Yakuza (video game)

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Yakuza
Yakuza-sega.jpg
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Ryuta Ueda
Producer(s) Masayoshi Kikuchi
Toshihiro Nagoshi
Designer(s) Daisuke Sato
Programmer(s) Kazuhisa Hasuoka
Tetsuya Kaku
Writer(s) Masayoshi Yokoyama
Seishu Hase
Series Yakuza
Platform(s) PlayStation 2
PlayStation 3
Wii U
Release PlayStation 2
  • JP: December 8, 2005
  • NA: September 5, 2006
  • AU: September 14, 2006
  • EU: September 15, 2006
PlayStation 3
  • JP: November 1, 2012
Wii U
  • JP: August 8, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Yakuza, known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku (Japanese: 龍が如く, "Like a Dragon"), is an action-adventure video 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 by the clan, as she is believed to have the key for their 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 role-playing 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. A remake of this game, Yakuza Kiwami, was released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in Japan in 2016,[1] and was released in the West for PlayStation 4 in 2017.[2]

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 story. Yakuza was a commercial success, selling over 1,000,000 units, and spawned an entire franchise of games.

Gameplay[edit]

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

Yakuza is a third-person action-adventure video game with Role-playing elements, set in an open world environment. The player gains experience from combat, which can be used to level up Kazuma's stats and increase his fighting capabilities.

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 equipment or healing items, and experience, which can be used to buff Kazuma's stats.[3] Sometimes, defeating the leader of an Encounter Battle will end the fight, even if some henchmen remain. Yakuza utilizes quick time events during the fights.

The Battle Mode includes the Underground Arena (地下闘技場) which is located in Kamurocho's Purgatory area. Cutscenes are enabled after completing specific actions or beating a certain character during the Adventure Mode. They also introduce the chapter's objectives. Various minigames are available within 'Adventure Mode' in the form of arcade machines scattered throughout the game world. These include a claw crane, a batting cage, a casino (baccarat, blackjack and roulette), toba and pachislot.

Plot[edit]

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 and fiancée, Yumi.[4] When Dojima is murdered by Kazuma's best friend and fellow yakuza, Akira Nishikiyama, Kazuma accepts blame for the murder, and is imprisoned for ten years. During his incarceration, Kazuma is expelled from his organization, the Tojo Clan, and Yumi goes missing.[5] After his release, he learns that ten billion yen has been stolen from the Tojo Clan's private bank, and that the entire Japanese underworld is now searching for the lost wealth.[6]

Kazuma asks his former captain and adopted father, Shintaro Kazama, about Yumi's disappearance, but Nishikiyama, who now controls his own gang, shoots Kazama after he reveals that Yumi was connected to the lost money. Kazuma manages to escape from the Tojo, who now regard him as an enemy and put a contract out on his life.[7] 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 Third Chairman Masaru Sera, the former Tojo Clan leader whose death has triggered a war between Kazama, Nishikiyama, and an ambitious yakuza boss, Futoshi Shimano.[8]

In his search for Yumi, Kazuma finds an orphan named Haruka who is searching for her mother, Mizuki, who Date identifies as Yumi's younger sister.[9] Haruka is also targeted by the yakuza, who believe that her pendant, which Yumi gave to her for safekeeping, is the key to the missing ten billion.[10] Kazuma is forced to protect her from not just Shimano and Nishikiyama, but also Goro Majima, Shimano's sadistic lieutenant, [11][12] as well as the Omi Alliance, a rival yakuza organization, the Snake Flower Triad, led by Kazuma's old enemy Lau Ka Long, and the MIA, a mysterious group with ties to the Japanese government.

