Admittedly, the Yakuza games are not necessarily the first ones I would have thought of for a current generation remaster. That being said, this collection does bring episodes 3, 4 and 5 together rather nicely and serve up a large helping of quality gameplay that is absolutely worth playing – especially if you missed these titles the first time around.
All three of these titles were PlayStation 3 ones, which is why I opened with the statement I did. Generally speaking, I still have a fairly robust PlayStation 3 collection, with many titles such as these games already apart of it. So those looking for a complete remake where a ton of things are changed? Well, you’re not going to find that here. Instead what you will get is a packaging of three games at a really good price, that install separately on your machine and offer a visual update (1080p resolution and a smooth 60 fps), which mostly pays off during the combat which definitely feels better as a result.
Being the oldest game in the series, Yakuza 3 in some ways benefits the most from this remaster while still showing its age the most as well. The improvements are not as notable as the prior Yakuza Kiwami updates, but those titles came from the generation prior, so I would say that is to be expected.
Yakuza 3 follows the exploits of Kazuma Kiryu as he has tried to move on from his prior life and seems content to try and live out his days at the Sunshine Orphanage. However, as is the case with these games, it is only a matter of time until events pull him back into the fray. In many ways, the story of Yakuza 3 is one of my favorites in the series. The combat is a lot less satisfying than some of the later games, and like Yakuza 4 is not quite as expansive of an open-world experience as the last couple of games.
The next game in the series, Yakuza 4, made multiple improvements to the game’s systems. Combat becomes much more robust, and instead of simply following a single protagonist (Kazuma), the story flips between several characters. The concept is neat, but feels a bit rough around the edges at times. It presents different perspectives throughout the narrative, but it also tends to feel somewhat unfocused as a result. The Yakuza series has become rather well-known for its mini-games that provide plenty of ‘things to do’ outside of the central story, and Yakuza 4 certainly did this really well. One item of note for people who were familiar with this release in the series is that the character of Tanimura was recast for a handful of reasons. I found some of the four protagonists more engaging than others, but the story just did not hook me the way that Yakuza 3 did. This was never my favorite in the series, and this remaster did not change my opinion of that.
Yakuza 5 however, is where the series really hit its stride, in my opinion. It learned multiple lessons from Yakuza 4. Again we see the multiple protagonists (some returning, some new) and despite adding one more to the mix (upping the total to five), the story feels far tighter than the prior release. Part of this is due to how much larger this game is, giving each of the playable protagonists a little more time to breathe and develop. Of the three games, Yakuza 5 is the newest in the collection and as such feels the most modern and polished in this remaster. The other games took me a few dozen hours to play through everything that they had to offer, but Yakuza 5 can easily break the one hundred hour mark if you are interested in the numerous side quests. One quality of life improvement in this release is a better map that shows side quests right off of the bat. That makes it far easier to get lost in the extra content, which is where Yakuza 5 really shine.
It is also worth noting that all three games were touched up on the localization front. Some content that was originally cut out of the games has been put back in (not a significant amount, but it’s still a nice touch). Nothing dramatic or altering to the central narrative, but for such large, sprawling titles it is nice to have a little extra context. Obviously I did not get a chance to work through all three of these titles this time around before writing this review – there is just entirely too much content here for that unless I post the review in April. That being said, I spent a decent chunk of time with all three games and did not find anything to indicate they are anything other than a more polished version of what I had already thoroughly played on the PlayStation 3.