Ranking the Yakuza series from 2017 onward.

Disclaimer: This ranking will not include Yakuza 6 or Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Welcome to our ranking of the recent Yakuza titles! For those wondering, Sega released the Yakuza series for the PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s. This open-world game took place in the Japanese fictional city of Kamurocho. Starring former member of the Tojo Clan Yakuza, Kazuma Kiryu, the title would feature a deep crime drama storyline. Furthermore, the gameplay offered a blend between RPG elements and 3D beat ’em up gameplay.

Yakuza remained a niche series throughout its releases over the past 16 years. However, the series began to hit a successful stride with the release of Yakuza 0 on the PlayStation 4. Thanks to Sega’s aggressive marketing on social media platforms, people quickly took note of this quirky yet serious RPG by Sega. Marketed as the origin of the Yakuza series storyline, this title made for the perfect jumping-on point for newcomers. In doing so, it was lauded as a fresh experience for many as well as what became one of the best games in the series.

After the release of Yakuza 0, Sega went onto make several more titles in the series alongside continuing the previous chronology with the release of Yakuza 6. Additionally, Sega renamed this division Ryo Ga Gotoku (RGG) Studios based on the Japanese name of the series.

Each game they released brought a quality experience to the table. However, it’s worth ranking these titles accordingly. As such, this ranking will go in descending order to the best game over the last few years.

#5. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise

While Lost Paradise includes neither the Yakuza branding nor the Kamurocho setting, make no mistake. Developed by RGG Studios, this adaptation of the popular manga and anime series is still a Yakuza title. However, it stars Fist of the North Star series protagonist, Kenshiro.

Kamurocho martial artist Komaki makes a cameo in the game.

You’ll guide Kenshiro through the city of Eden while taking on sub-quests, playing mini-games, and fighting bad guys. The Yakuza elements include the skill tree, trademark combat system, and the flashy animations that come with Kenshiro’s classic killer techniques.

While utilizing the Yakuza 3 engine, Lost Paradise falls a few paces behind its contemporaries. This comes despite Yakuza 6’s 2016 release, predating Lost Paradise by two years, which uses the refined Dragon Engine. However, that’s not the only reason Lost Paradise falls short.

Rather, the title inherently falls short due to its pacing and padding issues stemming from traveling around the barren wasteland. Unlike in Kamurocho, you’ll also find no taxis to help you quick travel around the city. While a good game in its own right, and a fine video game adaptation of manga and anime, several flaws hold back Lost Paradise from the rest of the recent Yakuza releases.

#4. Yakuza Kiwami

Coming hot off the heels of Yakuza 0’s stellar 2017 release, Sega went to work with a full-blown remake of the original Yakuza title. This remake enhances everything about the PS2 original while using the Yakuza 3 engine and giving the game a full audiovisual makeover. Additionally, Kiryu can use his three fighting styles from Yakuza 0 (Brawler, Rush, Beast), as well as the unlockable Dragon style available right from the start.

Yakuza Kiwami takes place over a decade after Yakuza 0 and sets the tale for a growing rift between former best friends Kiryu and Nishikiyama. The original title of the series also introduces Kiryu’s adopted daughter, Haruka, and his rivalry with the Mad Dog of Shimano, Goro Majima.

Kiwami sets a standard for everything you could ask for from a Yakuza game. However, it falls short due to several pacing issues. One of which comes from certain subquests forcing you to go back and forth for items like dog food. Another issue stems from the many times you will encounter Majima with the game’s Majima Everywhere system. Kiwami is overall an incredibly solid game and worth playing but it still falls on the lower end of its superior contemporaries.

#3. Yakuza Kiwami 2

This is where the going gets strong. Yakuza Kiwami 2 utilizes the Dragon Engine from Yakuza 6. This means you’ll better-paced battles, traveling, and fewer load times. Entering buildings doesn’t come with a break in the action either.

