Welcome to Yakuza 5’s version of Japan. The best representation you can get in the West.
It’s a real shame that Sega released Yakuza 5 to the West for the PS3 only, because many of our readers have already moved on to the PS4 or other current gen hardware. Can’t say I blame you, as Yakuza 5 came out on the PS3 back in 2012 and the previous non-canon Yakuza: Dead Souls that was released in the West didn’t do very well. However if you still have your old PS3 powered up as I still do, you may want to blow the dust off and boot it up if you have ever wanted to see the land of the rising sun in its most impressive video game rendition or if you are a Yakuza fan at all. For the West, this is the premier game for all Yakuza fans and pushes the graphical capability of the PS3 to showcase the country of Japan.
Welcome to Japan!
The story is separated into five different characters located in five different cities all throughout Japan. Each area has a distinct feel to it and it is bursting with everything you may have read, downloaded, or seen personally. Having lived in Japan for three years, I can definitely tell you that the cities are almost near replicas of what the actual locations really are. I’m not sure if copyright or licencing is a big deal in Japan, but with exception of a few American items and store names, almost everything in the game is something you would find in Japan.
Its all within the details
What Yakuza 5 does best is showcasing the little details that make Japan such a vibrant country. Every single shop or item is delicately crafted in every detail, pushing the limitations of the PS3. If you have lived in Japan for an extended period of time, you will see some very familiar sites from Don Quixote to items such as Rainbow BOSS Coffee (my personal favorite) that you character can visit or use at their discretion. Even receiving items like a package of tissue paper from people of the streets to promote their product is in this game. On a much grander scale, the towns or areas that each character lives in is a near replica of its real world counter-part. There are moments when I am playing the game and I don’t even complete any part of the main mission throughout out the night (which is saying a lot since with a family with two kids, my video game time is very limited) because I am so engaged being in this virtual world of Japan. If you ever thought to yourself that you always wanted to tour various cities in Japan, but will most likely never have the money to do it yourself, then play this game to feel like you were actually there.
So what about the story?
The story is broken up into five different stories for each character. Some portions of the story are better than others and as a whole, it may not be the strongest story in the series, however its another solid installment to the legend of Kazuma Kiryu and his companions. What I liked the most about Yakuza 5 is that this story is about the dream and the life of the character and how they lived within each town. They are not about finding a new world, or fight a mega boss threatening to destroy everything, it’s about how they learn to live with themselves and with the choices they make. While I mentioned that this game isnt the strongest overall, I will admit it is the strongest interpersonal story I have ever played. As with the details in Yakuza 5, each character’s story feels like its own game outright. Its amazing how Sega showcases a life of a taxi driver, an escaped convict, a pop idol, a moneylender, and an ex-baseball player and have it be very exciting. You really start to feel for these characters and what they are trying to accomplish and for the most part, you want all of them to achieve their dreams.
As for side quests, this game has the most side stories than I’ve seen within the series. All of them range from the most influential to the character you are playing to the downright silliest thing you have seen. There is so much jam-packed into this game, that you could spend an entire night playing side quests if you choose to do so. You do need to understand that some Japanese cultural aspects do play into the story and the side quests and in some instances, you may wonder why they are doing something or you may think “Hey I would never do that, its outside my cultural norm” Don’t sweat it, its just an exaggerated part of the Japanese culture.
How are the mechanics?
This is the part where I feel the series may have had a very slight misstep. All of the core mechanics on how each character fights are still there (with exception of Haruka’s Sawamura’s dance battles). Each character has strengths into how they fight, Kazuma is an overall good fighter but not excellent in one area, Taiga Saijama can pick up heavy objects, Shun Akiyama can kick and use his feet like no other, and Tatsuo Shinada is the best at using weapons. Unfortunately, while these strengths are great, the rest of their fighting styles with exception of Kazuma and Haruka, are completely weak. I would recommend not using other moves or styles of play until the character has leveled up quite a bit. As they grow in level and skill, these weaknesses are not as pronounced. It could be on Sega’s part that this was done intentionally, however I found that it can be a bit jarring when you need to switch between characters.
The stand out mechanic in this game has got to be Haruka and it comes at the right time. When you finally get to play Haruka, you’ve thrown down a lot and it does become a bit stale. Then you play Haruka who is not going to fight anyone with fists, but with dance battles. This new mechanic brings new life to the game and a different way to level up. It was probably the most refreshing battle mechanic the game has.
So how good can these graphics be on a last gen console?
If you are expecting current gen graphics, I suggest you look elsewhere. While Yakuza 5 has established a great visual experience and pushed the limit of the PS3, your eyes are now used to current gen graphics. If you are a gaphics snob, I recommend not even playing this game. Though I have always been more about the game than the graphics behind it (not to be confused with camera control)
So, should I boot up my PS3 to play this game:
If there was one more PS3 game you ever wanted to play, I recommend that you download this game now and play it. I’ve spent over 70 hours playing this game and there is so much more to do! While sometimes, the mechanics can be a bit stale, the story fits well into the Yakuza series. Additionally, if you want to play around in Japan and never got the chance to do so, now is the time. That is why I am recommending that you should…
Yes, this game is worth your time! I hope you enjoy this game as much as I did! Have fun in Japan.