Bring on the remakes.
The Yakuza series has seen increasing popularity in the West in recent years, with Yakuza Zero attracting many new fans to the series. It was the perfect place to jump into a daunting series with multiple entries, functioning as a prequel to everything. This leads directly into Yakuza Kiwami, a full-blown remake of the very first game in the series. You can see what we thought of Yakuza Kiwami here, but basically it’s an incredibly impressive remake that really shows how far the series has come the last ten years. It also makes a case that Sega should really just work on remaking or remastering the entire series at this point.
In addition to the huge graphical update, certain small changes in Kiwami make the game flow better and become much more accessible. These are additions like full camera control, a reworked camera system, and even new story cutscenes. This provides incentive for three different types of players to jump in; those that started with Yakuza Zero, those brand new to the series, and those that have been fans since the beginning. However, as good as Yakuza Kiwami is, continuing with the rest of the series can feel a bit jarring afterward. Obviously jumping to Yakuza 2 will feel strange considering it’s bogged down with much of what the first game on PS2 was. At the same time, even jumping into Yakuza 3 can be strange as combat feels incredibly limited compared to Zero and Kiwami, and the title is filled with awkward animations and some slow exposition.
The good news is that Sega just recently announced a remake of Yakuza 2, the bad news being we don’t know if it’ll come to America. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is built on the Dragon engine used for Yakuza 6, an absolutely gorgeous engine that’s a tremendous leap over how the original looks. But why should Sega stop there? The entire Yakuza series could use an update, especially considering the amount of popularity its gained recently with Yakuza Zero. It’s become much more well known in the West, not to mention its consistent popularity in Japan.
The Yakuza team has honed their craft with each new entry, making each game a smoother and lengthier experience. Don’t get me wrong – Yakuza 4 and 5 are still great games to play, but with Kazuma Kiryu’s story now coming to an end and two games already remade, it seems like a sure enough step to keep on going. At the very least Sega could provide a graphical update to the three PS3 games, and put them out digitally or as a collection on the PS4.
New fans to the series may not have access to a PS2 or PS3, and putting all the games on a modern console makes it that much easier for newcomers to keep going with this lengthy series. Update the combat of each game, insert new cutscenes that clear up confusing plot points, or better yet, restructure some plot elements.
Part of the big focus in both Kiwami games has been to give Goro Majima, the fan favorite character, more of a central role. Majima Everywhere is a quirky and ridiculous system that fits the character in the first game, and it’s exciting to hear we get an entirely new story section focusing on him with Kiwami 2. Goro’s always been an important character, but ever since Zero we’ve seen the spotlight put more on him, as he well deserves. Goro and Kiryu’s relationship is by far one of the most fascinating aspects in the Yakuza series, and it’d be great to see that fleshed out even more as the timeline advances.
Beyond just making the other games accessible to new players, it could help the team introduce new story threads that might help figure out the direction the series goes from here. We know Yakuza isn’t done with, even if Kiryu’s story ends with Yakuza 6. At the same time they announced Kiwami 2, Sega also announced a new PC and mobile game called Yakuza Online, that brings a brand new protagonist named Ichiban Kasuga. Maybe we could start to see hints of what this protagonist is doing during the Kiryu saga, and what he’s all about.
The final thing to consider is that Sega could also try its hand at remastering spinoffs, not just the main saga. After all, no game is in need of a remake more than Yakuza: Dead Souls. This post apocalyptic ‘what if’ game puts Kiryu, Majima, and the others right in the heart of a zombie apocalypse. It’s a fun idea to be sure, but the title was absolutely plagued with repetitive design, wonky controls, and technical issues. These could easily be cleared up now with the new engine and abilities the team has developed since Dead Souls’ release.
This is especially true considering what the team learned with Binary Domain, a futuristic shooter with some interesting team mechanics, and solid shooting gameplay. There are definitely some fun interactions and alternate storylines in Dead Souls for fans of Yakuza, and it would be great to see those come back more fleshed out, and with decent gameplay behind them.
Yakuza as a series is a deep well of content, much of which hasn’t been released stateside. While the Yakuza team is looking toward the future, why not celebrate where they’ve gone this whole time and bring Kazuma Kiryu’s saga full circle? The series only seems to be gaining popularity and fans, and the team certainly has shown they know how to do a remake.