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Review

Yakuza 5 Review

  • First Released Dec 8, 2015
    released
  • Reviewed Dec 9, 2015
  • PS3

Tokyo Funderworld

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Diving back into Japan’s criminal underworld with Yakuza mainstay Kazuma Kiryu as its narrative anchor is like jumping into another season of a well-received cable TV drama. It usually doesn’t take eight years for a show to reach its fifth season but Yakuza 5 was worth the wait. It even manages to be more feature-rich than its predecessors thanks to a robust set of stories and minigames spread across multiple urban districts across Japan. Savoring Yakuza 5 is about being pulled in by not only its woven plotlines and energetic combat, but also the numerous activities that bring its world to life.

Just like the games of Brendan McNamara (The Getaway, L.A. Noire), the Yakuza series has always belonged at that end of the urban open world game spectrum where gameplay takes a backseat to story. We’re talking about Metal Gear Solid levels of exposition through lengthy cutscenes. Yakuza 5’s heavy themes of honor among criminals and workplace loyalty are aptly presented through the lens and production values of a big budget TV show, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with any game outside this series that features this much melodramatic piano music.

Kazuma Kiryu hasn’t aged much since the original Yakuza, and he's never looked better.
Kazuma Kiryu hasn’t aged much since the original Yakuza, and he's never looked better.

If there’s one key feature from Yakuza 4 that this sequel capitalizes on, it is the value of having multiple stories. As much as Kazuma Kiryu could be effective as a solo protagonist, having four other playable characters, each with their own lengthy and fleshed-out storylines, adds immense value to Yakuza 5. These journeys are personal, and plot threads intertwine like those of a Tarantino film, and converge at the end like a narrative Voltron.

Kazuma kicks off Yakuza 5 on an intriguing note: disguised as a taxi driver making a modest living in Fukuoka. Between highway racing challenges and standard driving missions, there’s a lot of entertaining taxi gameplay to distract you from the story for hours. Unlike other games of its ilk, Yakuza 5 treats driving around city streets as a challenge, with strict traffic laws to follow--until you get on the highways, where anything goes. Another chapter puts you in the shoes of ex-con Taiga Saejima, deep in a snowy forest and far away from the game's concrete jungles This leads to a surprisingly engrossing hunting minigame where stalking prey without startling them is harder than it looks--especially when the intensity of snowfall fluctuates frequently--causing you to take a breath and compose yourself before every shot.

Although Yakuza 5 never attempts to be a real simulation of life in Japan, the areas of selective realism within are one of its biggest draws.

Taxi racing and hunting are just two of myriad diversions that support Yakuza 5's tale, and with over two dozen types of minigames, there's a lot to discover when you're out and about. It’s brilliant that arcades in the game feature an arcade-perfect version of Virtua Fighter 2 and that Namco Bandai’s Taiko Drum Master exists, even if it only has a three-song playlist. Casino games like poker and baccarat are well-represented, as are traditional sports practice areas like batting centers and driving ranges. When enduring the failure of my fifth attempt at grabbing a plush toy from a UFO Catcher, I couldn’t help by recall my struggles at the similar games of chance in Shenmue, and in real life.

Yakuza 5 is the closest thing we'll get to a proper Taxi Driver video game.
Yakuza 5 is the closest thing we'll get to a proper Taxi Driver video game.

Nothing in Yakuza 5 underscores the series’ passage of time more than Haruka Sawamura’s story arc. Originally the young girl who was the plot’s focal point in the first game, she is now sixteen years old. Her continued and consistent relevance in the series serves as one of the many rewards to fans who have followed Yakuza since the first game. In Haruka's world, there is only one sensible career path for a Japanese teenage girl: idol singer. I afforded myself one eyeroll at this unoriginal premise before I wholeheartedly jumped into the early stages of her burgeoning career.

Given the series’ history with rhythm-based action, mostly through karaoke, this chapter will be familiar to Yakuza fans. It’s not just about matching button inputs to on-screen prompts during a practice session in the dance studio. There are meet-and-greets with fans, appearances on various TV shows, and even dance-offs in the streets.

Haruka’s songs are more infectious and tolerable than anything by Sega's Hatsune Miku.
Haruka’s songs are more infectious and tolerable than anything by Sega's Hatsune Miku.

Haruka’s variety show appearances are impressively authentic, not just with the banter between her and the host, but also with the lighting and camerawork. It’s not for everybody, but it's a welcome interlude from the heavy doses of suspense and intrigue in the other plotlines. Still, Yakuza 5 never veers too far from the beaten path, with Rival idols and conflicts with competing management companies providing a dash of drama to Haruka's tale.