Kiwami 2 introduced a powerful new rival named Ryuji Goda and Kiryu’s girlfriend, Kaoru Sayama. All the while building on his relationship with Haruka, Kiryu travels back and forth between Kamurocho and Sotenbori to avoid a full-scale war between rival clans.

I feel Kiwami 2 took the series a step up in many ways including its already stellar writing. However, I bumped into a few gripes such as a cluttered skill tree menu and constantly mashing to get up from constant enemy attacks. Despite this, I feel the sum of its parts makes it a standard Yakuza title utilizing the Dragon Engine. Therefore, it’s a highlight of the series and one absolutely worth playing.

#2. Judgment

Following suit from Yakuza Kiwami 2, Judgment utilizes the Dragon Engine. However, the protagonist of this adventure is private detective Takayuki Yagami. Disgraced as a former attorney, Yagami seeks to uncover the truth behind the case that ruined his reputation.

Fans of Ace Attorney or detective-type games in general, you’re in for a real treat. Judgment allows you to search for clues, present evidence in arguments, tail people from a distance, and even fly a drone. The combat feels straight-up Yakuza style with a Yagami twist. You can switch between a Tiger and a Crane battle style.

I enjoyed Judgment’s writing, character synergy, and overall gameplay. However, I found tailing segments to be a little long at times. But what really became a problem was finishing the subquests.

I found Paradise VR to be one of the series’ best minigames.

One makes you search Kamurocho for 50 QR codes and enter drone racing. Another forces you to play at least two games of Mahjong. Despite its lengthy tutorial, if you really did not want to understand playing Mahjong, you had to farm money to buy a piece to cheat the game. However, Judgment’s main game, clean UI, sub-quests, and character design truly make it one of RGG Studios’ finest highlights.

#1. Yakuza 0

Believe it or not, the best Yakuza game released since 2017 may be Yakuza 0. Despite running on the Yakuza 3 engine, the developers managed to balance it around stellar mini-games, combat, and weave together a gripping story. Additionally, you play as both Kiryu Kazuma and Goro Majima.

Among the mini-games included karaoke and a dancing rhythm game, both of which have scarcely been seen in the series since. Like Kiwami 2 and Lost Paradise, you can also play the hostess mini-game and dress up women to serve at your Cabaret Club. Plus, unlike Majima Everywhere or the constant badgering of the Keihin Gang in Judgment, the Mr. Shakedown fights are optional and highly rewarding.

Yakuza 0’s only real issues come from some minor pacing flaws such as only a few taxis scattered around town and no saving from the menu. While in some ways it feels dated compared to its Dragon Engine contemporaries, its overall balance is worth more than the sum of its parts. Yakuza 0 is truly one of the best places to start for series newcomers and still holds up well today.

Final Thoughts

I’m currently playing through Yakuza 3 which takes me back to the original engine. I eventually want to beat Yakuza Remastered Collection, Yakuza 6, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon in order. That way I can compare the remaining titles to the rest of this incredible series.

Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the replies! As always, be sure to Like our main page and follow our social media for more quality gaming content.

Until next time!

Retro Review: Ys I & II Chronicles – Outdated Upon Release.

Ys I & II Chronicles is an Action/RPG title developed by Falcom and published by XSeed for PSP, mobile devices, and PC. The latest remake of the titles Ys I & II from the late 1980s, this title brings the original gameplay style to newer consoles featuring an updated visual style, arranged soundtrack, and animated cutscenes.

The original Ys I & II titles were ported to various systems. Originally released on PC-88, the title’s first remake, and perhaps the most prominent, came out on the PC-Engine which was known as the Turbografx-16 in America. This version featured animated speaking cutscenes with full voice acting and an exceptional soundtrack with surprisingly quality instrumentals for a release in the early 90s.

Unfortunately, Ys I & II’s gameplay is woefully dated. Its gameplay style featured the “bump combat” system. That is to say, instead of having an attack button, you would bump into enemies to damage them from an angle. If you were higher level, you wouldn’t take much damage and would win the exchange. If you were low level, you had to frequently grind levels.

