- Original release year: 2005
- Consoles: PS2 (later: PS3, Wii U)
I first got into the Yakuza series after reading that it was a spiritual successor to the Shenmue series, albeit a more violent and action centred one. Although there are some similarities (both are action-adventure games with RPG elements, both are set in Japan, both are open world environments, both offer bizarre side quests, both utilise QTEs), but truthfully, Yakuza is very different.
The similarities between Yakuza and Shenmue are very superficial. Dig beneath the surface and you’ll find the Yakuza series is very different. One example of this, is the fighting mechanics. Shenmue mimicked the Virtua Fighter engine, offering a technical experience that worked really well with the martial arts theme found in the game. This involved combination of button presses to pull off awesome martial arts moves. Yakuza is more accessible and more violent. Instead, within the latter, fights are more of a violent brawl, that involve punches, kicks and grapple moves. There’s also a ‘heat’ metre that, once built up, allows you to pull off devastating special moves with the push of a button.
In Yakuza, you play as a former yakuza member, Kazuma Kiryu, as you explore the city and complete missions and side quests. Like traditional RPGs though, you encounter random battles whilst wandering through the city. Winning the fights earns you some cash, which can be used to purchase equipment or healing items, and experience, which can be used to increase your stats.
Yakuza is a superb game, with an engaging story, brilliant characters, a wonderful setting and excellent combat. If you like Shenmue and want something similar with far more action and a far more mature tone, then this is the game (and series) for you.