With the entire core series now on the Playstation 4, what has changed from the original releases of the titles in this collection?
+The games are as good looking and over the top as ever. The character models were impressive enough back on the PS3, and while looking just a bit outdated when compared to newer entries in the series, they still hold up well.
+Each game weaves an interesting narrative that connects the various playable characters, as well as creating possible ramifications later down the line. This is evidenced several times within the collection itself.
+The sheer amount of content is massive. Between mini-games, side stories, sub-stories, and the core content, there is not a lack of things to do in any of these titles. If you ever feel you’re starting to get a tad burnt out on progressing the story you have a plethora of distractions to engage in.
-While having challenging fights is always enjoyable, some fights at the early and late parts of each game can feel like an absolute slog. I’ll never claim to be a master at the technical aspects of any game, but there felt to be a few instances of needing to guard or run in circles around a boss just to land a single hit.
-There’s more than a little bit of jankiness to character animations, more-so during some of the less cinematic cutscenes than anywhere else. Notably, characters appear to have an odd tick or twitch. These movements can range from extremely minor to violent jerks of the head and neck.
-Recycled animations are an unfortunate reality in Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 to some degree. You will see characters sharing certain Heat Actions. While this isn’t a major issue, it makes it so characters don’t feel completely separated.
As a series, Yakuza has always aimed to be an enjoyable experience both in terms of visuals and gameplay. This collection gives the three titles it encompasses an upscale to 1080p and all three will run at a smooth 60fps. But what changes lie below the surface? By and large, the vast majority of the changes are within Yakuza 3.
For the first time, the bulk of the content that was cut from the Western release is now present. That means players will, finally, have full access to twenty-one substories which were prior gutted from the game. There is some content that has either been altered or removed, even in this version. First and foremost is the removal of a substory with a rather questionable tone.
Touching Up Those Old Tattoos
Additionally, a quiz game that was present in the Japanese release has been removed. Due to contracts, the appearance of several hostesses has been replaced and a few advertisements removed. The last notable removal is the optional cutscenes from the start of the game which can be used as a recap of the events of prior games. All of these changes, however, are completely global.
There are a few changes that span the entirety of this collection, a few of them having to do with the naming of characters and places. Kiryu is no longer referred to as Kazuma, and the Morning Glory Orphanage is no longer called the Sunshine Orphanage. A vast majority of lines in the game have been freshly translated as well, so as to be more accurate. One of the most major changes, at least to me, is that substories are now marked clearly on your map and minimap just like with later entries in the series. This definitely makes things easier for the completionists who enjoy doing every possible thing in a game.
Cracking Skulls Across Generations Can Bring Some Changes
The core gameplay of Yakuza never deviates too greatly in the main series, or at least it didn’t use to. The upcoming Yakuza 7, or Yakuza: Like a Dragon, changes that. But that’s a different article for a different time. Right now we’re talking about street fights and finishers which probably violate something in the geneva convention. While the core of the series never changes too drastically, each game does have its own unique touches. Some systems get refined and expanded upon, others get dropped by the wayside. One of the most noticeable changes for me is how Upgrades work for the playable characters. This is especially true across the three titles in the collection.
In Yakuza 3 you gain levels by fighting off goons, eating food, completing substories and boss fights. Using these levels you increase one of Kiryu’s four categories of Soul, Tech, Body, and Heat to do everything from unlocking new abilities to increase your maximum Heat and Health Gauges.
Yakuza 4 uses a Soul Point system. We gain experience from the exact same activities as in Yakuza 3, and when one of the playable characters accumulates enough they level up. With every level up we are given three soul points to spend as we wish across a sprawling list of upgrades.
These two ideas are somewhat combined in Yakuza 5. We retain the Soul Points from Yakuza 4, however, the characters of this game have the four categories of Yakuza 3 to spend them on. Each category has upgrades starting at one soul point and going to as many as four. Something else worth mentioning is that Yakuza 4 and 5 have a level cap of 20 per character.
Yakuza 5 has one other aspect of its combat that I find especially interesting. Whereas in the other entries any character can use any weapon they find, buy or make without restriction, this game has a proficiency level for the various categories of weapons. Increasing your proficiency draws bonuses such as a decrease in durability consumption, base attack increase of the weapons and of course the ability to use more powerful variations within those types.
It’s Dangerous To Go Alone
One of the most fascinating aspects of Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 is the multiple playable characters and experiencing their stories weaving together into a mass of conspiracy. Some events span back decades, the spark of conspiracy or greed could have been lit as little as a few years ago. In either case, it is without a doubt some shady deal going on in the background which draws the protagonists into the fold of the criminal underworld. Our cast of heroes, or anti-heroes, ranges from the mainstay Kazuma Kiryu, an officer named Tanimura Masayoshi and everything in between.
The collection does one thing which I can’t help but enjoy, showing Kiryu’s adoptive daughter Haruka growing up. In Yakuza 3 she is only eleven years old and resides in the Morning Glory Orphanage acting as a sort of mother figure as well as a sibling and friend to the other children. In Yakuza 4 Haruka is now thirteen and is still very much a primary caretaker for the younger residents of the orphanage, she shows a fiercely protective streak towards not only then but Kiryu as well. Yakuza 5 shows Haruka as a fifteen-year-old girl, who along with Kiryu, has left the Orphanage. Kiryu has distanced himself, while Haruka is chasing her dream of becoming an idol.
Other than Haruka there is one other character who left a definite impression on me and has definitely become a favorite. A former pro baseball player who was banned from the league, Tatsuo Shinada. Despite having been barred from his passion, we find out that he still practices every day, and through his side missions we can raise up his abilities. The fact that he still holds such a deep love, and passion, for something he may potentially be unable to ever do in the capacity he wants to, is for me nothing short of awe-inspiring. His love of the sport is so strong that, should you attempt to pick up a baseball bat in battle, he will instead gently place it on the ground once more. He refuses to tarnish anything relating to the sport.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my time with each of these games. I had some definite moments of frustration, and I did need to take a break to pace myself so I didn’t fully burn out, but I enjoyed myself regardless. Seeing the ripple effect take shape across the entire series, starting from Yakuza 0 forward, is something I would love to share with everyone. I enjoyed some characters more than others, as I’m sure others will as well.
For old fans and new fans alike, I could not recommend this enough. If you played the originals on Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 and just want to round out your collection on Playstation 4, or if you started with Yakuza 0 and never went back for the old titles, these are a great addition to your catalog of games. If I could sum up my entire thoughts, I would have to borrow one of Kiryu’s little comments. That’s rad!
Yakuza Remastered Collection
Platforms: Playstation 4
Version Reviewed: Playstation 4
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Team
Release Date: Available now
I enjoyed some characters more than others, as I’m sure others will as well. For old fans and new fans alike, I could not recommend this enough. If you played the originals on Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 and just want to round out your collection on Playstation 4, or if you started with Yakuza 0 and never went back for the old titles, these are a great addition to your catalog of games. If I could sum up my entire thoughts, I would have to borrow one of Kiryu’s little comments: “That’s rad!”
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Kennard Daniel Prim isn’t just your average gamer, he’s a die-hard fan of the single-player genre, specializing in imported games from Japan as well as his love for everything RPG related. As a contributor to Blast Away the Game Review, his knowledge of such games becomes just as invaluable as his critiquing of games.