As a big fan of the Yakuza series, I was extremely excited to finally get my hands on The Yakuza Remastered Collection since I had previously missed Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 back on the PS3. After months of waiting, I finally got my hands on the collection when it released in full back in February. But then life happened. The COVID-19 outbreak hit and everything went on hold. I went from being an employee at my job to an essential worker. This required that I not only be in the office daily, but that I prepare equipment for hundreds of employees. Employees who would immediately need to transition to working from home because the state wouldn’t allow them to report to the office anymore.
After about a month of diligently working myself to exhaustion, I was finally able to catch up enough to have some time to delve into the collection that I was so patiently waiting for. There was just one problem: after playing full remasters of Yakuza Kiwami and Kiwami 2, these felt rushed and dated. Immediately, the visual quality wasn’t very impressive, even in spite of having resolution improvements. Even at first glance, the collection looked at good as the Kiwami games. Upon diving in, I found a ton of issues that felt like shortcuts, finding myself lazily going through the motions just trying to spend time with a franchise I so dearly love.
Yakuza 3 has some blatantly bad texture issues. Almost immediately, I noticed that character models looked great, but Kiryu’s button up hawaiian shirt looked blurry and terrible walking around the Orphanage grounds. Yakuza 3 also has the worst combat of any of the games, combined with the extremely slow filling heat bar. This means the crushing blows that made the series infamous too far spread apart.
At least Yakuza 4 and 5 both show improvement. Unfortunately, as someone who’s strongly against censorship, I’m still very against the redesign of one of the characters just because the original actor was busted for cocaine. This also happened in Ryu Ga Gotoku’s Judgment last year. When discussing Yakuza 5 specifically, it feels like more Yakuza 4, making 5 feel even longer than it already is. It’s a shame since there were years between their releases, which would have been fine when they originally released. Then again, maybe this is why the collection released each game with a few months between each one.
As I spent time with The Yakuza Remastered Collection, everything sort of hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought about the time I’d spent with it. The reason I wasn’t able to connect to these remasters wasn’t because they were bad. It wasn’t even because of the flaws, which there are quite a few to complain about. It’s because I already know where the story goes and that these games ultimately don’t really even matter anymore.
You see, Yakuza 6 has a section that provides a summary of what happens in each of the mainline games. This is so you can ultimately understand what’s going on in the context of the game. While Yakuza 0 helps in understanding what makes Goro Majima who he is, Yakuza 6 is where the series shines: putting the final touches into understanding what makes Kazuma Kiryu such a beloved character.
Does that mean these games are bad? No, of course not. Yakuza is an incredible franchise. A franchise I highly recommend fans of brawlers and heavy single player stories should embrace and love like I do. But unless you’re planning to play through each game, you can skip this collection and read the Yakuza 6 synopses. That doesn’t mean they are filler by any means. Still, you can get the full story by playing Yakuza Zero, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and Yakuza 6. While Yakuza 4 and 5 do provide you an opportunity to experience the world of Yakuza through a set of eyes that don’t belong to Kiryu or Majima, it’s probably more enjoyable to just simply play a different RGG Studio game like Fist of the North Star or Judgment.
As a whole, The Yakuza Remastered Collection is a welcome addition for anyone who’s a fan of the Yakuza franchise. It’s great to finally have all of the mainline games available on the same system. It’s just a shame these three games weren’t quite given the same amount of love that Kiwami and Kiwami 2 were. Still, three games for the price of one is definitely a steal. You should absolutely pick them up so your collection can be complete.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
The Yakuza Remastered Collection was played on a PlayStation 4 Pro, and was provided for review by SEGA.
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