SEGA Sequel Saturdays: Yakuza 5

Hey guys, hope everyone in Internetland enjoyed their April Fools day! Welcome to Episode 11 of SEGA Sequel Saturdays. This week I’ll be expressing my thoughts on the (inevitable) sequel to a game that just released, Yakuza 4. SEGAbits’ official review will be up soon, but you can read my own opinion on Yakuza 4 at my blog, here. I feel that Yakuza 4’s a fun game with lots and lots to do and some great storytelling, but at the same time, its formula is really beginning to show its age. I don’t think Yakuza 5 is even worth announcing if we’re not going to be getting some big changes and updates, and here’s what I think they should be.

First and foremost, I think it’s time we see a new graphics engine, or, at the very least, an interface that doesn’t resemble Yakuza 3 as much as Yakuza 4’s does. The amazing sense of detail in the Yakuza series has always been its visual strong point, and it needs a graphics engine that can keep up technically with other current games on the platform.

With better visuals I think we need better presentation. These games pride themselves on their storytelling, and sure enough, the cutscenes that drive the plot forward are directed with great skill and they look fantastic. Then, though, you are taken right back out of the story when the cutscenes abruptly switch to voiceless text dialogue. Realistically, I know that it’s not feasible to expect every line of dialogue to be presented in these highly-detailed cutscenes; that would take years and cost more money than the game would realistically earn for SEGA. However, I feel that in Yakuzas 3 and 4, it’s at a point where every single cutscene is getting at least one interruption to text box conversations, and I think we need to see this trend begin to reverse in Yakuza 5.

Let’s take a step back from presentation for a minute, though. Yakuza 4’s most novel idea was the fact that you played as not one, but four characters over the course of the game. It was a system that I wouldn’t be totally opposed to having return in another installment, but I think it can be implemented in a different way. Rather than giving you 4 chapters in a block with each character, I’d rather have something more like the movie Crash, where it alternates between characters much more frequently. I’d want this for two reasons; it would make the overall story seem a bit more labyrinth and connected (and less like four separate stories,) and it would eliminate the slight feeling of disappointment that comes with having to level up the next guy from scratch after you’ve just finished leveling up your previous character.

The combat system, on the other hand, is pretty much fine the way it is. Granted, I definitely think we need more Heat Mode animations when using weapons, we need a way to use items in-game instead of having to interrupt the battle by pausing it, and I think it’s about time we see battles that are much easier to avoid. But aside from that, the combat system is one of the areas that I feel the Yakuza series has always done well in and can continue to do well in without any significant changes.

The location, though….that’s another story, and this is probably the thing I’d most like to see change. Each and every numbered Yakuza game has taken place primarily in Kamurocho. Let’s face it, even when Yakuzas 2 and 3 had us going back and forth between Kamurocho and another city, it was always true that there was significantly more to do and explore in Kamurocho. Which is understandable, as it really has become the main image of the series, as have its key locations like the Millennium Tower…and, I guess, it’s less work on the part of the development team. But in Yakuza 4 things have gotten a little too familiar for mey liking. Yakuza 5 needs to I think feature other cities that are just as compelling and fun to explore: maybe even offering more to explore. The area you have to explore in the Yakuza series is not small, but compared to the likes of other next gen open world games, it defiintely feels limited.

The question isn’t as much whether there will be another Yakuza game, but when. Each Yakuza installment so far has given us a memorable plot, great characters, an immersive and detailed city to explore, fun sidequests and mini-games, and an awesome combat system. Where the series needs the most help, though, is in improving its dated gameplay mechanics, (give us more to do to progress the plot than just walking from one location to another, or having to find that one person to talk to who will move things forward, or having to go through yet another segment where you fight your way up to the top of a building) and updating its somewhat rickety presentation. Add some new mini-games, spruce up the graphics, and give us more buildings to enter, and then I think we’d have everything covered. If SEGA does these things, we’ll finally have another Yakuza game that feels as fresh as the first one did back in 2006.

Agree, disagree, have your own ideas? Drop us some comments below.


5 responses to “SEGA Sequel Saturdays: Yakuza 5

  1. With Binary Domain hitting both 360 and PS3, I wonder if we won't see Yakuza 5 on both platforms?

  2. George says:

    Probably won't, if it comes out this generation. All Yakuza games have been Sony exclusives and everyone said 3 was coming to 360 and it hasn't. They are marketed toward Japan, where 360 doesn't matter too much.

    Barry you should have gotten the PS3, has some good exclusives like VC, Yakuza 3 and 4. I mean, you did get a pay raise and bought Kinect.

  3. Chaosmaster8753 says:

    Are you nervous about Ryu Ga Gotoku of the End (so what if I'm using the Japanese title? it hasn't even been announced outside of Japan), -nSEGA64-?

  4. I'll probably get a PS3 next year, once The Last Guardian hits. That and the Yakuza games are really the only PS3 exclusives I'm interested in. Still satisfied with Kinect, really enjoyed the launch titles I picked up and can't wait for Rise of Nightmares and Child of Eden.

    But yeah, speaking Yakuza 5, I agree that a new engine is a must. At least something that feels like an evolution rather than a straight sequel.

  5. -nSega54- says:

    "Are you nervous about Ryu Ga Gotoku of the End"

    I've got almost no interest in it, to be honest. The way the Yakuza release schedule seems to work is that Japan gets a new Yakuza game, and then at the same time, we get last year's edition. When Japan got Yakuza 4, we got Yakuza 3. When we got Yakuza 4, Japan was *supposed* to get Yakuza: Of the End.

    I'm assuming that this time next year Yakuza 5 will release in Japan, and I'd much rather just get that over here at the same time as Japan for a change instead of getting Of the End in March 2012 and then having to wait until March 2013 to play Yakuza 5.

    I guess what I'm saying lol is that I actually hope they don't localize Yakuza of the End. Or, if they do, that it won't stop us from getting Yakuza 5 at the same time as Japan. These games shouldn't take a full year to localize, they aren't even dubbed.

    But then again, since it looks like they don't even plan to release Of the End anytime soon, maybe I don't have much to worry about.

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