The Yakuza franchise has been the longest running new franchise launched by SEGA since going 3rd party, with the first one being released in Japan back on December 8, 2005. The franchise has received seven main entries, one remake, a bunch of spin-offs, and even a full featured length film. SEGA has made a huge deal about the franchise coming to an end, in the past, but seem to have continued churning out games. Yakuza 6 promises to be the end of Kazuma Kiryu’s story while at the same time SEGA has promised that the franchise would continue after Yakuza 6. On this week’s Round Table we ask should the Yakuza franchise end after Yakuza 6?
Yakuza has constantly been one of Sega’s best selling and critically acclaimed titles, but there comes a time when you have to reevaluate where else you can take such a fantastic series. Following the conclusion of the legend of Kazuma Kiryu it’s only natural that it’s time to call, well, time on the series. My personal opinion is mixed, on one hand, I firmly believe Kiryu was the heart of the series in ways not a lot of protagonists are, he oozes style and the feeling you were a badass yakuza with the heart of gold. To take him out of the equation for a series named after him, the Dragon of Dojima, means that naturally a series called “Like a Dragon” should come to it’s timely conclusion.
But on the other hand, Kamurocho was the soul of the series and to give up seeing the interaction with all the residents of the area will be sad. This is a series where NPCs who were a sidestory in the previous game might return with his older, faster, more dodgy brother to dodge your attacks or how the ramen shop owner asks you for help. There’s a lot of character to the seedy city of Kamurocho. Above all else there just isn’t another series like Yakuza on the market, brawlers have gone the way of the dinosaurs and this series remains to be the last one standing with it’s hybrid of RPG and beat em up mechanics. For Sega to move on from a series that is effectively one of a kind would leave a market they’ve slowly cultivated as completely starved although as the series seems to have reached it’s limits, perhaps this is as much as they can offer us. I mentioned how I’d be sadden not visiting Kamurocho again without the heart, Kiryu, would it have the same effect? Would watching a new character interacting with some of the side characters be as enjoyble as Kazuma and would I even want to retread meeting them?
Thinking long and hard about the future of a series that has grown from being one of my favorite, to my favorite gaming franchise is difficult. What I will say is this. Kazuma Kiryu and Kamurocho is almost inseparable from this franchise and without either and even on relying on fan favorites such as Akiyama or Osaka, will not have the same for me. When I think about it like that, yes, it’s time for Sega to move on from the Yakuza franchise. But then I think, I loved what the series accomplished, I loved how you saw characters age and grow up. I loved how the city slowly developed and changed, I loved how NPCs who are just shop owners would have their own story that span a couple of games and I loved the combat, there is just so much to talk about what the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did right with this series.
I will close off with saying this, Kazuma Kiryu’s story is over and so, I believe, perhaps even our adventures in Kamurocho. But that does not mean the series should be concluded, I think that what the team has designed should be expanded on but with an entirely new cast and new location completely independent from the legacy of the Dragon of Dojima and the constant infighting occurring within the Tojo Clan, yes I’m asking for a clean slate and if SEGA can provide us with such I think the series should continue. Without the restriction of what we consider “Yakuza” and the basis of moving the series forward to allow it to remain fresh. But if we’re going back to our old stomping ground of Kamurocho, dealing with the the problems of the Tojo Clan with a new protagonist, even a returning character other than Kiryu, then for me it’s time to call time on the series.
Barry the Nomad says:
SEGA has never had a solid track record when it comes to longtime support of its home console franchises. Often, a franchise will last two to three titles spanning one or two console generations and then go dormant for years, only to appear as the latest Data Disc release or cameo in an All-Stars title. Typically the reason for this is that either the titles did not meet SEGA’s sales expectations, they were a strain on SEGA’s finances, or the creators simply wanted to move on to something else.
In the case of Yakuza, I’ve long felt that the creators were attempting to wind the franchise down. Binary Domain felt like the team exploring other genres and a potential new franchise while Yakuza 6’s finality of Kazuma’s story was very much an end. However, hearing that the team has two to three more titles in the works was not a surprise. Outside of Sonic, SEGA rarely finds a franchise that they fully own seeing sales numbers like Yakuza. What more, I feel that the team behind the Yakuza series genuinely love the world and characters.
Yakuza 0 was my first real experience with the franchise, I don’t count renting the first two Yakuza titles years back, and if this is what the development team can pull off six titles into the main franchise then my answer is: No, please don’t stop! I feel that since the announcement of Yakuza 5 coming west, there has been a resurgence for the franchise with many new fans coming on board. While the franchise may be twelve years old, for many it feels more like two years. While I do think ending Kazuma’s story is appropriate, I think there is still a lot that can be done with the Yakuza games. New settings, new decades and new characters can do a lot to keep the series fresh, and I also believe that a Kiwami 2 is much needed.
Its a hard question, what does it mean to continue the Yakuza franchise? As most of you are aware, I’m a huge Yakuza fan and have been following the franchise since the first one was first shown off in Japan. I waited in hopes that each title would make it over and to be honest we got way more Yakuza games brought west than I ever thought we’d see. Though it seems that now with the critical acclaim that Yakuza 0 got over here in the west, that the franchise has been doing better than ever. SEGA West even has Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6 planned for released in the upcoming months, so the question is should the Yakuza franchise end after Yakuza 6?
I think that the story should end at Yakuza 6. I know, there will be many Yakuza fans moaning and naming a ton of characters that could take Kazuma’s place. Like Aki-at said, there isn’t anyone that can take his place and trying might hurt the legacy of the Yakuza brand. We have seen many times, especially in TV shows, when they try to continue a successful franchise without the main stars and its usually never a great turnout. For example Scrubs, The Office, That 70s Show, and even the short lived Friends spin-off ‘Joey’. I love the Yakuza franchise, I’d rather have the story end with a bang then with a whimper and a new entry that just makes fans hate SEGA.
That doesn’t mean that the franchise couldn’t continue in some other way. I would say a few avenues that are easy money is remaking Yakuza 2 like they are doing with the first title as Yakuza Kiwami, maybe creating another prequel game to flesh out more relationships the way they did with Yakuza 0 and things like that. I feel like continuing the franchise without Kazuma Kiryu would be a huge mistake for the studio.