Ah yes, it’s time to talk about this well known video game, “Yakuza Fury“, which busted onto the gaming scene on the PlayStation 2 in 2005.

Nah, of course not.  This is about the long-running and widely acclaimed video game series published by Sega that everybody knows in the West as Yakuza.  I remember I started collecting these games physically for PlayStation consoles around the start of 2017.  That was right after this series started getting lots of notoriety outside of Japan, and I was able to find most games complete for really affordable prices.

But it took me until August of 2022 to finally sit down and begin playing through them all.  I started with the original Yakuza for PS2, and played through them by release date using this handy-dandy list.  Last night, I just finished playing through Yakuza 6.

So here now are my impressions and thoughts of each of the games I’ve played in the series so far.

Yakuza (2005, PlayStation 2)

This game had me absolutely hooked right from the tutorial.  The whole basis of the gameplay in this series (for most of the games) is “beat-em-up” arcade style fighting action.  And oh my sweet Jesus did they absolutely nail it in this first game.  The combat in Yakuza is some of the most fun and satisfying beat-em-up gameplay I’ve ever experienced.  The tutorial shows you how different kinds of actions are mapped to different buttons on the controller, with variations being called forth by number and order of button presses.  This same basic style of combat stayed more or less consistent through every Yakuza game I’ve played so far, and it works really well for giving the player a fun and satisfying fighting experience.

Another thing that immediately struck me was just how good this game looks.  This is one of the best looking PlayStation 2 games I’ve ever played.  I think this looks better in some places than the famously great looking GTA San Andreas.  The music also really impressed me, and this is something that the entire series has going for it.  It’s always appropriate to the scene and the action, and always just really incredible too.

But of course everybody knows that the story is a big part of what makes these games great.  I thought the story of this first Yakuza game was great.  It introduces the hero of this series – Kazuma Kiryu.  It shows him to be an unusually strong man, both in spirit, body, and conviction.  I’m not going to spoil any plot details for those who haven’t played these games yet, but Kiryu has an unassailable moral foundation, and that often leads him into conflict with powerful adversaries.  He’s the kind of hero in a game that you can really respect because of that, and it also just makes you feel like an incredible badass playing as him.

The characters and writing in this game and in the entire series are phenomenal too.  The vast majority of the time, they seem like real people with real motivations, who often suffer real consequences for their actions.  But these are still video games, so there is a healthy dose of wild implausibility and even outlandish humour.  Someone said it best when they said “It’s like The Godfather that suddenly turns into The Simpsons.”

These elements are present right from this initial release in 2005, along with the series’ vaunted mini-games.  As you wander around the streets of Tokyo’s fictionalized red light district Kamurocho, you have the chance to enter hostess clubs, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, and other locations that will give you the opportunity for varied and interesting gameplay beyond beating people up to solve all your problems.

I would rate this game an exceptional 9.5 out of 10.  The only reason it doesn’t get a perfect score is because of the camera.  This isn’t a true 3D open world game, and the changing camera views as Kiryu moves from sector to sector can be disorienting.  In the 29 hours I spent with this game, I never truly got used to it.  But that’s the only complaint I could really make to this game – it’s that good.  Also, this first game is an anomaly in the series because it is the only one that had English voice dubbing added to it.

You can play this if you’ve still got a PlayStation 2 like I do, or if you have a backwards compatible PS3.  You can also play through it on the PCSX2 emulator, or you can play the updated and re-made version Yakuza Kiwami.

Yakuza 2 (2006, PlayStation 2)

Better looking, better playing, and better sounding, this sequel expands on everything that made the first game great.  The story is just as good if not better than the one that propelled the first game, and the characters are more fleshed out and realistic too.

Playing through Yakuza 2, you get to see many recurring characters, and you come to know them and what they mean to Kiryu.  It also strikes you that you are walking and playing over the exact same game map as the first game before.  Some people are put off by this, but I’ve come to view the district of Kamurocho as one of the series’ main characters in itself.  Playing through this series in order like this, you get to see how the city itself changes as time goes by.  It’s one of the most interesting aspects that these games have, and tells a story all its own.

Speaking of story, this is the first game where the plot twists and shocking revelations really come at you hard and fast.  There are moments in this game where I just had to sit and think “no way” because of a carefully constructed plot twist that I wasn’t expecting at all.  There are also genuinely moving and sad parts in this game, as well as laugh out loud funny parts.  All the games have moments like these that you can experience one after another as you play.

