When Yakuza Zero came to the West in 2017, it brought the badass, crime drama of the Yakuza series to a whole new audience. The combination of being the English language debut of the series on PS4, being a prequel story set before the very first game, and having the best visuals and combat the franchise had seen yet made Yakuza Zero a great stepping on point and an instantly entertaining hit.
Since then, PlayStation 4 fans have been able to experience plenty of other games in the series, from Yakuza 6 to full remakes of 1 and 2, as well as vaguely connected spinoffs like Judgement and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. While almost every game in the series has been playable on current hardware, the middle trilogy of 3, 4, and 5 has been locked on the last generation of hardware for years. That is now no longer the case, as The Yakuza Remastered Collection brings these three major entries in the series to modern consoles.
Where Yakuza Kiwami 1 and Kiwami 2 were full HD remakes of the earliest PlayStation 2 entries in the series, completely redoing environments, cutscenes, and battles to give them a modern facelift, the Yakuza Remastered Collection isn’t nearly as much of an upgrade. These are the same exact games as they were on PlayStation 3, with a bumped up resolution and sharper textures from this that help ease the transition. Yakuza 4 and 5 hardly miss a step on the latest Sony hardware, sporting sharp character models and a solid frame rate that will easily impress anyone.
Yakuza 3, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up quite as well. As the first PlayStation 3 entry in the series, this game served as a bit of a stepping stone toward bigger and better things for the series. Textures can be pretty rough, character models aren’t as refined as the ones in 4 and 5, and animations throughout the many cutscenes in the game can be a bit clunky at times.
Thankfully, the story and gameplay of Yakuza 3 still hold up, presenting one of the most striking and iconic segments of long-time protagonist Kiryu Kazuma’s life, as he struggles to put his life with the yakuza behind him in order to focus on protecting his new-found family of orphaned children.
Along with some visual enhancements, a variety of content alterations and localisation updates have been drizzled across each of the games, though they have mixed results. The English scripts across all three games have been updated and retooled to fix some clunkier translation errors from the original release. Alongside remedying some errors, they’ve enhanced some of the sillier side-content of the games has had wacky dialogue or weird jokes cranked up to 11, resulting in some over-the-top humour that wasn’t there in the original versions of the games.
Societal shifts have also led to some content changes in Yakuza 3 and Yakuza 4. Yakuza 3’s side quest where a transgender woman was presented as a super buff, deep-voiced pervert has been cut from the game, which is for the best. Series producer Daisuke Sato is on record admitting that the cultural perception of the LGBTQ community when Yakuza 3 first came out is a lot different than it is today, and when the series as a whole has done such a good job of portraying marginalised communities, removing this wildly insensitive content is a strong move.
As for Yakuza 4, one of the four central protagonists, Tanimura, has been completely recast and remodelled due to drug accusations surrounding his original voice actor – this also saw him cut from Judgment. The new version of Tanimura looks great and sounds even better, but its hard to get used to as someone who played the original game. The original Tanimura had a stuck-up, babyfaced know-it-all sort of nature to him, while the new version of Tanimura brings more of a humble cool-guy aesthetic to the character that initially clashed with my memory of the kind of person he’s supposed to be.
All-in-all, this is a collection of three massive games that will easily provide you more than plenty of bang for your buck. Yakuza 5 alone is well over 50 hours long, so running through all three games can easily occupy you for over 100 hours. If you’re looking for your first Yakuza game, you’ll be far better served by picking up one of the more modern titles like Yakuza 0, and if that sinks its hooks into you, rest assured there’s no longer a void in the story on PS4 between Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6. More experienced Yakuza veterans will also be sure to enjoy experiencing these hits again with a fresh coat of paint and solid frame rates.