Haruka is suddenly scouted by a woman named Ms.Park who owns an idol talent agency called Dynamo, with the condition on Kiryu he leave her life, which he accepts. He escapes to Fukuoka, where he acts as a Taxi Driver, and somewhat of a racer, separate from the life he had built over the last couple of years. However, big things are happening behind the scenes. The Omi alliance chairman is supposedly on his deathbed, and Tojo’s chairman, Daigo, disappears in Fukuoka in the middle of negotiations with the chairman of Fukuoka’s main clan. While primarily a bystander, circumstances throw Kiryu back into the conflict headfirst.
Meanwhile, Saejima decides to go back to prison to fulfill his term, with the goal of coming out ready to be a leader in the Tojo clan. However, a mysterious entity is pulling strings to make it difficult for him to leave on parole, and furthermore there are reports of Majima having been assassinated, resulting in Saejima having to escape to Tsukimino, almost dying fighting a bear in the snow, but being saved by a hunting village and becoming somewhat of a hunter before continuing on his journey.
Haruka in Osaka seems to be having trouble as well, not only in dealing with idol training and her rivals in Princess League T-Set, but also an entity that seems dedicated to stopping her and is willing to do anything in order to do it, ultimately resulting in who else but Akiyama coming to have an interest in the matter, protecting her and helping her get to the bottom of the mystery.
Lastly in Nagoya a man named Shinada, an ex-professional baseball player who was banned from the sport for cheating and now works as an adult entertainment writer with a mountain of debt, is told to find the true story behind him getting banned, which ends up throwing him and his debt collector into a mess of their own.
All of which comes to a conclusion of course in Kamurocho.
Yakuza is still very much like a standard Yakuza game. It’s still a heavily combat oriented game in modern Japan revolving around the stories of individual character with a much larger story revolving around Yakuza clans tying everything together. The two core game play aspects of the game are combat and exploration, with a lot of side mechanics and content as well. However, Yakuza 5 takes many of these aspects to a new level, so I’ll primarily be focusing on the major changes over the previous game.
The previous Yakuza game had four characters with their own individual stories and motivations. However, because they were all still in Kamurocho, all of them felt tied into the main narrative immediately. Yakuza 5 has them all in their own cities for the most part, and though events do eventually tie into the overarching plot, they feel a lot less connected until the ends of each characters portion where they head off to Kamurocho. The story of this game also takes the ridiculous structure of Yakuza to another level, by which I mean that while Yakuza has always heavily relied on major unexpected twists and coincidences to push forward the story, Yakuza 5 takes it to a whole other level. At some points that felt fine and I felt it fit in with the tone that it was creating, because honestly the over dramatic moments are something I actually enjoy a great deal, though at some points I felt that it took it too far, even for a Yakuza game. Character wise, I enjoyed Shinada’s story more than Tanimura, and in general I liked the new set of side characters a good amount as well. It was also nice to see Haruka playing a major part of the story, though the ending felt awkward especially in regard to her.
In terms of game play, combat is incredibly similar to the previous game. There are four characters each with their own play styles that are all variants of brawling with special heat moves with some levels of QTE and weapons, both actual and environmental, thrown in the mix. However, I preferred Tanimura over Shinada’s combat style, with Shinada’s actually feeling very hard to control well. Akiyama on the other hand I enjoyed a lot more, and he felt down right over powered when played well. In terms of exploration, since there’s a new city for almost every character (Haruka and Akiyama overlap), there’s a lot more to explore, and every location was new and interesting. And while the game does end in Kamurocho, it felt like returning to an old friend at the end, and hence that felt cool to explore as well, though I wish that there was more content there.
Something that I feel really fits into and enhanced the game is side stories. Almost every character has their own completely different side game (Haruka and Akiyama overlap here too). Kiryu is a taxi driver, and thus has side stories where he is not only a racer going up against the Devil Killer street gang, but also has to drive people to their destinations in a comfortable and safe manner. Saejima becomes a hunter, and hence has side stories where he has to deal with the wilderness, surviving the cold, collecting meat and plants, rescuing others, and mainly dealing with a bear named Yama-Oroshi. Haruka wants to be an idol and has her goal of winning Princess League and making her debut, and hence has a whole bunch of mini-games revolving around that, primarily those related to singing and dancing, that last of which Akiyama also participates in a bit. And Saejima was a baseball star that still loves baseball, or at least the batting portion, and hence has side stories revolving around proving himself to an old friend in that sense. Each of these stories are very separate from the main game, and it isn’t required to complete any of them to finish the main story, but they greatly add to the personal story that each character has in the game, while also introducing a completely new game type, driving, shooting, rhythm, and sports respectively, to each character, keeping every character fresh in terms of overall game play. I greatly enjoyed this, and hope that they keep the spirit of this, if not the actual system in later entries.
There were some other mini game additions, such as Taito and Virtua Fighter, but for the most part the majority of other mini-games are straight out of the previous game, though some of them are missing. Hence, other than the side stories, I feel the mini-games were a bit lacking, but the side stories more than make up for it.
The graphics, animation, etc. were a decent bit better than the previous game though still not exceptional. The soundtrack was a lot better though, and I enjoyed it a lot more.
An incredibly varied, but still an amazing and true to its franchise entry in the Yakuza saga.