Ever since a friend brought over the movie Shinjuku Incident to my place, the movie has rekindled not only my interest in Mafia theme television series and films like the renown Sopranos' and The Godfather but has sparked an interest into the popular Yakuza video game series.
I'll be honest I have never played any of the Yakuza games before. It's a series that I've heard about and known about since it started on thePlayStation 2. The Yakuza series have always been popular in Japan, and a cult success in North America. However, since Shinjuku Incident I became interested in the story line of the Yakuza games. So what does one do when they don't have copy of the game but want to know the story-line behind a game series that is too long to play-through yourself? I hit up YouTube and started watching full cut-scene from the game. So far I watched over 290 minutes worth of just the main story cut-scenes of the first Yakuza, and Yakuza 2. I'm currently in the midst of the beginning of Yakuza 3.
The main story-line of Yakuza is centralized around the life of Kazuma Kiryu, the famed Dragon of Dojima. Kazuma is given this title because of his reputation as a member of the Dojima Family, in the Tojo Clan. In the first Yakuza, he takes the blame for the murder of the family's boss and is put behind bars for ten years. To make matters worse for Kazuma, when he is finally released only to find out that his girlfriend Yumi has gone missing, and Kazuma's best friend that he covered for has become his worst adversary. Alongside all this personal drama, he is also investigating into the disappearance of 10 billion yen stolen from one of the families. Kazuma determined to investigate the whereabouts of his missing girlfriend however, his only lead becomes a mysterious girl named Haruka. Kazuma then gets assistance from an ex-detective named Date.
Yakuza 2 takes place one year after the first game but it revolves around an incident that occurred two decades ago (1980) involving the Dojima Family and the Korean Mafia. In present day, the Hojo clan is on the verge of collapse as there are not only internal conflict within the Tojo clan families but as well as external struggles with the gangs in Osaka, the Omi. The Tojo clan is in such a disarray that Kazuma is asked to return to the Family from his announced retirement. Kazuma who initially hopes to form a truce between the two Mafia gangs goes to Kansai. Unfortunately, during the meeting with the head of the Omi Alliance, Kazuma finds himself in the midst of a sudden coupe detair, orchestrated by a rival dragon, Ryuji Koda.
Ryuji Koda not only kidnaps the head of the Omi Alliance but seizes control of the whole gang. But before Kazuma could rescue Ryuji's hostages, Kazuma finds himself placed under "protective custody" by a female detective Sayama Kaoru. Like Kazuma, Kaoru was also an orphan who lost her parents because of the Tojo Clan, she hopes by keeping Kazuma under her custody, she can find out whom of the clan exactly killed her parents. Kazuma's investigation to find out the whereabouts of the Chairman gets him involved with an conspiracy involving the incident that happened two decades ago. Once again, Kazuma meets with Detective Date, and other familiar faces as they must not only stop a gang war between the east and the west, but also get to the bottom of this dark conspiracy.
In Yakuza 3, Kazuma hopes to finally leave the life of a Yazuka for good this time. Deciding to leaveKamurocho, and run the Sun Shine Orphanage (Asago) in Okinawa. However, as there are an increasing number of Yakuza appearing in Okinawa, predictably Kazuma is dragged once again back into his shady past life. Kazuma soon learns that a man resembling Kazuma's deceased father shot the Tojo Clan's current leader. He has no other choice but to return to Tokyo and set things right once more.
A few of the memorable characters in the series for me are :
Goro Majima started off as a sleazy, no good rotten Yakuza scum-bag, the very definition of a creep and in some ways he still is. Majima-Niisan was first introduced as one of the main antagonist of Kazuma. However, later-on you find out that he wanted was to fight Kazuma in a fair match. For me, Majima first became a likeable character I would attribute Majima's personality and even voice best as a Japanese version of the Joker. The man is mad insane, he speaks in that very Joker insanity voice, and has a Joker-ass laugh and shriek. I personally found it awesome in the second Yakuza game. He becomes this insanely historical character in Yakuza 2, a friend to Kazuma refering him as "Kiryu-chan." I couldn't help but laugh at Majima's antics. My favorite Majima momment is in Yakuza 2 when he is trying to decide which wire to cut in order to disable a ticking time bomb. I must have re-watched the part several times.
Haruka is that sort of girl you want your future children to be like. Raised in the violent world of the Yakuza, she's seeing so much death and violence yet she remains down to earth and understanding. You can not but help but be sympathetic,be all like "aww poor girl" as you discover more about her parents. She a very mature altitude and very much understands what's around her. She represents and is Kazuma's redemption. She's very much like a character in several of Project IC's works. My all-time favourite moment with Haruka is when she asks Kazuma what a "Soapland" is and Kazuma and the rest of the adults are literally too uncomfortable to giver her an answer, only to find out how clever and mature she is when she exclaims that she was only joking and had already known what a it was all along.
Kage the legendary informant, the guys underground and 'gots lots of cameras. Although he initally comes of as your typical shady underground businessmen. We quickly find that he's not as despicable. He master informant, who befriends Kazuma after he rescues Kage's son. He ends up helping Kazuma. In Yakuza 2 he returns to the police force, and returns the favour as he helps Kazuma track down the whereabouts of Daigo and the missing chairman.
I can't really not mention the man himself, Kazuma Kiryu. He's a former Yakuza member trying amend his ways, yet so good that he keeps getting pulled back in because the clan needs his help. He's the only man who can make a Yakuza seem to have redeeming qualities. The invincible Dragon, is also selfless as he promises not only to protect his comrades but restore the honour of the Tojo Clan. You can't help but feel sorry for him as he is only trying to leave his Yakuza life behind but keeps getting asked back in. This man has survived it all, and would give Solid Snake, and Chuck Norris a run for their money. There are too many good Kazuma moments to count.
So what's next for the series? Well Yakuza 4 has been recently announced comng to North America in Spring 2010 to PlayStation 3.
Here's the trailer for Yakuza 4. By far, this has to be the best looking Yakuza game thus far. Oh- and this Hostess Clubs and the ability to create your own Hostess will NOT be excluded from the American Version of the game this time (unlike they were in Yakuza 3). That's right Hostess Clubs are confirmed IN.
Before I end my post, I would just like to give a shout out to StrikeArranges YouTube user and the channel where I've been watching the Yakuza story cut-scenes. ありがとな！