Yakuza 5 is an Action/RPG developed by RGG Studio and released by Sega in 2012 in Japan and in 2015 worldwide. Originally released for PS3, the title received a remaster in 2020, its first release on the PS4. Featuring a 1080p and 60 FPS upgrade, Yakuza 5 HD also included a new script re-translated from its initial release.
What separates Yakuza 5 from its predecessors is both its level of polish and the length of the experience. The title features more enjoyable battling thanks to better enemy A.I. that doesn’t block or grapple continuously. Plus it avoids including some of the terrible boss battles of gun-toting antagonists camping you from afar while their goons beat you up. However, despite its intent to create a quality, lengthy game, there are sometimes when Yakuza 5 feels like it overstays its welcome. Being twice as long as its predecessors, along with its five story arcs, it’s easily the longest game in the series to date at over 80 hours.
However, if you’re a fan of long games and the quantitative approach towards the game’s numerous activities, then you will certainly enjoy this game.
Taking place in 2012, Yakuza 5 stars not just series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, but familiar and new allies as well. Following several years after the ending of Yakuza 4, the story takes place in various locales of Japan, including the familiar Kamurocho.
You’ll play each character in Fukuoka, Sotenbori, and others as you visit new arcs to the storylines of Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and newcomer Tatsuo Shinada. Kiryu’s adopted daughter, Haruka Sawamura, also has her own storyline arc.
The story connects itself across all arcs and locales through a conspiracy brewing behind the scenes of both Kamurocho’s Tojo Clan and Sotenbori’s Omi Alliance. Following the disappearance of Tojo Clan chairman, Daigo Doijima, protagonist Kiryu is tasked by Tojo men to find their head honcho. The story culminates in unifying the characters against a threat bigger than any faced thus far.
For what it’s worth, I enjoy the story and writing of each Yakuza game including this one. However, I will say this one went out of its way to be both obtuse and, at times, disjointed. Tatsuo Shinada’s entire arc is based around his fallen baseball career and finding the mysteries behind what orchestrated his downfall.
Although it’s connected to the overarching story, it’s 20 hours of feeling disconnected from the last 40–60 hours of plot you’ve played through. It feels weirdly placed. Despite that, I can’t help but respect the amount of time and energy dedicated to telling a story about baseball. The writers put passion into even the things that seem to matter little and it’s not nearly the gripe I initially thought it might be. Tatsuo Shinada surely becomes likable thanks to his comedic antics, fairly relatable sense of debt, and upbeat vision to keep a dream alive.
Following the audiovisual style of the past PS3 titles, Yakuza 5 follows suit in design. Along with Yakuza 0 and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, it is among the last titles in the series to feature the visual style before the series moved onto the improved Dragon Engine beginning with Yakuza 6. As such, you’ll be treated to new versions of the same impressive and over-the-top animations when battling opponents.
Yakuza 5, as with its predecessors, also brings the heat with some incredible music. Whether it’s the pop bops of Haruka’s storyline or the hard-hitting rock for battles, the score always seems to fit the mood perfectly. My only real complaint here is one of Haruka’s songs, “So Much More,” plays far too often in her quests. An otherwise catchy song becomes redundant and lives up to its title a little too well.
Directly following the format of its predecessors, Yakuza 5 blends an open-world title with Action/RPG elements. You'll navigate through city streets, engage in brawls, and level up your character to unlock stronger stats and new abilities. Each character has a unique fighting style with the lone exception being Haruka. In this case, she engages in Dance battles featuring rhythm game elements which include tapping buttons to the song's rhythm.
Yakuza 5 just further solidifies what already works well in the series. Thankfully, it also does so without the repetitive back-and-forth for certain quests like in the early parts of Yakuza 3. It also does away with some of the aforementioned bad boss fights from the previous titles as well.
It does little to expand upon the elements featured in its predecessors yet continues to refine them. However, I daresay that even in Hard Mode, the game became a little too easy. Thanks to the addition of chef, Tatsuya, you could double your health bar and boost stats as well. Outside of the boss-initiated QTEs, you will likely mow down everything in your path.
I should also mention that, in addition to the substories, every character has side missions they undertake. This includes Kiryu's taxi driving, Saejima's hunting, and more. These all contribute to unlocking the battle against the Amon family super-boss fight which requires finishing all substories as well. This is one way the game became immensely long compared to its brethren, clocking me in at 95 hours when I was finally done. Keep in mind this was not for Platinum trophy completion, visiting hostess clubs, and doing only three fights in the underground coliseum. In other words, there is a ton to do in Yakuza 5.
Despite its quantitative approach, I didn't feel compelled to do everything in the game. Many players might enjoy exploring the world to try and get all trophies or even play a little karaoke. For me, it was enough to clear the story and fight the Amon family. Yakuza 5 was the first game in the series to have well-written substories compared to the generic quests of Yakuza 3 and 4. As such, I enjoyed them enough to complete them all. I should also mention that this was the last of the Yakuza Remastered Collection titles I cleared and is easily the best of the three.
Even though I felt Shinada's story was a bit disjointed, it told a wonderful, compelling tale on its own. But for me, it was more being amazed, if not a little overwhelmed, at how much longer the game would take to clear. Even among the longest games I've ever played, which include Persona and Tales of Berseria, this ranks among the highest.
Despite that, it's a fun, well-paced adventure from beginning to end. Its convoluted story is matched by its flair for the dramatic, well-animated cutscenes, and fantastic storytelling. Yakuza 5 might not be a requirement to play for new fans of the series. But along with Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2, and Judgment, it stands out as one of the better titles.
Down the road, I'll be playing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Lost Judgment. Stay tuned for new reviews!
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