There are certain series that leave a deep impression on you. Where you discover it back when it is a hidden gem, few people are willing to give it a chance, and those who aren’t aware of exactly what it is are willing to immediately label it as “Japanese Grand Theft Auto.” Yakuza is that series. Even though it could be very niche and very weird, all of the mainline entries somehow escaped Japan. Yakuza Remastered Collection on the PlayStation 4 feels like a rallying cry. It is a call to action as a collection finishes. It’s all here. We can all appreciate it, and it’s looking and playing as well as games that are turning 11, 10, and 8 in 2020 can be.
First, it’s important to note a slight tonal shift in Yakuza Remastered Collection. Kazuma Kiryu is the same person he always has been. He’s still getting caught up in affairs between criminal organizations in the name of doing what’s right and protecting the greater good. But it feels more altruistic than ever before, beginning with Yakuza 3. After all, this entry begins with Kiryu living at the orphanage with Haruka and the other children, doing all he can to protect it and them. His involvement in Dojima’s affairs come from trying to care for his family and his friend, Daigo.
Yakuza 4 is, well, a lot more convoluted, but it builds more on the idea of friendship and camaraderie as Kiryu can’t deal with yakuza corruption alone and works with Shun Akiyama, Masayoshi Tanimura, and Taiga Saejima to uncover truths about a situation. With Yakuza 5, it becomes about stopping a war between clans, with Tanimura bowing out and being replaced with Haruka Sawamura and Tatsuo Shinada. There’s a sense of progression here, and Yakuza Remastered Collection having everything at once lets you see the growth. From more centered on one man to many people, to seeing relationships grow and the scale of areas increase. Even the general mission is larger than ever before.
Yakuza Remastered Collection is also about preservation. All three of the games within have gotten a new once over for their localizations. It’s not the sort of thing you would catch all the details for, unless you had both games being played side by side, but it somehow still feels tighter and better. There’s a better sense of cohesion. More importantly, it means new things for both Yakuza 3 and Yakuza 5. For the former, it’s the inclusion of elements that were, at the time it was released worldwide in 2010, absent. While the Answer x Answer quiz is gone from all versions, the hostess club and games like Mahjong and Shoji are there. With Yakuza 5, it’s the ability to have an actual physical copy, something you can own, preserve, and know won’t disappear if servers go down or a hard drive files.
There’s also something to be said for just how accessible Yakuza Remastered Collection makes everything. Being able to easily play every entry in a series on a single console is a huge selling point. And while they aren’t as revitalized or pretty as something like Yakuza Kiwami or Kiwami 2, giving these three games remasters, restored contents, and touch-ups can be a big deal. They look and sound better, and someone doesn’t have to go to extensive lengths to enjoy them. That makes a big difference.
Yakuza is the sort of series where people should probably play at least one installment, to get a feel for what it is and the way it balances action, drama, and the absurd. Supply issues, prices, and needing to have multiple consoles made it difficult for people to really have it all. Yakuza Remastered Collection feels like more than a way to capitalize on a series that is now seeing worldwide success and acclaim. It is simultaneously a love letter and a courtesy. It is like Sega is making it right for people who wanted all the games easily, with all of the content that really mattered, and in a way where it could even be preserved forever. (Or for as long as you have a PlayStation 4.)
Yakuza Remastered Collection, which contains Yakuza 3, 4, and 5, is immediately available on the PlayStation 4. You can also find Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2, and 6 on the PlayStation 4 worldwide.