Although Yakuza 5 never attempts to be a real simulation of life in Japan, the areas of selective realism within are one of its biggest draws. I still remember walking into a convenience store in the first game and admiring the level of detail, from the magazines to the bright and unflattering overhead lighting. This and many other types of business look all the more detailed in Yakuza 5, right down to the pastel color schemes in the pharmacies. And as much as one can survive the game’s more hostile sections with a boost from energy drinks, sometimes you just want a bowl of health-replenishing ramen or curry. Given all of Yakuza 5’s urban attractions and the vibrancy of most of its various large locales, you’d think that Sega received a subsidy from the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The core combat in Yakuza 5 is mostly unchanged since the first game and it’s a credit to the series that this hasn’t become totally stale after all these years. Fans will immediately recognize Kazuma’s fighting animations, especially when he’s smashing opponents’ faces with a unusual weapons, including the likes of a bicycle. The tried-and-tested combat serves Yakuza 5 well, but without any type of counter system for self-defense, it shows its age.

You’d be surprised what Taiga Saejima can pick up.
You’d be surprised what Taiga Saejima can pick up.

Make no mistake, though, there is depth to Yakuza 5's combat. Throws, dodges, and opportunities to learn new moves ensure that fights aren't a one-dimensional affair. The series was one of the first street brawlers to include context-sensitive environmental finishing moves, a feature that was improved upon by United Front Games’ Sleeping Dogs, and it's put to great use here. Smashing a thug’s face on the side of a building never gets old; it always looks brutal, but more importantly, it offers a gratifying sense of finality to a fight. As much as you can mash your way to victory with quick attacks, these deadlier moves are doubly effective in scaring off the other gangsters, turning a sixty-second brawl into a fifteen-second display of intimidating might. Of course, moments of slapstick complement the harsh side of combat, including the use of an injured foe as a weapon against his unfortunate buddies, adding insult to injury.

Yakuza 5 makes up for its modest shortcomings with enthralling diversions and eye-popping settings that compel one to look at travel deals to Japan.

While playing the prior games isn’t a prerequisite, loyal fans who have followed the Yakuza series up to this point will feel rewarded with every throwback, whether it’s the return of a supporting character or a revisit to a ramen shop that has remained in business for multiple games. Even if melee combat lacks the sophistication of modern action games, Yakuza 5 makes up for its modest shortcomings with enthralling diversions and eye-popping settings that compel one to look at travel deals to Japan. Come for the stories, but stick around for Yakuza 5's world; it's unconventional in the best way possible

Back To Top
The Good
Engrossing storylines
A large variety of rich minigames
Numerous locales feel alive with activity and diversions galore
A generous pop idol chapter is a welcome surprise
Hard-hitting combat
The Bad
Combat mechanics show their age
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Miguel played Yakuza 5 for 45 hours before writing his review. He beat the main storylines, almost all the optional content, and achieved some degree of success in all the minigames. While not fluent in Japanese, Miguel imported and beat the original Yakuza (Ryu Ga Gotoku) long before its U.S. localisation was official, and has beat every other game in the series, including Dead souls. Sega provided a Miguel with an advanced copy of the game for his review.
241 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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thequickshooter

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awwwww for ****'s sake port it to PS4

i left ny ps3 in the a box somewhere in that attic and there is no way in hell i'm going through that dust field to extract it

why the hell do they still develop games for PS3 anyway:? it's a dead console

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negikogok

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@thequickshooter: how about checking out the release date of the jp version

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k41m

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Edited By k41m

Anyway to get this on the PS4? Hopefully..

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kazeswen

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Kiryuu has the pimpest jacket in this game. Looked all over for that exact jacket and was never able to find one exactly the same. Shame.

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Seven7Swords

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I have been kind of holding out hoping that they would port this to PS4 but I am about to cave and just dig up my PS3 and download it. This looks to be the best Yakuza game yet! I hope you can play as Kariyama (SP?) The kicking guy was my favorite in 4, can't remember how to spell his name.

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BluMiu

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@seven7swords: Akiyama

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Hurvl

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"Sega provided a Miguel with an advanced copy of the game for his review" What!? They provided "a Miguel"? Sounds like they provided a clone of Miguel Concepcion, which would make this review suspiciously non-biased. I guess gaming companies and the mob does anything to get more money.

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DJRyuuji_Fury17

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I loved this game and you will too.

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agrippa86

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Meh looking

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kazeswen

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Edited By kazeswen

These photos are pretty meh.

You need to see the game in action, where you can spit a cigarette butt into some dudes face and plant a foot into his groin.

This game is brutal, they do shit in this game that you can't get away with in the west. Like open a brothel and pimp girls out, literally buy them dresses so they can earn you more money.

You missing out, Japan's best kept secret. Chain smoking, face curbing, girl pimping goodness that only a country like Japan can release.

