuza series games since have included a new Kamutai Magazine issue as a preorder bonus in Japan, featuring a voice actress as cover girl. Hence this December 2005 issue was followed by a December 2006 issue (cover girl is Japanese AV idol Nana Natsume), a March 2008 issue (cover girl is Taiwanese model Yinling of Joytoy) and a February 2009 issue (cover girls are Shizuka Mutou, Sayaka Araki and Rina Sakurai).[63] The fifth issue was bundled with Ryu Ga Gotoku 4 and released in March 2010.

Original video[edit]

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 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.

Feature films[edit]

  • A film adaptation was released in Japanese theaters on March 2, 2007, called Like a Dragon: The Movie (龍が如く 劇場版, ryu ga gotoku: gekijoban). It is based on the first installment of the series and was directed by Takashi Miike. The movie premiered in the United States on June 23 at IFC theater.[72] American distributor Tokyo Shock, a Media Blasters affiliate, released a licensed DVD on February 23, 2010.[73]
  • On September 24, 2020, a new film adaptation of the video games was announced to be in development by Sega, 1212 Entertainment and Wild Sheep Content, with Erik Barmack, Roberto Grande and Joshua Long producing.[74]

Radio dramas[edit]

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 ongoing with back number episodes available for download as podcasts.[75] Past episodes from the 2008~2009 season, Kamuro-cho Radio Station (神室町RADIOSTATION), are also available as archived podcasts.[76]

TV series[edit]

A television series was adapted based on the spin-off PSP title Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinshō which began airing on TBS on October 5, 2010 and ended after 11 episodes.[77] The series spawned a sequel in 2012 based on the Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Ashura hen PSP game in 2011, the series also ran for 11 episodes[78]

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.[79]

Cultural impact[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Game Metacritic GameRankings Famitsu
Yakuza
75/100[80]
77.67%[81]
37/40[82]
Yakuza 2
77/100[83]
78.41%[84]
38/40[85]
Yakuza 3
79/100[86]
79.92%[87]
38/40
Yakuza 4
78/100[88]
79.98%[89]
38/40
Yakuza 5
83/100[90]
83.79%[91]
40/40[92]
Yakuza 0
85/100[93]
85.25%[94]
36/40[95]
Yakuza Kiwami
80/100[96]
79.79%[97]
34/40[98]
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
83/100[99]
84.60%[100]
39/40[101]
Yakuza Kiwami 2
85/100[102]
85.01%
37/40[103]
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
84/100[104]
N/A
38/40[105]
Promotion at TGS 2010

The original game was heavily acclaimed in Japan for combining innovative gameplay with cinema-like storytelling and character development on the back of Japan's criminal underground.[106] Weekly Famitsu gave high scores to the series, Yakuza scored 37/40 (92.5/100),[107] Yakuza 2 scored 38/40 (95/100),[108] Ryū Ga Gotoku Kenzan! scored 37/40 (92,5/100),[108] Yakuza 3 scored 38/40 (95/100)[108] and Yakuza 4 scored 38/40 (95/100).[109] Yakuza 5 scored (40/40) which has the highest score out of all of the Yakuza installments. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life scored (39/40). The western localized versions were released between one and three years after the originals and received generally favorable reviews.[110]

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.[111] 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".[112] In 2010, the Japan Game Awards once again gave the 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".[113]

Although the narrative has often been praised, the poor portrayal of female characters have been noted by reviewers, with some noting that important female characters like Haruka Sawamura and Makoto Makimura are underutilized or overshadowed by the series' singular focus on the deconstruction of toxic masculinity.[114][115][116][117] Taking the criticism into consideration, development staff member for Judgment Scott Strichart said players have the opportunity to empathize with the sexism experienced by female characters like Saori Shirosaki in the English localization.[118] Producer Daisuke Sato noted their handling of LGBT characters in Yakuza 3 did not age well ever since its release as it would come across as offensive. As a result, when the game was remastered, the entire handling of such content was removed.[119]

Sales[edit]

The series sold 3.2 million games worldwide as of 2009[120] and 4 million copies as of September 2010;[121] the best sellers being the first two games which sold between 500,000 – 1 million worldwide, each winning the PlayStation Gold Award.[122] Yakuza 3 sold 500,000 copies in the Asian markets as of 2010, also winning SCEJ's PlayStation Gold Award.[120] 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.[123]

By June 2015, the entire series sold over 7 million units worldwide.[124] As of 2021, the series has sold over 17 million copies.[125]

Virtual tourism[edit]

Some fans have been inspired by the Yakuza game series to visit their real-world counterparts.[126][127] One reviewer praised the detailed recreation of specific districts, including "trivial, incidental stuff", that enables virtual exploration of real-life locations.[128] Although not explicitly marketed as "virtual tourism", another reviewer noted "Yakuza still gives you the best opportunity to really get engaged with a country and its people that I can think of. ... [It] has become a connection to a country I love very much, not because of the sights it shows me, but for all the boring things it lets me do".[129] Series writer and producer Masayoshi Yokoyama particularly thinks of Yakuza 5 as a game that provides "all the fun of modern Japan".[130]

Internet meme[edit]

In 2020, an internet meme emerged utilizing deepfakes to generate videos of people and fictional characters singing the chorus of "Baka Mitai" (ばかみたい, lit. "I've Been a Fool"), a song which first appears in the karaoke minigame of Yakuza 5. Most iterations of this meme use a 2017 video uploaded by user Dobbysrules, who lip syncs the Taxi Driver (Yakuza 5 (Kiryu) / Yakuza 0) version of the song, as a template.[131][132]

Connection to Shenmue[edit]

Journalists frequently made comparisions to Sega's Shenmue series when Ryu Ga Gotoku was first revealed.[133][134] Series creator Nagoshi was aware of this, and said that these are different games entirely and should not be compared.[135] Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki who worked with Nagoshi said that the challenges that he endured while making Shenmue were something Nagoshi learned from and gave back to Sega.[136] According to former Sega manager Hisashi Suzuki, Ryu Ga Gotoku was only possible because of Shenmue and described it as a "Sega-like" work.[137] Other Sega games also had an influence. It inherited elements of the SpikeOut arcade games, games that Nagoshi was previously involved in.[138] The development tools to create the map came from Jet Set Radio.[139]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese: 龍が如く, Hepburn: Ryū ga Gotoku
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Released only in Japan.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]