While you could save nearly anywhere, the amount of grinding needed to survive became ridiculous. Moreover, the title did not offer many guide points to avoid getting lost and also featured major pacing issues, especially in the final dungeons of each respective title.

For the record, I beat the PSP version on my Vita. If you have hand cramps or carpal tunnel syndrome, then I strongly suggest playing on Steam or mobile.

Story

Ys I begins with the protagonist, Adol Christin, shipwrecked on an island. Ys fans will tell you this is par for the course and that’s 100% true. In this case, the island he’s on houses two goddesses, a black pearl, and a slew of demons that have invaded the island. The progression is tight, simple, and paces itself fairly quickly. After all, Ys I can be beaten within 10 hours with a lengthy chunk of time spent in the final dungeon.

However, Ys II covers a bit more about the goddesses and the villains which have invaded the world. It’s standard JRPG fantasy fare with a bit of tragedy woven in. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the story is the level of consistency that carries over throughout its sequels as well as Ys Origin.

Audiovisual

Make no mistake. This visual update looks gorgeous. The updated character art and the game designs and levels just look great for a game of its time. Ys has some undeniably strong character designs. I’ve always been fond of the artistic style of the Ys series. Taking character designs from the 80s and remastering them in the 2000s, the designs look gorgeous even today.

I’m in love with Reah, so what?

I can’t say enough good things about the epic music. Dungeon, town, and battle themes alike all hit strongly and are memorable tracks. I’m quite fond of “Holders of Power,” “Tower of the Shadow of Death,” and “Dreaming.” Ys excels as a musical adventure which may very well be the best part of the game.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, the gameplay is where Ys quickly slides down to rock bottom. As mentioned earlier, it features the “bump” combat system. However, this is perhaps the tip of the iceberg of problems featured within the game. I say this because this title was also released on DS as Legacy of Ys: Books I & II. The DS version even featured an attack button. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s better when you consider everything else holding the title back.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II for Nintendo DS (2009)

For starters, if you’re playing on Normal, you will need to grind levels. This happens early on and lasts for the rest of the game. If you do not want to grind, pick Easy mode. It will balance out the challenge which is something I discovered when playing Ys II.

One of the saving graces of Ys II is the ability to use magic.

The bosses themselves are a pain partially because of “bump” combat but also because of the limited window you get to attack them. You will certainly take damage in every fight you’re in. If you’re under-leveled or lack strong armor, you may die almost instantly. One boss even features two floating heads and makes taking damage nigh-unavoidable.

They become endurance matches for your HP rather than a skillful battle of proper timing like, say, Link’s Awakening. I say this because it’s entirely possible to trivialize these very bosses with a bit of grinding making it an incredibly lopsided challenge.

Now, let’s also take a look at the two final dungeons of each game: Darm Tower and Solomon Shrine. In the former, you’re climbing up a lengthy tower, but you will need to go back down several floors, several times, to pick up items and progress.

In the latter, you will find yourself in a less interconnected dungeon, but one that will have you moving all over the place. Not only will you certainly get lost multiple times but you will have to exit the dungeon, multiple times, to finish your progression. These dungeons can take several hours to finish. But the level of warping to-and-from might drive you insane.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I cannot in good faith recommend Ys I & II Chronicles to any but the most patient and curious fans of Action/RPGs or nostalgic fans who played an older version of these games. Both games can be finished in an accumulated 20 hours. While the levels outside of the final dungeon pace themselves relatively well, the momentum halts once you need to grind some more.

If you’re playing on Easy mode, which I strongly recommend, you’ll have to grind less. Unfortunately, the final dungeons will still be lengthy, repetitive, and force you to backtrack for hours. It’s such a shame because I love the audio, visuals, and character designs in this game.

Despite its ambitious audiovisual style and attempt to update the oldest Ys titles, they only hold up well to the most dedicated, hardcore players with enough patience to last through both games. Those seeking a challenge will certainly find it, and then some, in Ys I & II. But aside from its audiovisual presentation and story, you’ll be better off picking another game in the series, such as Ys Origin or Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.

Score: 4/10