When Microsoft announced that the Yakuza series was finally coming to Xbox in late 2019, fans were elated. Typically regarded as a PlayStation exclusive (despite actually releasing on the Wii U in Japan), Sega has been slow to bring these excellent games to other platforms. It took until after the release of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life for the series to hit PC and it was almost another two years before the games started migrating to Xbox. As well as that, it’s now been another full year since Yakuza Kiwami 2 released that Xbox players will finally be able to continue protagonist Kiryu Kazuma’s adventures.
We won’t be taking a look at the Xbox One ports today, which are said to run exactly the same as the PS4 “Remastered Collection” that was released last year. Instead, we’re looking at the long-awaited continuation of Yakuza on PC with the Windows Store versions of 3, 4, and 5. Packed with all of the same HD goodness that the PS4 collection had, are these new ports the definitive way to experience Yakuza?
The short answer is yes. If your PC was able to handle Kiwami 2 in all of its glory, you’re not going to have any problems here. Based on PS3 technology -with one game being over a decade old-, you'd be hard pressed to find a PC released within the last five to 10 years that couldn’t run Yakuza 3-5. Obviously having newer hardware powering your machine will dramatically improve things, but these games aren’t packing ridiculously modern rendering techniques or anything.
That’s not to say each game doesn’t look relatively good. Through the use of excellent art direction and a decent selection of upscaling options, you can crank Yakuza 3-5 Remastered up to 8K resolution if you’re so inclined. My current system is absolutely overkill, rocking a Ryzen 9 5900x and RTX 3080, and it can run these games at 4K and beyond with no issue.
The graphics menu is similarly limited to what Yakuza 0 and Kiwami had, but there’s not much need to tinker with the settings. The PS3 was able to run these games, albeit with reduced framerates and resolutions. On PC, you can brute force your way past that and get an absolutely amazing looking experience. Seeing old cutscenes that were previously capped at 720p and 30 fps running completely unlocked is a sight to behold, if a little jarring. There is some unsightly compression on FMVs, but the in-game cinematics are beautiful.
In-game, the results continue to impress. I wouldn’t go so far as to say these are lazy ports, but the solid artwork mixed with true-HD and resolution scalers creates an exceptionally sharp image. All of the ugly aliasing and blurriness that plagued the PS3 releases is gone. These almost look as solid as Kiwami, which pushed the older Yakuza engine to its limits.
The biggest upgrade is with regards to Yakuza 5, however. In its original form, Yakuza 5 is…not exactly great. While the game is fantastic and evolves the formula well beyond what it had been, the PS3 struggles under the weight of everything. The game often performed at sub-720p and well below 30 fps. In the numerous chase sequences, pressing a button would often pause the action for three-five seconds before your character responded.
Much like the PS4 version, this new PC port is flawless. Everything just works without a hitch. If you’re running on an SSD then it becomes almost seamless. Stepping into Poppo Mart saw a load screen of around two seconds. Entering combat still has the lengthy intro and outro, but it’s much faster than the PS3’s 30-ish seconds. Everything just feels so damn snappy and brilliant.
As for whether or not these games hold up, I maybe can’t give you the honest truth. I’m a massive fan of the series and Yakuza 3 is what got me into these games in the first place. That title holds a special place in my heart and I’ll always be fond of how it developed Kiryu to be more than a menacing face. I even like the slower segments where you’re doing nothing but interacting with the orphans, something that is devoid of action and acts purely as development.
What I can say is that going from Kiwami 2 to Yakuza 3 is not as stark of a contrast as you would expect. A lot of diehard fans weren't exactly enthused with the changes that Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2 made to the general formula and Yakuza 3 actually feels closer to what 0 would end up being. It was the start of developer Ryu Ga Gotoku expanding the combat to be faster and more brutal over the PS2 originals, which makes it hold up much better in retrospect.
The games also get progressively better as they go along, with 3 almost feeling like a stepping stone to true greatness. The only aspect where this trio of titles falters is in story. I love the goofier tone and the stronger emphasis on mini-games and sub-stories, but the main plots of 3-5 are the weakest in the series. 5 has one of the most incomprehensible stories around despite being a potential candidate for the best game in the franchise.
What Yakuza does well is its characters and you’ll find that in spades during these titles. The moment-to-moment developments are really out there and maybe not coherent, but the evolution of Kiryu from a gruff thug to a fatherly mentor is exceptional. That he’s surrounded by an equally exceptional side cast makes these games something that fans shouldn’t miss.
Yakuza at its worst is still far better than most mainstream games, so I’d have no problem recommending 3-5 to anyone. That they are available on Game Pass for both PC and Xbox One makes it even easier to say give them a try. You don’t need to start with any particular title, but being able to experience the story in chronological order is awesome. That each game is now freed from the shackles of its base hardware is also the kind of treatment I hope to see for a lot of older classics.
If you missed out on Yakuza 3-5 the first time around or were waiting until now to finally play them, don’t delay that anymore. These ports are solid, if unexceptional, but give Ryu Ga Gotoku’s modern classics the experience they’ve always deserved.
TechRaptor played Yakuza Remastered Collection on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.