Eventually, Kazuma learns from Kazama that Haruka is actually Yumi's daughter, and that "Mizuki" is really Yumi under an assumed identity. As Kazama explains, Yumi suffered amnesia after she was attacked by Dojima, but ultimately recovered and married a man named Kyohei Jingu, an ambitious politician who allied himself with Sera. After accidentally killing a journalist who had tried to blackmail him with evidence that he had abandoned his family, Jingu asked Sera to have them murdered. Kazama saved Yumi and persuaded Sera to turn on Jingu, having learned that the latter was using the clan to launder the ten billion for his own purposes.[13] Shimano ambushes them and kills Kazama with a grenade; Kazama's ally, Omi Alliance leader Yukio Terada, then shoots him dead in revenge.[14]

Armed with the knowledge of the money's location, Kazuma and Haruka head to Millennium Tower, where they meet Yumi, who has recovered her memories and now intends to destroy the money with a bomb.[15] Jingu arrives with the MIA and the Omi Alliance, revealing that he intends to destroy the Tojo Clan and ally himself with the Alliance to control Japan.[16] Kazuma subdues him and his men, but Nishikiyama arrives to challenge Kazuma and take the money for himself. After a lengthy battle, Kazuma defeats him. Jingu appears and shoots Yumi before Nishikiyama stabs him and detonates the bomb, killing them both.[17] With Yumi, Kazama, and Nishikiyama dead, Kazuma decides to return to prison, but Date talks him out of it by reminding him that he is the only one who can take care of Haruka now.[18] The Tojo Clan asks Kazuma to assume the role of Fourth Chairman in accordance with Sera's will, but he retires instead and names Terada as Fifth Chairman to rebuild the clan.[19] Now free of his past, Kazuma sets out to start a new life with Haruka.

Development[edit]

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 at in August 2005 as "Project J."[20] 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."[21] The budget of the game was 2.4 billion yen (approx. $21 million).

Most of the team members are from different backgrounds, such as developers that have their roots in the arcade with titles such as Virtua Fighter 3 and Super Monkey Ball, as well as team members having experience in novel console titles like Panzer Dragoon and Jet Set Radio. During development, the team researched hostess clubs, which are prominently featured in the story, even attending hostess clubs themselves, including Roppongi and Kabukicho.[22] The fictional setting of Kamurocho in the game was closely based on the red-light district of Kabukicho in Tokyo.[23] 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. Though using the gameplay schematics of one of Nagoshi's earlier titles, Spikeout, as basis for the combat, Yakuza utilized an entirely new engine crafted for the game.[24]

Writing[edit]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[24] 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.[26]

Localization[edit]

In localizing the game, Sega funded an aggressive web and print advertising campaign, as well as an English voice cast composed almost entirely of cult performers like Michael Madsen, Eliza Dushku and Mark Hamill. Localization producer Kevin Frane 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.[27] 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."[28]

There were also problems with promoting Yakuza before its English release. Frane 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."[29]

Soundtrack[edit]

The Ryū ga Gotoku & Ryū ga Gotoku 2 Original Sound Track (HCV-287) dual-disc boxset was published by Wave Master in Japan on January 25, 2007.[30] The music was composed by Hidenori Shoji, Sachio Ogawa, Keitaro Hanada, Fumio Ito, Yuri Fukuda. The closing theme is John Newton's rendition of Amazing Grace, a classic hymn sung in English by Eri Kawai; additional performers are Makotch (vocals), Yuri (chorus) and Tomica (chorus).

Marketing[edit]

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.[24]

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.

Editions[edit]

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")[31] and a monography called Kamutai Magazine (December 2005 issue).[32] 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.[33]

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.[34]

Rereleases[edit]

The original Japanese version of the game, Ryū Ga Gotoku was later ported to both, the PlayStation 3 and the Wii U consoles. This remastered edition of the first game in the series is bundled with its sequel, Ryū ga Gotoku 2. These HD versions were released only in Japan.

Ryū ga Gotoku 1&2 HD edition[edit]

On November 1, 2012, a PlayStation 3 HD remaster of the Japanese original version of Yakuza and Yakuza 2 titled Ryu Ga Gotoku 1&2 HD edition was released in Japan.[35] This "HD edition" features both game remasters bundled in a single Blu-ray disc and later as a downloadable title on the Japanese PlayStation Store.

