Thank You Xbox Game Pass for Turning Me Into A Yakuza Fan


In 2017 I came across a playthrough of the game Yakuza 0 by Nico B. Between Nico B being a funny host along with the game being so fun and serious, I would have loved to play it for my self. Unfortunatley, it was only on PS4 at the time. Three years later when a global pandemic hit the world as well as gaining access to Xbox Game Pass, I dove into the Yakuza series starting from Yakuza 0. Given that I’ve spent 420 hours1 playing the entire main Yakuza series of games along with Lost Judgement by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (RGG), I’ve become a complete fan. Even the real Yakuza enjoy it.

I love these games because of the iconic characters like Kiryu Kazuma, how the rich and emotional main stories are balanced out by wacky side content as well as how fun it is to beat the shit out of people. The games also have a unique approach to an open world where the locations, while small and reused, have a lot of depth and charam that you wouldn’t find in any other open world video game. Rather than feeling stale, you get so familiar with Kamorucho, you could navigate real life counterpart Kabukicho with no problems2. Though the games 06 are exclusivley in Japanese, I didn’t mind thanks to the great work Sega’s localization team put into bringing the stories to life3. Along with those locations you get soundtracks that are complete bangers, especially Demons Pledge and Receive You. You can think of the game as a manly soap opera.

While none of the games are “bad”, here’s my thoughts on the games where a Japanese man is trying to leave his job:

  1. Yakuza 0 is a prequel to Y0 which goes into how Kiryu and Majima became the Dragon of Dojima and Mad Dog of Shimano respectivley. Playing between these 2 characters is a lot of fun and there’s a lot of good side content here as well. I guess it’s what you get when you’ve spent a decade understanding who these characters are supposed to be.
  2. Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the original Yakuza, mainly serves to show just how far RGG has come in understanding who the main characters are supposed to be. I won’t spoil anything, but you have a completley different vibe towards a character compared to it’s prequel 0. Though you do it a lot, it’s annoying whenever enemies regenerate health. The frequent bouts between you and crazy eye-patched man Majima are funny too.
  3. Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of Yakuza 2, wasn’t particularly memorable except for the game engine Dragon Engine that allows for a lot of destruction and unique special attacks. It was in 6, but it was incredibly buggy then.
  4. Yakuza 3 was slow paced and felt drawn out, but I did like playing as a dad for kids. Okinawa is very sunny and vibrant, though the enemies love to block hence the game’s nickname “Blockuza”. You also serve as an aniki to the local yakuza.
  5. Yakuza 4 introduced playable characters rich boy Akiyama, buff Saejima and cancelled cop Tanimura. The story here wasn’t particularly memorable, but I did enjoy all the new characters as well as the extra move set revalations4. Not sure why Kiryu has to be here though.
  6. Yakuza 5 introduces broke and disgraced baseballer-turned-smut-writer Shinada along with your stardom-seeking daughter Haruka5 as playable characters alongside Kiryu, Akiyama and Saejima. Haruka’s arc as a wannabe J-Pop star was a welcome change of pace, especially since you don’t have to deal with every other mook trying to beat you up. As for Shinada, I love the relationship he has with his loan shark. I love how the game’s story centers around trying to bring Haruka to stardom.
  7. Yakuza 6 serves as the end of Kiryu. Trying to find your daughter Haruka, you end up in Hiroshima where you meet up with the local Yakuza who are loads of fun. This is when they introduced Dragon Engine and it was really buggy. Eventually he pays the ultimate price to secure Haruka’s peace, or does he?
  8. Like a Dragon6 takes the series in a different direction with a new location Ijincheo based on Isezakichō in Yokohama; a new protagonist Ichiban the rock bottom dragon; and a whole new combat system which has shifted towards turn-based combat. I was a bit uneasy with the combat change at first, but it was handled so well that I didn’t mind7. Rather than being the indominable beef cake Kiryu, you have to work your way back into a world where the Yakuza are dying off. Sure the game is about the power of friendship but RGG tells it so well that it’s my favorite game in the series.
  9. I looked forward to Lost Judgement since it was the first game from I’ve RGG I’d actually paid for, though it helps that I got the Ultimate Edition for $40. While the detective mechanics are awful, the detective story is great though it get’s drawn out at times. Like Like a Dragon, it’s based in Kamorucho and Ijincheo but you get to beat the shit out of annoying children (who are justified sometimes).

I’ll admit that I have a hazy memory for some of these games and I’d love to replay them so I can provide a better review and spend more time in the side content rather than rushing through the stories. Alas, it took me 420 hours to play through these games and given all the other games I want to play, that will take a while. For now, I’m hoping to finish Lost Judgement’s side stories as well as The Kaito Files story expansion. As they announced recently, they plan on giving the samurai spinoff Ishin! the kiwami treatment after years of meming it into existence, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name which covers what happens beteen Yakuza 6 and Like a Dragon as well as Yakuza 8 with Ichiban as well as Joryu who’s definitley not Kiryu. Those are scheduled to come out within the next two years at which point my wallet will be ready.

Again, I’d love to thank Xbox Game Pass for introducing me to this series and turning me into a fan. While it seems that Game Pass is now focused on indie titles, I hope that by being on Game Pass gamers get to try something new just as I did with Paradise Killer.

  1. Nice, though a lot of it is just cutscenes with a tendancy of re-explaining things. Also, see the time breakdown↩︎

  2. Not that you’d want to since it’s rather seedy. Then again, seedy in Japan is like heaven elsewhere. ↩︎

  3. Though it can get annoying if you drift your attention away for a bit since you lose your train of thought. Thankfully Yakuza games tend to re-explain things so you’ll eventually get it. ↩︎

  4. Here’s Kiryu’s, Tanimura’s, Akiyama’s and Saejima’s revalations if you’re looking to have a laugh. ↩︎

  5. Not biologically but given how you raise her she’s practically your daughter. ↩︎

  6. The series name in Japanese is Ryu Ga Gotoku, which means “like a dragon” so the game is essentially titled “Like a Dragon: Like a Dragon”. Interestingly, it’s titled as Yakuza 7 in Japan. ↩︎

  7. The beat-em’ up style will now have its home in the Judgement spinoffs. ↩︎