Five reasons I love the Yakuza series
I first dipped my toe in the water with the Yakuza series in 2010 when I played Yakuza 3 for the first time. Starting with the third entry in a series isn’t ideal, but I had just gotten a shiny new PlayStation 3, and the game looked really fun so I gave it a shot. Oh, man...what a wild ride that game was: I laughed (a lot), I cried (a LOT), and I had a blast. I was immediately hooked.
While I haven’t finished 4 or 5 (I know, I know…), I’ve spent countless hours with the Yakuza series over the years. I’ve had the privilege of playing Yakuza 0, Kiwami, 6, and Kiwami 2 just in the past two years. After pouring hours into these games, I’ve come to appreciate so many things about this series as a whole. Here are five reasons I love the Yakuza series, and why you should pick up Yakuza 0 RIGHT NOW.
1) I’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture since playing these games.
When walking around Kamurocho, Onomichi, or Sotenbori, I feel like I’m actually walking around in a lively Japanese city. I haven’t had the privilege of traveling to Japan (yet), but I’m fascinated by Japanese culture. The Yakuza series has taught me about all kinds of Japanese cuisine, words, and ways of life. I know it is just a video game, but a lot of the content is true to real life (based on my Google research).
2) Beating up random dudes who have beef with Kazuma is so satisfying and hilarious.
When you play a Yakuza game for the first time, you will undoubtedly be amused the first time you find yourself being targeted while walking down the street, minding your own business. In the words of Kazuma Kiryu, the main character in the series, “I don’t really know what it is about me, but I get dragged into fights with street punks every time I turn a corner.” It can get a little annoying at times, but enemies always drop money and gifts...plus, you always earn EXP when you fight a group of baddies.
3) Substories are extremely weird and so much fun.
Let me list off just a few of the substories I am currently working on in Yakuza Kiwami 2: “Knee Deep in Trouble: Buy new underwear for the man;” “Exhausted on the Job: Give the worker an energy drink;” “Kiryu the Bouncer: Meet the Debolah bartender.” If you dig deep, there’s some REALLY weird stuff in these games, and I love every second of it. The Cabaret/Hostess Club minigames are highly addictive. You can even play real games like Majong (which I am REALLY bad at).
4) The storytelling is impeccable
Off-putting for some, the Yakuza games use Japanese voice actors and English subtitles. Even though I don’t speak Japanese, I can tell that the voice acting is phenomenal, and by being forced to read, I am also being forced to really pay attention to the story. I can’t pick up my phone and start texting or I won’t know what’s going on in the story. Admittedly, I find it hard to remember everything about each game’s plot; it’s a lot of information. There are so many characters, and so much happens between the beginning of a Yakuza game and the end that it’s hard to remember it all. I am always blown away by the complexity of each Yakuza game’s story, and few games manage to tell a story to way Sega does with the Yakuza series.
5) Underneath it all, Kazuma is just a big teddy bear.
Kazuma Kiryu may be the (former) fourth chairman of the Tojo Clan, but he’s also an orphan who cares about people and loves to give back. This is what makes Kazuma such a lovable character; sure, he can kick ass when he has to, but everything he does, he does with his heart in the right place. He has a troubled past, and that makes us empathize with him. I love a lot of characters in the Yakuza series, but Kazuma will always be my favorite.
If you have never played a game in this series, do yourself a favor and pick up Yakuza 0. It’s a prequel to the very first Yakuza game, making it the ideal place to start. It is available on PlayStation 4 and PC.