But as great and as improved as everything in this game seems to be, I found the actual beat-em-up combat to be not as satisfying or fun as it was in the first game.  There, I thought it was absolute perfection.  But here in Yakuza 2, it seems less responsive even though it has been sped up.  The issues with the camera in 3D rendered sectors are still present too, though moving through the transitions has been made a little bit less annoying.

So over all, I’d rate this a solid 9 out of 10.  I spent 32 hours playing it, and it made me want more.  This can also be played on a real PS2, phat PS3, or through emulation.  Pick up the expanded remake Yakuza Kiwami 2 if you want to play that instead.

Yakuza 3 (2009, PlayStation 3)

The first Yakuza game I played on my PS3, and a rather divisive one, depending on who you ask.  I learned recently that this North American release that I played is missing half the content in the form of mini-games and sub-stories from the original Japanese PS3 version.  But I still found it to be as immersive, deep, and varied in its gameplay and world as the two games I played before it on the PS2.

It, of course, looks better since it’s running on a more powerful console at a higher resolution.  But it’s not a good looking game.  As far as PS3 games go, in fact, it looks kind of bland and crude in some spots almost.  I don’t really blame Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio for that, as everyone knows what a shit-show the PS3 architecture was to develop games for.

In any case, this one was a lot of fun to play.  I’m going to say now that I think the combat held up really well in the transition from the PS2 to the PS3, though I still don’t think it was as good as the combat in the very first game.  You may have heard that the combat in this game is awful, but I think that critique specifically applies to the PS4 and PC remakes.

The characters in this game are some of the most memorable in the series, especially a particular group of kids.  (I won’t say too much more to avoid spoilers.)  In fact, the writing, motion capture, and acting in this game are so good that it’s very easy to become fully immersed in this world.  There’s one quite famous (or infamous) scene in this game that has many people who play it in tears after it happens.  I was no exception.  I had to stop playing for half an hour.

The villain characters in this game are some of the best in the series, I think. I can still remember them well, and how I immediately liked and enjoyed how they were written, how they were acted, and how they were portrayed.  One of them in particular actually made me hate him – despite him being a fictional character.

But unfortunately, the story of this game lets it down.  It’s… kind of convoluted.  It’s a bit more complicated than it needs to be, I think, and though it eventually ties up all of its disparate plot points cohesively at the end, I was still wondering “why” about so many things after I finished playing, and I couldn’t wrap my head around certain people’s motivations.

This game is also infamous for a rather clumsy and awkward “info-dump” style plot exposition around the middle.  “Show don’t tell” is story telling 101, but I don’t know what went wrong here.  Somewhere along the line, it’s like they ran out of time to tell the story through gameplay, so Kiryu just walks into a building and talks to some guy for like half an hour to get most of the key plot points explained in detail to him.  It sounds lazy and it feels that way when you’re playing it.

But the game does conclude in a way that makes the story feel complete and more or less satisfying.  One gripe I have about this is something that affects all of these Yakuza games to a certain extend.  The mission tells you “We have to hurry!  We have mere minutes to act”.  Meanwhile, you actually don’t, because time effectively freezes for the player while you go and gallivant around town doing whatever the hell you feel like doing.  I wish I had fully realized this before, because I missed a few things in the first two games, and a large chunk of content in this third installment.

I played a total of 32 hours of Yakuza 3, which should have been at least 10 hours longer I think.  But I really enjoyed it and would rate it a 7.5 out of 10.  Some things like the graphics, the hard to follow story, and the not as fun combat bring it down.  But it’s still not to be missed.  Oh, and I don’t rate like IGN, lol, so a 7.5 in my eyes is actually about three quarters of the way to being perfect, not barely acceptable.

Yakuza 4 (2010, PlayStation 3)

This was the first Yakuza game I got, and the first one I tried to play.  I got about 2 hours in, was thoroughly confused and not engaged with the game at all, and went on to play something else.  I’m glad I didn’t keep playing, because these games are meant to be played in sequence.  They tell distinct stories through each of the games, but also develop characters and settings throughout the entire series.  If you jump in the middle and play them out of order, you’d be doing yourself a real disservice.

In any case, by the time I came around to doing my proper playthrough, this one felt bigger and deeper in every way.  There’s more to do in this game than any that came before, and it takes longer to get through the incredibly complex and deep story too.

That complexity and depth is due in no small part to this game’s feature of making you play as four different protagonists.  You’re not just playing as Kazuma Kiryu this time.  Yakuza 4 also introduces series mainstays Shun Akiyama and Taiga Saejima.  Oh, and a cop named Masayoshi Tanimura.  But he’s never heard from again.

