I’m a picky guy. It’s basically my job to examine and criticize works. Over the past year, after poking and prodding about what I’d dive into and obsess over next, I came across a video from one of the Youtube channels I regularly watch on a game called “Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.” The Yakuza series are open-world crime dramas with a heavy focus on a compelling narrative.
Now, I’ve always been a fan of crime dramas. The books I read are often crime based, such as the Tracy Crosswhite series. I also enjoy fighting games, I just tend to not be great at them, which is a tragedy. Yakuza is the hidden gem I just so happened to wander into, and now I can’t stop recommending it.
The majority of the Yakuza series focuses on a Yakuza of the Tojo Clan by the name of Kazama Kiryu, the legendary Dragon of Dojima, as he tries to navigate conflicts that threaten his clan and family. It possesses an excellent narrative and a likable protagonist that lives by a strong set of morals in a criminal world which creates an intriguing dynamic between him and the other characters.
It’s heavily focused on hand-to-hand combat, and I don’t know what’s cooler than roundhouse kicking someone in the face and then immediately slamming someone’s head into a cement wall. Then when wondering the streets, Kiryu can suddenly be pulled off the streets to partake in some random encounters in what are the games substories and provide a break from the usually tense story.
Yakuza has a long and established history. The original Yakuza game was released 2005, and there have since been six other main entries to the series with Yakuza 1 and 2 receiving remakes. It should be noted the games are in Japanese and only have English subtitles.
I would’ve started the series with Yakuza Kiwami in early 2018, and I’ve since completed that game along with Kiwami 2, 6, and Zero. I don’t normally just blow through games in such a manner. I’m a frugal guy, even with video games. I only shop at Safeway so I can use my parent’s membership to get discounts, but I enjoyed them so much and the only reason I haven’t played the others is that they aren’t as readily available in the United States.
So would I recommend it? Absolutely. If you like strong narratives with over-the-top hand-to-hand combat and a lot of heart, you will like this series. So, if you decided to take my advice, start with Yakuza Zero, learn from my mistakes, start it the way it deserves.