I Receive You: Let's Play Yakuza (PS2)

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#1

About the game:

Yakuza, or Ryu ga Gotoku (Like a Dragon) is a series of sandbox beat 'em up games by Sega. The series started with the original Ryu ga Gotoku in 2005, and that PS2 game was then localized (and dubbed into English, with 3000% more swearing) and released outside Japan as Yakuza in 2006. The series is known for its gangster melodrama, plethora of sidequests and activities in the open world, and manly men having fist fights. While all of that stuff is already present in the original game it’s not quite as packed with content or as over-the-top as the later entries in the series.

Still, this is an engaging story and well worth experiencing, even though the original PS2 release hasn’t aged particularly well. The gameplay generally alternates between charmingly janky but satisfying and “JESUS CHRIST WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU PUNCHING THE AIR AND NOT HITTING THIS MAN IN FRONT OF YOU YOU MORON”

The main protagonist of the Yakuza series is Kazuma Kiryu aka the “Dragon of Dojima”, who at the start of the first game is a young yakuza lieutenant on the cusp of starting his own family in the Tojo Clan… at least until he goes to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. When Kiryu is released on parole and returns to the Tokyo red-light district of Kamurocho (a fictionalized version of Kabukicho) ten years later, he’s dragged right back into the politics of the criminal underworld as the Tojo Clan searches for a stolen 10 billion yen.

Oh, and Kiryu’s best friend is now a ruthless villain, and the woman Kiryu loves has been missing since he went to prison. That’s probably something we should look into.

About the LP:

If you watched my Grand Theft Auto IV LP a couple of years ago, expect a similar style here - fairly informative but laid-back solo commentary (with the occasional co-commentator showing up), no talking over cutscenes unless otherwise noted, no 100% completion but showing off all the interesting stuff I can manage.

This time I’m even playing a game I don’t actively hate, so maybe I won’t sound completely dead inside (more so than usual, that is) throughout the second half of the LP! Well, I make no promises for the parts with all those annoying boxer and kickboxer enemies that dodge constantly, those fights were painful to watch while editing.

Boring tech stuff only I care about:

I’m playing my copy of Yakuza on a PAL PS2 with component cables, upscaled to 1080p using a Micomsoft Framemeister. The end result doesn’t match the Japan-only PS3/Wii U HD remaster since the resolution is simply upscaled from 480i and deinterlaced, but this is still pretty much the best this game can look on original PS2 hardware. Well okay, my component cables are cheap and a bit shoddy so the quality is slightly lower than you’d get on the official cables, but the difference isn’t worth the €50 extra cost.

The PAL version of Yakuza also has a few subtle differences to the North American release, but they’re mainly interface-related and nothing that affects the actual game content. It also supports 60Hz mode, so I (and you) get the full 30 fps experience rather than 25 fps PAL bullshit.

All in all, I set out to create the best-looking Yakuza 1 LP you’re going to see - certainly on original PS2 hardware, and while I nailed the image quality I slightly screwed up with the aspect ratio. Before widescreen displays became the standard, you often had to adjust the image yourself to fill the 16:9 ratio, and that’s what I failed to do here until the halfway point so everything is ever so slightly too skinny. Feel free to point and laugh at my incompetence! (seriously though, the discrepancy is not that bad and I doubt most would even notice)

Hey, this looks familiar!

There have been a couple of VLPs of the original Yakuza over the years and ChaosArgate is currently doing the PS4 remake, Yakuza Kiwami. I asked ChaosArgate if he was okay with me LPing the original at the same time, and not only did I get the go-ahead but also got him on board as an occasional guest commentator! That said, more Yakuza content is always a good thing, and as I was recording footage from the original game for a retrospective article I figured I might as well do an LP.

Since this wasn’t originally planned as an LP, I spent the first couple of recording sessions clicking through some of the unvoiced dialog super fast, but I eventually stopped doing that (you’ll be able to see the exact point I decide this is an LP). In the meantime, I’ll summarize any dialog I skip through, so you won’t miss out on anything.

Finally, NO SPOILERS. Yeah, the game is old, but there’s still a pretty good story here.

THE VIDEOS

Playlist with all episodes

Episode 01: Dragon Attack
Episode 02: Ten Years
Episode 03: Blood on the Dance Floor
Episode 04: Funeral of Fists (uncut commentary feat. ChaosArgate)
Episode 05: Bacchus
Episode 06: Somebody Put Something in My Drink
Episode 07: Mizuki
Episode 08: Improper Dancing
Episode 09: Haruka
Episode 10: Bar of War
Bonus 01: Ryu ga Gotoku HD Edition (PS3)
Episode 11: Brawl for All (uncut commentary feat. ChaosArgate)
Episode 12: Mad Dog at the Bat (uncut commentary feat. ChaosArgate)
Episode 13: Chapter 6 Substories, Part One
Episode 14: Chapter 6 Substories, Part Two
Bonus 02: Komaki’s Training
Episode 15: Young Hearts
Bonus 03: Coliseum Battles, Part One
Episode 16: A Stray Child
Episode 17: Dragon and Carp (slightly :nws:)
Episode 18: Take Your Daughter to Work Day
Episode 19: Chapter 7 Substories, Part One
Episode 20: Haruka’s Trust (Chapter 7 Substories, Part Two)
Episode 21: Brothers of the Oath
Coliseum Battles, Part Two
Episode 22: Streets of Rage
Episode 23: Wife of a Yakuza
Episode 24: Tokyo Highway Battle (uncut commentary feat. ChaosArgate)
Episode 25: Turning Point
Episode 26: Kamurocho Hostess Bar Crawl
Episode 27: Chapter 11 Substories, Part One
Episode 28: Mad Dog of Shangri-La
Episode 29: Shibaura Wharf (uncut commentary feat. ChaosArgate)
Episode 30: The Fourth Chairman
Episode 31 (Story Finale): Sunflowers



#2

Episode 02: Ten Years


#3

Episode 03: Blood on the Dance Floor

Sorry about the hum you may occasionally hear in the background, I had my windows open because my apartment gets super hot in the summer and I was trying not to suffocate in here. I didn’t expect the mic to pick up the noise that well, but it did and some of it still remains even though I obviously did the usual noise gate process. It shouldn’t be hugely noticeable in the video itself, at least.