All of their individual stories in this game are really interesting, moving, and immersive.  And the fact that the game’s writers made the overarching plot tie them all together is pretty amazing.  But the very fact that you can play as four different people opens up a lot of different variety in fighting styles.  The combat in this game is much improved over the what was in Yakuza 3.  I’d rank it as equal to or greater than the beat-em-up brawling that was nailed so perfectly in the first PS2 game.

Each of the four protagonists have their own unique fighting style, and being able to learn and master each one is a big part of this game’s charm and fun.  The plot – as impressive as it is to be able to carry the four individual protagonist’s stories and tie them all together – is kind of clunky, opaque, and confusing at times.  It’s not as bad as Yakuza 3’s story, but it’s not the best in the series.

But it does have some great story moments, some high comedy, and some deep tragedy.  Playing through this game will really make you appreciate all four characters, and I’m so glad we got to see at least Akiyama and Saejima in other games.  I wonder whatever happened to Tanimura, though…

Kamurocho gets slightly expanded too, with the ability to move around on some of the building’s rooftops and under street level too.  Walking around Kamurocho and the other locations in this game is the first time that it felt like a truly “modern” 3D kind of game.

I spent a total of 50 hours playing it to completion, and loved almost every minute of it.  This one gets an 8.5 out of 10 from me on my rating scale, for great gameplay, much improved PS3 graphics, great acting, and a good plot that felt a bit confusing at points.

Kurohyō: Ryū ga Gotoku Shinshō (2010, PSP)

Also known as Black Panther: Like a Dragon New Chapter, which I’ll refer to as Black Panther 1.

This is a spinoff game that only came out in Japan, and only for the PSP.  But don’t think that you can skip it.  An English fan translation has been released, and it is fully playable on the PPSSPP emulator.

That’s how I played it, and it is fucking amazing.

This is one of the best and most fun Yakuza games I have ever played.  Never mind that some of the graphics look more crude than the first game on PS2.  Never mind that the story’s cutscenes are shown as voiced text over anime-style art scenes.  The story is one of the best in the entire series, and the beat-em-up combat…. oh my god… the combat!

I wasn’t expecting much from this game, but as soon as I got past the lengthy tutorials and started to actually roam around Kamurocho as this series protagonist Tatsuya Ukyo, I realized just how amazing the gameplay in this game is.  And the PSP accomplished this with fewer buttons than a PlayStation controller!

I also had an added benefit of playing on my PC, with a big screen and the upscaling and graphical enhancement capabilities of the PPSSPP emulator.  It’s seriously like playing a graphically upscaled version, and it made everything way more fun and immersive.

As I mentioned before, the story is some prime writing and worthy of being included of mention with all the mainline Yakuza games.  This isn’t some lightweight mobile spinoff that you would usually associate with those words.  This is a complete game, which easily stands alongside the other titles in terms of gameplay, characters, story, and even graphics.  As far as being a PSP game is concerned, it does look very good, particularly if your emulator is upscaling the graphics to 2x resolution.

The fighting and battle system in this game is just astounding in its fun, complexity, and depth.  There are numerous fighting styles for Tatsuya to learn and to master, and each one plays, feels, and is animated differently.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that this game has the best combat in the entire series.  You need to play it yourself to feel just how good it is.  When you brawl as Tatsuya, you are in full control of your moves and your power at all times.  Some of the games seem to make you feel like you’re disconnected from the action, but this game makes you feel like you are really controlling the protagonist.

I played this game for just over 38 hours, and it’s the only Yakuza game that I’ve considered replaying in its entirety.  I rate this a 9 out of 10, with some of the graphics bringing it down, and some of the game mechanics in the beginning becoming annoying and tiresome (hide from the police).  This game was popular enough in Japan to spawn a sequel and an anime series.  It’s baffling to me why it was never officially translated and released outside of Japan.  And as far as I know, there are no plans to re-release or remake it for modern consoles or PC.  So you need to get cracking and download this to play on an emulator posthaste.

Yakuza: Dead Souls (2011, PlayStation 3)

Speaking of spinoffs, this is a zombie shooter.  It’s a lot different in feel and gameplay from everything else in the series.  I don’t personally care for shooters, and I really don’t like zombie shooters.  I have this, and I tried playing some of it.  I think I got about six hours in.  I threw my back out while playing it – quite literally.  It turns out that a cheap office chair I had been using had been slowly giving me lower back problems, and it was during an evening session of playing this game that I suddenly got horrifically painful back spasms and pain.  I had to go to the hospital, in fact.

