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Yakuza Deserves Its Mainstream Moment

In the last 24 hours, SEGA has announced three new Yakuza games. And anybody who has ever played a Yakuza game will tell you that this is fantastic news – and that it deserves to be more.

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The franchise, now seemingly switching to its original title of Like a Dragon in the west, has been a very long-running franchise, but until remakes starting coming out and the franchise hit Game Pass I’m not sure it was hitting the audience it deserved. It was Japanese, it was a little janky, it had limited releases. Some games just didn’t release outside of Japan.

But now Yakuza is getting the attention it deserves, and that shows in the quality of the three upcoming titles announced today and at the PlayStation showcase last night.

New Announcements

The first announcement was a remake of Ishin. This spin-off was released for the PlayStation 3 and 4, and follows Yakuza’s familiar characters as they explore 19th century Japan.

Two more announcements were made today. Fans will get Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name first. This follows Yakuza 6, and shows Kiryu’s journey before Yakuza 8.

It will be an action-based game, and not the turn-based style of the most recent mainline entry.

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Like a Dragon 8, the next main entry in the franchise, will release in 2024.

Ishin and The Man Who Erased His Name will release across all PlayStation and Xbox platforms and PC. Like a Dragon 8 will release on Xbox Series consoles, PlayStation 5 and PC.

Yakuza Has Found its Audience

For western fans of the franchise, this is seemingly a golden age. Fans can enjoy games almost anywhere. There are multiple titles in development. All are getting western releases.

Whatever it was – whether it was the original games getting remakes or the Game Pass popularity or whatever – has worked. Now SEGA has another hit on their hands, and I hope that translates into ever-higher sales.

Yakuza represents that beautiful mid-tier of video games that doesn’t seem to exist any more. You’re not going to get the level of polish and spectacle as you’d expect from a Naughty Dog game.

And that’s good. That level of spectacle, of sheen comes at a cost. If The Last of Us is the summer blockbuster everybody is talking about, Yakuza is the fun multi-season drama that can get a little goofy, but always knows how to punch you in the gut.

Now that’s not necessarily the recipe to success. There are loads of great games that don’t find their fans because they don’t have the marketing budget or they’re just a little too niche to make an impact.

But really it’s the lifeblood of the industry. These fantastic games not only go toe-to-toe with the big boys (often surpassing them), but they offer something fresh and original too.

And so when one of these games starts to get big, it should always be cause for celebration. These characters, those locations – they fully deserve the newfound love and adoration that they are rightfully receiving.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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