First Impressions: ‘Yakuza 5’ (PS4)

‘Yakuza 5’ off to a silly, oddly intense start

I shouldn’t find it weird that “Yakuza 5” kicks off with Kazama Kiryu’s section of the five-section game, seeing as he’s the series protagonist, and somehow finds himself in the center of whatever problem is roiling the yakuza world. Maybe because I just played his part in “Yakuza 4,” which took place at the end of the game. Either way, it strikes me as odd because I’m curious as to why publisher/developer Sega did it. Who’s story will be told last in a plot that has five main characters?

The opening scene of “Yakuza 5,” showcasing Kiryu as the most talented taxi driver in the world, clearly sets up the situation that’s going to propel the plot forward. As always, it involves a power struggle, which in turns leads to machinations from some to step into the incoming power vacuum. Not exactly fresh, but it’s working so far in this Japanese crime-drama.

About five hours into what’s slated to be at least a 40-hour game, here’s what known so far: Kiryu has left both Kamurocho and Sunshine Orphanage, which he managed in previous games. He’s gone incognito in Fukuoka, separated from his loved ones. However, it’s clear that the yakuza world Kiryu so wanted to get away from won’t let him be. The seventh chairman of the Omi Alliance is on his deathbed, leaving its truce with the Tojo clan at risk, which pushes the Tojo to try to shore up its alliances — including the local clan in Fukuoka.

Of course, even though it’s only a few hours into the game, everything is hitting the fan: murders, conspiracies, crazy taxi Heat battles. (And don’t forget the side missions!)

At this point, “Yakuza 5” is shaping up to be what I expected: another silly, intense foray into the Japanese underworld. It looks leagues better than “Yakuza 4,” though its controls are mostly the same (from fighting to leveling up). I’m just ready to be a Japanese pop idol princess. Don’t judge me.

This is a First Impressions of “Yakuza 5” on the PlayStation 4 via PlayStation Now. A full review will follow once the game is completed.

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