After nearly three long years to the day since its original release in 2012, Western gamers are being treated at last to “Yakuza 5.” It’s a rare occasion these days for PlayStation 3 owners to have something to feel excited about, much less a game to hold over the heads of the lucky souls that have already upgraded. While some reveled in the fantastic adventure to be found in “Fallout 4,” the rest of us wiped away a tear and went back to playing “Skyrim“ for the eighth time. But now PS3 owners have a game just for them that those who traded in their PS3s in a rush to upgrade to the next-gen will be forced to miss out on. “Yakuza” 5 was released for the PS3 at the beginning of December and it’s not only one of the last great games for the system but one of the best titles of 2015.
For the uninitiated, the fifth entry in the long-running series could be described as equal parts of “Grand Theft Auto“ and “Shenmue,” the Sega Dreamcast classic, with a healthy dose of beat ’em up brawlers. The hard-boiled story of the world of Japanese organized crime is ridiculously detailed and is packed with more things to do and see than you could shake a stick at, from the insane to the mundane.
The game features five different locations in addition to five different playable characters providing dozens upon dozens of hours of gameplay and myriad distractions sure to keep players occupied even beyond the gripping gangster storyline.
One of the most amazing things about “Yakuza 5” is the incredible attention to detail given to the locations and their surroundings. The game features lifelike convenience marts and restaurants serving real Japanese snacks and dishes that make players feel like they’re right in the middle of the island nation. When you’re not working your way through the Japanese underworld, you can race your taxi on the highway or perform cab missions for extra cash where you’re expected to follow traffic laws and maintain good conversation with your customers.
Players looking for mini-game distractions can hit the batting cages and there’s even an arcade where you can play full versions of Sega cabinet classics like “Virtua Fighter 2“ and “Taiko Drum Master.” There are also pachinko parlors (think of a combo between slots and pinball). The game is so realistic that attendants at the store will even direct your character to an online social casino that you can access on your in-game mobile phone and play classic casino games just like the variety of games available on the real-life online platforms. “Yakuza 5” is the rare kind of hyper-detailed game that actually allows you to goof off while you’re goofing off.
Also notable is that this is the first game in the series to feature a playable female protagonist in aspiring pop star Haruka Sawamura. In fact, the diversity of characters and settings is one of the series main drawing points of the game with each one being incredibly unique in their own right and featuring a new look at a different part of Japan. The game is so detailed in its settings and attractions that it is considered an excellent example of the world of virtual tourism. It offers players a realistic look at different cultures and locales veiled by the backdrop of an exciting and engaging story.
“Yakuza 5“ is a welcome surprise for PS3 owners and a must-have for anyone who still has their “old” system. With an incredible diversity of characters, locations and gameplay, it’s hard to believe that the game is three years old. It feels just as fresh as ever.