Wednesday, May 23, 2012
First Information on Yakuza 5
So, you might know that I kinda sorta like the Yakuza series, so when any information comes out for games in the series, I generally, you know, just take them in stride and certainly don't jump on them with teeth gnashing as a rabid dog with a meal before him. Certainly not. Silliness aside, you know that I'm kidding and that as soon as I saw that there were tidbits of Yakuza 5 info out there, I knew what I was writing about tonight and there's no way to mince words about it. This is, to be frank, my turf, so let's just get what's known covered so I can go on being relentlessly excited for it, yes? In all reality, there's not a whole lot to talk about, but there's enough that I can extrapolate pretty well on it, being a long-time fan and enthusiast of the series that I am. Also being totally long-winded.
So first off, which is probably the biggest thing about the game is that Five is definitely the theme of the game, much as Four was for Yakuza 4. Yakuza 5 will be starring Five Main Characters, and the story will take place through five different areas: The regular Kamurocho of Tokyo, as well as Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka and Hokkaido. I'm gonna be honest here and say that I'm not -exactly- sure which of those locations have been in previous Yakuza games, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that only Osaka is a place the series has strayed before (in Yakuza 2) meaning that three of the locations will be all new. Suspiciously absent is Okinawa, where the Sunshine Orphanage that Kazuma runs is located, but given his new job, I'm sure that will get explained somehow. At least, I kind of hope it will be, since that would be a rather big hole in things.
As I said above, there will be Five Main Characters in Yakuza 5, which will include returning favorites Shun Akiyama (Three games strong, woo!), Taiga Saejima and, obviously, Kazuma Kiryu. Joining them will be yet another new face in Tatsuo Shinada, an ex-baseball pro and possible gambling addict who is getting chased down by debt collectors as well as...uhh...Haruka. As in, "I was 9 or 10 years old in the first game" Haruka, all grown up (16 or 18 now, it's kind of hard to pin down just how old she was in previous games, mostly because it's -incredibly creepy- to try and find out) and in Osaka to be a Pop Star. Because the last time she was in Osaka went just ever so well, of course. Being a playable character is confirmed, but as to what role she will actually play in the game (as in, can she fight?) is unknown at this point. I would hope that being with the Dragon of Kamurocho for seven years would lead to knowing how to protect herself, as she certainly has the will for it, but we'll just have to see.
Kazuma has, in the time between the end of Yakuza 4 and the start of Yakuza 5 (which I imagine will be just over two years, since Yakuza 4 came out in 2010 in Japan and 5 is slated for December of this year) become a Taxi Driver in Fukuoka in one of the most random job switches I've ever seen. And this is the same guy who went from "Yakuza" to "Orphanage Owner". With just a cursory googling, I have discovered that Fukuoka (as well as the rest of the locations used for 5) do have some pretty high-up mentions regarding Yakuza activity, so to expect Kazuma to stay out of the biz for a while is a fairly foolhardy endeavor. Similarly, the other returning characters are more or less doing just what they do - Akiyama is heading to Osaka, likely on a whim or for business (though what a Loan Shark would do in a location other than his HQ is beyond me) and Saejima Taiga is back in prison for some reason. (Likely for being head of a Yakuza family or, even more likely, being framed for something.)
If you can't tell, this will be the most ambitious Yakuza title to date, even more so than the giant Genre-Swap that was Dead Souls/Of The End, mostly because they've taken an extra year to work on development, rather than sticking to a yearly release. (Which, to be fair, we all rag on other companies for doing yearly releases, so maybe we really shouldn't, since Yakuza is a series that shows quality can happen in a year) On top of doing up five entirely different areas (well, four, Kamurocho is likely just going to be touched up), they've been handling a lot of tweaks here and there as well as overhauling (or outright replacing) the game engine to ensure that transitions between Battle and Adventure modes is seamless. In previous games, there was always a little bit of loading as the enemies were introduced which felt fairly natural, but was obviously a loading screen of sorts. I imagine by making it seamless, they also intend on making the battle mode more dynamic; perhaps by including people running through the crowd or, when the fight is on the streets, having cars, er, -not- stop and/or disappear from the road completely.
What -I- worry about here is not the game itself, but rather the burning question of: Will I get to play the goddamn thing? While other games have had a hurdle regarding a physical release when it comes to only having Japanese audio, the Yakuza series has never had that issue. However, after Sega's restructuring, Read: Gutting, of Sega of America and Sega of Europe, I just have to wonder A) if there's enough people left to localize the damn thing and B) If there is, do I have any hope of getting the damn game on a disk? Sega has, after all, mentioned a 'Digital Future' for all but their four or five main franchises, of which Yakuza is not listed as one. On the other hand, I would almost suggest that any Yakuza game, especially 5, given the above list of reasons why it's a very expansive, ambitious project, would simply be too big, file-size-wise to actually be realistically considered as a DD-only title. But on the other, other hand, this is Sega, who seems to thrive on finding new and exciting ways to shoot themselves in the foot. It'll be a while before we hear word of it all, however, since it won't even be releasing in Japan until the end of this year, and I certainly expect the usual year-long localization, but here's hoping for positive word.