So I never came back to this game.  It’s out there if you like zombie shooters.  It has the same over-the-top humour and drama that the other games in the series have.  It’s only available physically for the PS3, and on the PS3 store.  More about that later.

Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Ashura Hen (2012, PSP)

Also known as Black Panther 2: Like a Dragon Ashura Chapter.  This is of course the sequel to the first PSP and Japan only Black Panther game, and it is in my opinion another must-play game for anyone playing through the Yakuza series.

This one started kind of slow for me, however.  Black Panther 2 suffers from a problem that every Yakuza game has to a certain extent.  And that is that by the end of the previous game, Kiryu (or Tatsuya in this case) is leveled-up and skilled-up to the max, and is damn near unstoppable and all-powerful.  Then the next game starts and he has a minuscule health bar, has forgotten all his skills, is generally weak and seemingly doesn’t know how to throw a punch.

It’s particularly bad in this game because the opening cutscenes in this game show and explain how Tatsuya is now a very powerful fighter.  Then you get to play as him and he gets tired from throwing a punch, loses lots of health from being hit, and so on.

I realize that half the fun in the combat these games offer is in the very act of leveling-up, and if you start off as all-powerful then there’s nowhere to go and it’s not as appealing.  But it’s still a really strange clash in narrative and gameplay.

But you can level Tatsuya up soon.  Unfortunately, the fighting in this game just isn’t as good as it was in Black Panther 1.  It works basically the same, but it doesn’t feel as responsive, and because you start off so weak, you will get your ass handed to you a lot at the beginning.  In fact you will have to learn to avoid and run away from certain enemies before you level-up enough to face them.

Once you do, however, it gets more fun.  The story also takes a very long time to start making sense and to become meaningful.  This reminds me of how the stories in Yakuza 3 and 4 played out, with me not really understanding everything that was going on.  But there’s a point about three quarters of the way through this game when everything you’ve been wondering about seems to just coalesce.  Then this story stands up to be one of the best in the series too.  I’d put it above those in Yakuza 3 and 4 even.

The graphics here are improved from the first game, and so is the overall presentation.  Tatsuya gets to roam around two cities instead of one, and there are some really fun mini games and sub-stories here too.  This game also introduces the significance of leopard print in Sotenbori… so keep that in mind when you play Yakuza 5.

I played through this one in a total of 41 hours.  My rating for this one is 8.5, because it’s just not as immediately fun and satisfying to fight your opponents this time around.  Everything else is a bit bigger and better in quality, but where’s Saki?  In any case, I had to adjust some emulator settings to make it through a couple of “chase” scenes, due to the emulator increasing the playable frame rate past what the original PSP could muster.  But it is perfectly playable, so don’t hesitate to get this one too.

Yakuza 5 (2012, PlayStation 3)

Another divisive Yakuza game, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Yakuza 5 takes the “multiple protagonists that match the number on the box” premise and ups it to five… so you play as Kiryu, Akiyama, Saejima, a new character named Tatsuo Shinada, and for the first time Haruka Sawamura.  If you’ve played any of these games from 1 through 4, you’re well aware of who Haruka is.

This ability and actual requirement to play as all five characters in sequence is something that puts people off of this game, because it makes it a very, very long experience.  If you’re going to play this, you should have at least played through 1, 2, 3, and 4, and have set aside a lot of time for this one.  It can be the longest Yakuza game to play, depending on how much time you spend on mini-games and sub-stories.

But I loved it.  It tells a rather sad story, actually, which sees the player starting out as Kiryu.  To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that next you must play as Saijema, then Haruka, then Akiyama, then finally Shinada.  All of these separate tales eventually lead into a story that ties them all together in a very satisfying way at the end, but it does take a long time to get there.  It is a great story though, and it left me contemplating characters, motivations, and actions long after I had finished playing through it.  I personally think it’s one of the best – if not the best – stories in the entire series.

The beat-em-up combat in this game is mostly the same as in Yakuza 4, and of course each character has their own style of brawling.  Except Haruka.  Little girls can’t be expected to go around beating gangsters up in a video game, now can they?  Instead of brawling, Haruka’s thing is dancing.  And you must do it.  And I didn’t want to.  But I eventually learned how, and I eventually loved doing it.  Props to Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio for making a teenage Japanese girl dancing some kick-ass fun video gaming.