On December 11, 2014, this "HD edition" was re-released in the budget range "PlayStation 3 the Best" dedicated to best sellers on the Japanese domestic market.[36] Simultaneously to this Blu-ray re-release, a 18.1GB[37] downloadable version was also made available for purchase on the Japanese PlayStation Store.[38]

Ryū ga Gotoku 1&2 HD for Wii U[edit]

On August 8, 2013, a Wii U HD remaster of the Japanese original version of Yakuza and Yakuza 2 titled Ryu Ga Gotoku 1&2 HD for Wii U was released in Japan.[39] This "HD for Wii U" release features both game remasters bundled in a single disc or in a 19.8GB[40] file for download. This Wii U release is notable for being the first port of the PlayStation-exclusive Yakuza series on a non-Sony platform.

Yakuza Kiwami[edit]

A remake of Yakuza, titled Ryu ga Gotoku: Kiwami (龍が如く:極), was released on January 21, 2016 in Japan for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.[41] Kiwami improved the resolution, framerate, textures and loading times compared to the original game, and additional content was added to resolve some of the more confusing plot points and establish connections to the prequel title Yakuza 0.[42] The remakes for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 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.[43]

Sega announced during the PlayStation Experience event in Anaheim, California on December 3, 2016, that Yakuza Kiwami for PlayStation 4 and Yakuza 6 would be released in the West.[44] They announced a release date of Summer 2017 for Kiwami in the West, ultimately releasing the game on August 29.

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 77.67%[45]
Metacritic 75/100[46]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A-[3]
Eurogamer 8 /10[47]
Famitsu 37 / 40[48]
GamePro 4.5/5 stars[49]
Game Revolution C- [50]
GameSpot 7.4 / 10[51]
GameTrailers 8 / 10[52]
GameZone 8.5 / 10[53]
IGN 8.2 / 10[54]
UGO A-[55]
Awards
Publication Award
Japan Game Awards Award for Excellence[56]
Famitsu Awards Excellence Award[57]

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.[58] Yakuza received generally positive reviews among Western critics earning a 75 out of 100 in Metacritic and a 77.67% in GameRankings.[45][46] IGN praised its combat system and sense of style but criticized its tedious gameplay.[54] 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.[59] GamePro similarly compared it with Shenmue based on the amount of subscenarios.[49] 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.[3] 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[50] with GameTrailers agreeing on the difficulty in centering on an enemy.[52] The amount of sidequests available received generally favorable response.[49][52]

The game has been praised for the design of the city and delivery of the English voice acting.[3] 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."[50] 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 lamented the lack of the Japanese audio.[55] GameTrailers also wished for a Japanese audio option, despite noting the English dub did a fine job.[52] GameZone called it an "epic story that will keep you exploring the world filled with criminals and Kazuma's only friends who will help him along the way."[53]

The game sold 232,650 units in Japan during 2005.[60] In 2006 it shipped 345,323 units.[61] 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. Total sales reached 1 million.[62]

Legacy[edit]

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."[63] The game was also recognized for excellence in the 2007 Japan Game Awards.[56]

A sequel, titled Yakuza 2, was released in Japan on December 7, 2006,[64] and in North America and Europe on September 9, 2008 and September 19, 2008 respectively.[65] The game was followed by Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan 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[66] did. It was then followed by Yakuza 4 which for the first time incorporated multiple playable characters.[67] The next game, the spin-off Yakuza: Dead Souls, also made it to English releases. Once a Japan-exclusive released in 2012, Yakuza 5 was announced to be released in December 8th 2015 while Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! remains as a Japan-exclusive game.

Live-action adaptations[edit]

In 2006, Takeshi Miyasaka 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 outside of Japan for his roles in Shohei Imamura's The Eel, Takeshi Miike's Dead or Alive and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.[68]

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