The second of three titles collectively known as The Yakuza Remastered Collection changes things up in dramatic fashion after the laborious Yakuza 3. In Yakuza 4 Remastered, we have not one but four protagonists to run around Kamurocho with, but some do work better than others.
Once again, a murder in the city has set off a chain of events. And it isn’t long before fingers are pointed, palms are greased, and backs are stabbed. All par for the course in Yakuza.
After the dual cities of Yakuza 3, 4 focuses in on just Kamurocho once again. But this version has a few new details; a new underground section including sewers and a parking lot, the rooftops and some extra backstreets. There are also cameos from other areas, but the focus is very much on the red lights of Kamurocho.
The addition of the rooftops gives Kamurocho some much needed verticality. A largely flat open-world can sometimes mean that vistas aren’t as impressive as they could be, but being able to visit rooftops and see what’s down below is a solid addition.
After the curveball in the beginning to Yakuza 3, fans may have been expecting something a bit more sedate to the start of Yakuza 4. But expectations couldn’t be more wrong. For a start, we don’t begin with the series mainstay, Kazuma Kiryu. Instead, we are introduced to newcomer Shun Akiyama.
He is more than a decent compromise for Kiryu. An honourable loan shark – if there is such a thing – he offers loans to people that need them but doesn’t charge any interest and it can be paid back at any point. And when someone visits his office requesting a 100-million-yen loan, he goes out of his way to make sure he can accompany their request.
In fact, Akiyama is just one of four playable characters. Alongside him is Taiga Saejima, an escaped convict, Masayoshi Tanimura, a corrupt police officer, and, of course, Kazuma Kiryu. Each of these characters play vastly differently from one another; their fighting styles vary wildly, as well as each of them having unique substories and side activities exclusive to them. Akiyama, for example, runs a local hostess club but when it comes to fighting is a much quicker striker than the others. On the other hand, Tanimura plays much more defensively, often relying on counter attacks to deal real damage. His exclusive content tasks him with responding to his police radio to take down enemies.
What is impressive though, is that even though these characters have little to no interaction with each other until the latter stages, they are all part of a bigger story that is able to flow between them. In true Yakuza style, the plot is again strong in most parts, though perhaps not as engaging as some of the earlier entries. It does dip during Saejima’s chapters, but that part of the story is more concerned with exposition for an event that occurred 25 years before the game was set.
Truth be told, the whole second act featuring Saejima is the weakest section of Yakuza 4 Remastered. On Death Row for killing 18 men in a single hit, you play through his prison breakout and his return to Kamurocho. Despite this though, his fighting style is the hardest to get to grips with. Coming from Akiyama, Saejima’s attacks are very slow and sluggish by comparison, and getting the timing right is tricky. This isn’t helped by him having a boss battle during the prison breakout that feels more like Yakuza 3 and the enemies’ penchant for blocking every single attack.
Things improve drastically during Tanimura’s and Kiryu’s arcs as they progress the plot more dramatically, and the conclusion shows that RGG Studio aren’t afraid to branch the game out in almost every direction. Yakuza 4 is far bigger than Yakuza 3 in every department and is all the better for it.
Unlike the additions featured in the Yakuza 3 Remaster that added back in all the content deemed ‘too Japanese’ for Western audiences, the improvements for Yakuza 4 Remastered are more subtle in comparison. With the inclusion of 1080p and 60fps, there isn’t much else really to write home about. Yakuza 4 Remastered looks very similar to Yakuza 3 Remastered – that is, dated.
But what Yakuza 4 does feature is even more distractions over Yakuza 3. Almost every minigame is featured once again such as the batting cages, bowling, darts, karaoke and traditional Japanese parlor games, along with plenty more to choose from.
The brilliant Boxcelios from last time out has a sequel – the aptly named and more accessible Boxcelios 2. Sadly, the music isn’t as good as the first game, but gameplay is largely the same, and that is no bad thing.
Table tennis has also been added in Yakuza 4, but with the typical Yakuza absurdity. Firstly, it can only be found in the sauna, which means that whilst you are playing table tennis, both you and your female opponent are wearing bathrobes. In a peak Yakuza twist, the more points you score against your opponent, the more her bathrobe slips down revealing her body underneath. This softcore version of ping pong is completed by you building up a power meter by then staring at her jiggling assets that really do act like they have their own version of gravity working overtime on them.
I have been playing Yakuza 4 on my Xbox Series X, meaning I utilise the Quick Resume feature wherever possible. This has, however, brough the odd issue that I have been unable to replicate when booting the game up from scratch. When launched via Quick Resume, load times on pretty much everything has been unacceptably slow. Menu screens, inventory items, moving in and out of areas, even talking to someone has caused the game to freeze for a good few seconds each time. This again shows inconsistencies with Quick Resume, but whether this was a one-off or not I cannot tell; it was an issue nonetheless.
Yakuza 4 Remastered on Xbox isn’t the best game in The Yakuza Remastered Collection but it is a marked improvement on the pacing of Yakuza 3 Remastered. Akiyama is a wonderful addition to the Yakuza protagonist roster, but the jury is still out on Saejima at this point. It is tough to get too acquainted to Tanimura though, as he is not featured as a playable character again in the series. And whilst Yakuza 4 may not have the greatest plot in a Yakuza game, the way it is able to tell one cohesive story through the actions of four different protagonists should absolutely be praised.