I should mention now that I played the PS3 version, not the remake for the PS4 or PC.  I did this because I wanted to experience these games in their original forms (or as close to) at the time they were released.  This was hard to pull off for Yakuza 5, because it never got a physical release outside of Japan for the PlayStation 3.  I had to connect my PS3 online, get a PSN account, and then go through the Byzantine, labyrinthine and convoluted process of buying a game on the PS3 store in the year of our lord 2022.

It took me 90 minutes.  I don’t mean 90 seconds, and I don’t mean the download took 90 minutes.  No, it actually took me an hour and a god damned half just to jump through all the hoops Sony has in place now for adding a game to your cart on a PS3, adding funds to your wallet on a PS4, trying to fix a long-standing bug with a credit card issue on your PS4, and finally actually purchasing something from the PS3 with funds in your PSN wallet on the PS3 store.  And like I said, that entire process took 90 minutes.

Sony really doesn’t want anyone using the PS3 store.

But after I got it downloaded and installed, it was easily one of the best looking PS3 games I’ve ever seen.  In fact, speaking strictly about art direction, animation, and just overall look of the game, the PS3 version of Yakuza 5 is still the best looking Yakuza game I’ve played.

And I played a good 74 hours of it.  The story was moving, and felt the most satisfying and hard-hitting when it finally concluded after all that time spent with such realistically-written and likable protagonists.  This is another game that I want to go and play again, though not all the way through in story mode.  Yakuza 5 gets a 9 out of 10 rating from me.  I think you may be seeing now why so many people call these games great and phenomenal… they truly are.

Yakuza 0 (2015, PlayStation 4)

Most people consider this to be the best of these first Yakuza games, and the perfect entry point for new players to the series.  I don’t agree with either of these points, but I can see why people would say these things.

Yakuza 0 is a prequel, and the title also has a deeper significance to the story of the two characters you will play as – Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.  I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.

Since this is a prequel, the story of the game takes place in 1988, when both characters were much younger than you’ve really ever seen them before, except in flashbacks.  The story and theme of the game centers around the “bubble economy” in Japan at the time, where money seemed to be plentiful for everyone.  Money is central to this game’s plot and mechanics, which is a switch-up from the way that every other game handles certain things.

I played the PS4 version of this, and I have to say it.  I think this game looks and plays a lot worse than most games in the series.  I’m talking about graphics, and specifically asset pop-in when I say it’s a bad-looking game.  After playing Yakuza 5, which I think is one of the best looking PS3 games I’ve ever seen, every scene in this game looked like a sharp and detailed rendering of characters on a sloppy and unfinished background.  It’s like the jump from 720p to 1080p made the characters and their clothes more detailed at the expense of everything around them.

That asset pop-in is by far the worst I’ve seen in a video game too.  Detailed textures for NPC hair and for garbage bags along the street are the most noticeable.  In fact it’s impossible not to notice the way that they suddenly pop-in when you get near.  It’s very distracting, and even worse than the notorious pop-in present in Sonic Frontiers, which I’ve also played on this PS4.

To harp on graphics a bit more, I’m certain that this game was unfinished when it was released.  Some cutscenes feature barely animated characters with text and hand drawn backgrounds.  The first time I saw that, I thought it was a strange artistic decision.  But the more I played and noticed graphical problems, the more I thought otherwise.  There is a particular fight scene in a homeless camp that looks like it was taken straight off the computer after rendering without any adjustments or touch-ups at all.  A scene right after that with a blue van driving down a highway looks like something made by an amateur 3D animator.  There is almost no lighting or texturing as the weird looking van just zooms down the highway.

It’s sad to realize that this game is unfinished, because otherwise it is a very fun and enjoyable game.  Graphical issues can distract from the immersion a bit, but they aren’t enough to break the game.  What truly does break the game is the awful, awful combat.

Yakuza 0 has the worst beat-em-up combat out of any of these games I’ve played so far, and that is truly a shame.  The problem stems from the way that the NPC characters react to getting hit.  It’s by far the most realistic up to this point, but it makes them kind of wander and fly all over the place during battles.  To compensate, the combat system makes the player automatically face whichever NPC is being battled with, so that feeling of precise control during combat is just gone.  It turns into button mashing and timing more than anything.

But don’t get the impression that this is a bad game, because it isn’t.  There is so much fun to have with this game it’s insane.  Yakuza 0 has by far the most and deepest mini-games and sub-stories, and it has by far the funniest content in the entire series.  There’s a reason why so many memes and videos of the Yakuza series are from this game.

The story is great too.  In typical Yakuza fashion, it takes a while to set up and fully develop, but by about a quarter of the way in, you’ll be fully invested in it.  You’ll want to come back to playing this just to see how the story develops.