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thequickshooter

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@kazeswen: any chance of this game getting ported to PS4 or vita?

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Skinon

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@kazeswen: That speil has made me wanna buy it..

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kazeswen

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@Skinon: Forgot to tell you, you gain XP by sleeping with hi-end escorts all around town, and going to massage parlors to get your happy ending. Yes, you literally gain XP by whoring around. Only in Japan.

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GameYakuza

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@agrippa86: fun playing

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Erhre

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@stanrezaee: PS4 wasn't even a thing when this game came out.

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deactivated-5a0b0bf0c8fa5

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Wish these came to PC.

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Erhre

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@repulsive44552: You wish everything was on PC you beggar.

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deactivated-5a0b0bf0c8fa5

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@erhre: Yet I have a PS3.

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zinten

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@repulsive44552: its sega we are talking about, we had to beg them for years just for them to release the game to the west, maybe a decade more and we might convince them that there are gamers on pc that would like to play it.

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PutASpongeOn

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@zinten: The game is not comign to pc.

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kazeswen

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@putaspongeon: CEO of SEGA: P...what?

ASSISTANT: Its something white people play games on.

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chemicalegypt

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Edited By chemicalegypt

If people are looking for the real value then this game delivers. 50+ hours and still havent finished the storyline. We have this game and then theres battlefront.


Does anyone know if it is coming in hard copies anytime soon ?

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chemicalegypt

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@stanrezaee: im comparing to battlefront because it has no value compared to yakuza

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ConsoleHaven

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@chemicalegypt: While I appreciate all the effort that goes into these kind of sprawling, epic videogames, I personally don't have more than 15-20 hours to spend on a game. I still buy them, but I kind of wish there was a little less content, compressed into an engrossing experience from start to finish, so that I could go through the games I buy... Anyone else feel the same?

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JohnBasedow1

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@consolehaven: Yep, agree on that one. Although right now I am 100 hours on Dragon Age Inquisition and haven't finished it. I love it but the long games end up taking months and months to finish with other time demands.

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Jim_Peterson

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@consolehaven: Agreed. I'd rather shorter, higher quality experiences.

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keichimorisato9

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@consolehaven: Bayonetta 2, it's about 13-15 hours long, mostly concerned about mastery of the mechanics, and once you beat the game, you can select which levels you want to play.

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sploitz85

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PS3? What a waste of development time and resources.

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Taku128

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@sploitz85: This game came out in Japan in 2012, the PS4 was still a year away.

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sethfrost

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Edited By sethfrost

Anyone knows, if this game is loading new areas every 10 seconds? I have bad memories from the prior games.

"Play a minute - load a minute"?

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keichimorisato9

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@sethfrost: if you mean the first two games, no you don't need to.

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k41m

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Wait, this is only on the PS3? To quote the AVGN.. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!

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Warlord_Irochi

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@k41m: Game is from 2012. PS4 was not in the market yet.

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keichimorisato9

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@k41m: that it would be too expensive to port to the PS4.

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GoodGamesGuy

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All the negative comments in here are from Xbots who never played the game that are salty no new 360 games have came out for the last 3 years. Pay them no mind.

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hahamanin

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@goodgamesguy: no new 360 games have come out?? ur just another fanboy look up rise of the tomb raider is available on 360 too

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Warlord_Irochi

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@goodgamesguy: Aren't you doing something equally out of place by posting that? an attempt to start some kind of flame?

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Cristero

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I'm gonna have to dust off my PS2, but it will be worth the effort to play this awesome game.

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GameYakuza

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@Cristero: you could just play on an emulator (yes, it's legal)

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keichimorisato9

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@Cristero: the first games are fantastic games, i don't see why it should be that much of a problem.

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Kunakai

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@Cristero: Either I've missed something, or you have! Isn't this a PS3 exclusive?

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PETERAKO

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@Kunakai: This is propably sarcasam.

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BLACKx114

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Why does someone else always stand in for Miguel on video reviews?

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Edited By finchfinch

@blackx114: I'm a freelancer (though I did start my career at the Adam Sessler-hosted Gamespot TV in 2000).

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Boerew0rs

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Reads like a 9... Plays like a 10

Yakuza 5 More Info

Follow
  • First Released Dec 8, 2015
    released
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Yakuza 5 continues the epic story of Kazuma Kiryu and 4 other protagonists, Haruka Sawamura, Taiga Saejima, Tatsuo Shinada and Shun Akiyama. The saga plays out across 5 major Japanese cities – Tokyo, Osaka, Hakata, Nagoya and Sapporo.
    7.8
    Average Rating46 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Yakuza 5
    Developed by:
    Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
    Published by:
    Sega
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Theme(s):
    Modern
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature