‘Yakuza 5’ Review: PS3’s Final Hurrah Into Open-World Japan is Honorable

Game: Yakuza 5
Consoles: PS3
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega

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Sega’s Yakuza series has always stuck to its Japanese methods of storytelling and open-world traversal. The criminal underbelly of Japan and the many families/head figures associated with that society have been the focus of each entry. Kazuma Kiryu has been the main figure from the very 1st game and his journey’s been an enjoyable ride to watch and play unfold. Yakuza 5 not only continues his road to redemption, it also gives you the chance to take control of four other main characters. All five playable protagonists’ adventures combine to offer fans the best entry in the series to date.

Yakuza’s longtime approach to gameplay still stays the same, but its still approachable. As Kazuma, you’ll once again make your way around a expansive city. This time, he looks to bury his demons and start anew as a taxi driver in Fukuoka. His new job is actually an activity you’ll actively participate in, which means you’ll get to play out high-speed races against rival gang members and drop off passengers while sticking to strict traffic rules. Once you step out of your cab, you’ll encounter the usual slate of activities Yakuza is known for – running around the streets, interacting with the more interesting locals for side missions, brawling with random bums and enjoying some side hobbies. Serving a rush of hungry customers in a street restaurant or even stepping into an arcade to play Virtua Fighter 2 makes your downtime all the more engaging.

The plot sticks to what made fans stay with this series for so long – lengthy but meaningful cutscenes. Each character must confront their problems head on and deal with their closest allies through impactful meetings. Watching long, drawn out cinematics may sound like the ultimate bore, but Yakuza presents them in a manner that manages to keep everyone enthralled. You’ll care about Haruka Sawamura’s rise to pop stardom, understand Kazuma Kiryu’s reasoning for his quiet demeanor and attach yourself to the other three characters once their chapters really get going. When each of these important figures finally have their storylines intersect, the payoffs for paying attention to them all are plentiful.

Buy Yakuza 5 here.

Yakuza 5

The Yakuza games have always done an incredible job when it comes to its attention to detail. Each of the areas you’ll explore are populated, which makes them all feel alive and reminiscent of real-world Japan. Half of the fun for this sequel is derived from the casual fun you’ll engage in as you encounter them. If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you’ll appreciate just how authentic everything appears to be. Hostess bars are ready and willing to “keep you company,” restaurants serve famous Japanese delicacies, department stores litter every block etc. There are secondary characters and side stories tied to some of these activities, which helps them all play an active role in each characters’ growth.

Yakuza 5

When it comes time to lay hands on your assailants, Yakuza 5 sticks to its brand of bare knuckle brawls. While the fighting here feels a bit faster in its execution, its age is starting to become more apparent. Like before, you can learn new moves and change up your tactics as you run into harder foes. Earning these moves don’t do enough to keep the later fights from feeling a bit tired and stale, though. Yakuza’s hand to hand combat mechanics have relatively stayed the same for 4 entries up until this point. The lack of a counter system, stance changes or something else entirely that freshens up the combat are missed opportunities. Clearing out three drunkards with a well-placed bicycle strike still feels incredible, though. But the next game should do something fresh to make battle encounters a more exciting and welcome part of its proceedings. On the visual front, texture pop-in’s tend to be a noticeable issue.

Bottom Line

Yakuza 5

If this is the last hurrah for Yakuza on the PS3, then it truly went out on top. Following the lives of five different characters presents an engrossing tale full of climactic moments. The different playstyles and day-to-day living of each protagonist presents so many things to do and see. Yakuza’s continued tradition of ridiculously fun minigames and a close likeness to Japan’s most popular locations stays intact here. The only slight blemish on this 5th main sequel are the tired battle mechanics that are long overdue for a change up. Yakuza 5 still triumphs as a fitting wrap up of its series’ PS3 run.

Score: 8/10


  • The locales you’ll venture through are incredibly similar to their real-world Japanese counterparts
  • The cutscenes and dialogue sequences do an awesome job of making you care about each character’s plight
  • The minigames and leisure activities are still worth your attention


  • While the random battle encounters are still fun, their battle mechanics are starting to feel a bit old
  • Pop-in texture problems arise from time to time

Buy Yakuza 5 here.

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