Some video game franchises need to be put on a permanent retirement while others manage to thrive with every installment that’s released. So far gamers have been lucky to receive six Yakuza games and now the next installment is about to drop. So will the fifth core entry in the Yakuza entry result in the series hitting an all-time high or will it prove that Toshihiro Nagoshi and the team at Sega need to give the gangster filled world of Yakuza a break?
Thanks to Famitsu we have our first details on Yakuza 5, which in Japan goes by the full title Yakuza 5: Person Who Fulfills Dreams. The title of the game may sound silly but it does somewhat echo the rather large scope and shift to telling a wider range of stories compared to previous Yakuza games. The last time gamers saw the Yakuza series it was in the zombie filled, action packed game that was Yakuza: Of The End, a game which was fun but was silly even for Yakuza standards. Thankfully the development team has opted to retain the roots of the Yakuza series but in turn is attempting to provide a wholly new experience that could result in the best entry of the series.
Toshihiro Nagoshi and Team Yakuza are aiming big with Yakuza 5 as it’s basically quadrupling everything in the game. No, we sadly won’t be able to exploring a city that’s five times the size of Kamurocho, but instead we’ll be able to explore five entirely unique cities – all of which are based on real cities in Japan (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukoka, and Sapporo). To go along with the five locations in the game, gamers will be able to play as five different characters; a mixture of which include some familiar faces and completely new characters.
Series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu will of course be returning in Yakuza 5 but this time he’ll be joined by Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and the surprise addition of Haruka. Last seen in Yakuza 5, Haruka will no longer be an innocent school girl as she’ll be a playable character who may or may not have her own bit of martial arts based action. Haruka’s involvement in Yakuza 5 could include some new gameplay elements as her plot in the game involves her quest to become an idol and subsequently uncovering the shady practices of her talent agency. Will Yakuza fans need to put their detective hats on for some mystery action whilst playing as Haruka or will Toshihiro Nagoshi merely give us tons of karaoke and gratuitous bikini sections with no real explanation?
New to the Yakuza series is the character of Shinda. Unlike some of the other characters in the Yakuza universe, Shinda doesn’t have any apparent immediate criminal ties as he’s a former baseball player that was unjustly given a life ban due to betting allegations. Shinda’s background hasn’t been filled in completely, but his story in the game will revolve around trying to clear his name and pull himself out of a debt situation that may or may not involve those threatening types that like to break legs when they’re not paid on time.
Yakuza 5 may sound like more of the same so far, which honestly isn’t that bad of a thing, but the game could offer a lot more than what we’re used to. According to the interview Famitsu conducted, Yakuza 5 has had double the development time of previous installments in the series so it simply isn’t a quick project meant to fulfill whatever sales goals Sega has. Internally amongst the dev team Yakuza 5 has been dubbed “New Yakuza” so that bodes well for gamers who were hoping that the series would break the established formula ever so slightly as things did begin to get slightly repetitive if not entirely predictable.
Sega didn’t give a timeline as to when we would receive a trailer for Yakuza 5 but I would imagine the game will receive a full media blowout at TGS this year. I’ll admit that as a Yakuza fan I was beginning to worry about the direction Sega was going to take the series in, especially considering the recent financial blow the company received, but I’m thrilled to see the franchise evolve and expand in a way that could essentially change how we experience a Yakuza adventure.