I personally spent 90 hours playing Yakuza 0 – which is the most amount of time I’ve spent so far playing one of these games.  It is yet another of these games with content that will keep me coming back, and I rate it an 8 out of 10.  I wonder if the PC version fixes or mitigates the graphical and combat control issues, but as it stands, the PS4 version simply wasn’t the best in the series for me.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (2016. PlayStation 4)

The final entry in the story of Kazuma Kiryu, and the game I just finished playing through last night.  I have mixed feelings about the story of this game – it’s not really a happy ending for Kiryu.  But it was fun to play for the most part, and I think it was extremely well written and voice acted.

I’m also relieved that the “multiple protagonists that match the number on the box” shtick wasn’t used for this one.  It would have been 120 hours long and featured a half dozen playable characters.  No, in this one you play as Kazima Kiryu again, though some series recurring characters do make appearances and help you go along on missions.

This one I kind of rushed through, to be honest.  After playing through such excellently crafted games as the ones I described before, Yakuza 6 just didn’t feel like a well-made quality game to me.  This one is the heaviest in cutscenes to tell its story, and even many of the key battles are interspersed with cutscenes that show the fight going on, rather than letting you actually participate in it.  This allows for some really spectacular moments, but it also takes away an element of control and immersion for the player.

I didn’t particularly care for the way that the in-game menu was turned into a smartphone to modernize everything.  I actually missed all the payphones, and I even missed having to go to a payphone to save my game.  But beyond that, I wasn’t a fan of how leveling up occurred and how skills were gained.  I got used to it, but it didn’t make me really feel like I was engaged in the action or the story.

I also have to complain about the way this game looks.  It’s not so much about the graphics this time, as to the way certain NPCs are animated.  Outside of key cutscenes with full motion capture, the NPCs in this game have very stiff and basic animations.  Sometimes only their mouths move when they talk, making them look like puppets.  It’s very odd-looking.

Many of those story cutscenes have a very weird feeling to them as well.  The character timing seems off somehow, as if the scenes weren’t properly directed or fine-tuned after first being made.  All of the previous games had cutscenes that flowed like real conversations and confrontations between the characters.  In this game, it often feels stilted and halting.

There was also some disappointment in the new map used for Kamurocho.  Much of the city was permanently blocked off and inaccessible by construction barriers.  We usually see this in games that block off a portion of the map until a certain stage, but in Yakuza 6, these barriers never went away.  It left me wondering why and made me miss the slightly larger map I had access to in all the previous games before.

The story of Yakuza 6 is typically slow to start, but it really pays off at the end.  Like I said, it’s half tragic and half hopeful… so bittersweet.  I suppose it would have been kind of unrealistic to repeat the sort of happily-ever-after ending that Yakuza 2 had, seeing as how that ending had to be basically ignored for anything deep and meaningful to happen after it.

As for the combat, it is much improved over what was present in Yakuza 0.  That auto-facing hooey is no longer an issue, and I felt like I had more actual control over the moves Kiryu was making when I fought as him.  It’s still not as great as the lofty heights reached by the very first game, Black Panther 1, and Yakuza 4 and 5.

So I rate this a 7.5 out of 10, and only spent 27 hours in it.  I’ll probably come back to it to check out some of the mini-games, many of which I skipped entirely.

Recap and final thoughts

It took me nearly 10 months to play through all these games.  I spent around two hours each evening playing these games, and I am so glad that I finally put in the time and effort to play through them.  These Yakuza games have honestly been one of the greatest video gaming experiences of my life, and I’m really looking forward to playing the seven games (series or spinoff) that I have yet to get to.

The topic of which game to start with is often brought up for new players, and the most common suggestion is to start with Yakuza 0, then Kiwami, Kiwami 2, Yakuza 3, and so on.

I can see how that would be a great way to go, especially if you play on PC, and don’t have a used PS2, PS3, and PS4 sitting on your shelf like I do.  But I think there is a great time to be had by experiencing these games in their original versions, by release order.  It makes the game-to-game improvements in graphics and gameplay that much more appreciable, and it also makes Yakuza 0 more special as the prequel and flashback that it was intended to be.

But however you choose to play these games, don’t hesitate any longer.  Now is the perfect time to get them and to start playing through them.  Hell, they’re even on sale right now as we speak on GOG.com.  I mean, %70 off for all the games?  You’ll be glad you started Kiryu’s amazing adventure, with all the laughs and tears it brings along the way.