After years of waiting for the franchise to escape the confines of the PlayStation 4, Xbox, and PC owners now have an opportunity to play the Kiryu Kazuma saga in its entirety. What’s more, if you’re a next-gen adopter or have a rig powered by capable tech, then the experience will look and perform better than ever. The Yakuza Remastered Collection takes what is arguably the more underrated titles in the mainline series — Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4, and Yakuza 5 — and gives them the high-definition treatment. While fans will certainly want to play through each one, they should know what they’re getting into. So, if you’re only familiar with the Kiwami titles, Yakuza 6, and the remarkably wonderful Yakuza 0, you should temper your expectations — especially if you’ve never dreamed of running an orphanage.
That last statement probably sounds incredibly strange, but it’s also a stone-cold truth. The titles in The Yakuza Remastered Collection — the first two especially — find Kiryu living a simpler life as the head of an orphanage in Okinawa. For the most part, life’s pretty good for Kiryu and his gang of kids; although they dream of finding forever homes, the kids get to enjoy a gorgeous oceanside view while learning the valuable life skills that only the great Kazuma can teach. This makes for some very cute and adorable moments between Kiryu and his young charges, but it also veers wildly from what people may expect from the Yakuza series. In fact, you’ll need a fair amount of patience to get through some of the collection’s slower moments, especially if you want to get back to the wilds of Kamurocho.
Out of the lot, Yakuza 3 ranks as the roughest of the bunch. It’s by no means a bad game, mind you, but it’s starting to show its age. I ran the third installment at the highest settings on my PC, and even then it looks like an older title — which, of course, it is. If you’re coming off the Kiwami titles and/or Yakuza 6 (please don’t start with Yakuza 6), you may find yourself struggling to finish this adventure. Although I consider myself a die-hard Yakuza fan, I had a difficult time adjusting to the older aesthetic. To make matters worse, the story leaves a bit to be desired. A larger portion of the game takes place at the Morning Glory orphanage, which is run by yakuza legend Kiryu Kazuma and Haruka, who is essentially his adopted daughter at this point. The story does pick up after several slow hours, but the uneven pacing, combined with a plot that never really engaged me, made Yakuza 3 feel more like a chore than a joy. I just wanted to get to the sequels.
Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5, however, are easily the jewels in this collection’s crown, though one clearly outshines the other. Yakuza 4 splits its time between four main characters, though chances are you’ll spend a lot of time waiting to get back into Kiryu’s shoes than anything else. That’s not to say that the other main players detract from the overall experience; Akiyama initially rubbed me the wrong way, but I soon found that I loved the time I spent tooling around the streets of Kamurocho as this loan shark with a heart of gold (and a seemingly bottomless wallet). That said, Saejima’s story had a tendency to drag everything down. Not only did I not care about his story — he’s just a bullish thug, regardless of how the writers attempt to frame his narrative — but I never settled into his fighting style. Thankfully, Yakuza 4 doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on one particular character; when you’re ready to move on, chances are the story is too.
Now, of course, I get to briefly discuss Yakuza 5, which I frequently do to people in real life who have absolutely no interest in Yakuza. Next to Yakuza 0, Yakuza 5 ranks as my favorite entry in the series. It’s wonderfully paced, packed with enjoyable content (I desperately want a Yakuza Taxi Driver Simulator spin-off), and deeply heartfelt. It features my favorite version of Kiryu in the entire franchise; he’s downtrodden but hopeful, a little depressed but quirky, and desperate to take care of his extended family. It’s the perfect build-up to Yakuza 6, which wraps up the Kazuma storyline in a way that stays to the series. And even though I played the Remastered Collection in 2019 when it dropped for the PlayStation 4, I was more than happy to give Yakuza 5 more time on my television. There’s always room for more Kiryu.
Overall, fans of the series should definitely give The Yakuza Remastered Collection a fair shake, even if they’ve only previously experienced the story on the PlayStation 3. The package fills the gap previously missing on PC and Xbox, allowing everyone to finally enjoy the complete Kiryu Kazuma saga from start to finish. That said, it’s important to remember that these are merely remastered versions of the original games, not from-the-ground-up remakes. All three titles look sharp and run at a brisk 60 frames per second, but they’re basically the same versions released on PlayStation 3 — warts and all. If you find yourself struggling with Yakuza 3’s rough edges, rest assure that things will improve once you make the jump to Yakuza 4. And once you delve into everything that Yakuza 5 has to offer, you’ll fully understand why this collection is an essential purchase. If you’ve never had an opportunity to play any of the Yakuza games, now is an absolutely perfect time to do so.
This review is based on the PC version of the collection. A copy was provided by SEGA.