#4

Episode 04: Funeral of Fists (Uncut Commentary)

I am joined by ChaosArgate as we visit the Tojo Clan HQ to pay our respects at the chairman’s funeral, and duke it out with Patriarch Shimano (and his freakishly tiny head). Many men are punched, kicked and otherwise brutalized along the way, because that’s how Kazuma Kiryu rolls.


#5

I hope there’s at least some folks out there who are following this. To make things a bit easier for newcomers and help keep track of all the Japanese names, I figured I’d post some introductions of the major characters in Yakuza. There are in-game bios for all the important folks, but those are not very good so I wrote my own instead.

CHARACTER BIOS:

Kazuma Kiryu

The Dragon of the Dojima Family is a stoic badass with a heart of gold, strong sense of right and wrong, and an unwavering sense of loyalty to those close to him - to the extent that he’d take the fall for a murder he did not commit and consequently go to prison for ten years. Kiryu’s face-stomping abilities are unmatched, and he has no off switch for basically anything he does, which will become more apparent in the sequels. Voiced by Takaya Kuroda in Japanese and by Darryl Kurylo in the English dub. The dub also aged him down seven years because I guess someone at Sega thought nobody would want to play as a 37-year-old geezer in their badass gangster game.

Akira Nishiki (JP: Akira Nishikiyama)

Nishiki grew up with Kiryu in the Sunflower Orphanage, run by Shintaro Fuma. The two became sworn brothers and once they grew up, they joined the yakuza to emulate their foster father. While Kiryu and Nishiki have remained best friends and brothers, it is quite obvious that Nishiki is somewhat jealous of Kiryu and not entirely happy to always be living in his shadow, especially when Kiryu is about to start his own yakuza family at the beginning of the story. Nishiki also has a younger sister who is suffering from an unspecified illness that is apparently terminal, and he does his best to be there for her.

By 2005, however, Nishiki has changed. Now the patriarch of his own family, he is looking to earn success and power at any cost, and while we’ve only seen him briefly thus far it’s obvious he’s no longer treating Kiryu as a brother. Nishiki is voiced by Michael Rosenbaum in the dub.

Shintaro Fuma (JP: Shintaro Kazama)

The foster father of Kiryu and Nishiki, and the patriarch of the Fuma Family. Fuma still has Kiryu’s back even after the latter is expelled from the clan, and seems to be one of the few people who know what’s going on with the plot early on. He’s also the recipient of the most obvious name change between the original and the dub, as Kazama was most likely deemed too similar to Kazuma (although they could’ve just called him Kiryu and avoided the whole issue). Fuma is voiced by Roger L. Jackson, one of the few voice actors in this game who can actually pronounce Japanese names correctly.

Futo Shimano (JP: Futoshi Shimano)

The imposing patriarch of the Shimano Family may look like Tor Johnson, but he is not a dumb brute by any means. In fact, Shimano is one of the most intelligent and ruthless yakuza in the Tojo Clan, with ambition that is every bit as sizable as his frame. Shimano is voiced by Michael Madsen in the dub, and while Madsen is a fine actor he’s not exactly the best person to voice someone as consistently loud and boisterous as Shimano in my opinion.

Yumi Sawamura

Yumi is a childhood friend of Kiryu and Nishiki from the Sunflower Orphanage, working as a bar hostess and still close to the two yakuza in 1995. While Yumi’s exact relationship with Kiryu isn’t specified, the manual refers to her as “the woman [Kiryu] loves” and NPCs on the street talk about her having a yakuza for a boyfriend. Yumi goes missing after the incident that sends Kiryu into prison, and her whereabouts remain unknown ten years later. Her voice is provided by Eliza Dushku in the dub.

Goro Majima

A violent and deranged yakuza who runs the Majima Family, a subsidiary of the Shimano Family. Majima’s unpredictability and hair-trigger temper have earned him the nickname “Mad Dog of Shimano”, and he also seems to have some sort of a mancrush on Kiryu whom he calls “Kiryu-chan” (or Kazuma-chan in the dub). Majima is voiced by Mark Hamill in what is easily the standout performance of the English dub.

Haruka

While looking for leads, Kiryu encounters this mysterious 9-year-old girl who has come to Kamurocho looking for her mother. Haruka’s mother is supposedly Yumi’s younger sister that Yumi didn’t know about, but at this point we don’t know if this is actually true. We do know by now that the yakuza are after Haruka, as her pendant is “worth ten billion yen”… Haruka is voiced by VA veteran Debbie Derryberry in the dub and by Rie Kugimiya in Japanese.

Mako Date (JP: Makoto Date)

A former homicide detective who got moved/demoted to the Organized Crime Unit due to his reluctance to close the Dojima murder case ten years ago (having realized immediately that Kiryu wasn’t the actual killer) and became estranged from his family as a result. Date is now investigating the hit on the Tojo Clan’s chairman and helps Kiryu escape the funeral when the proceedings get a bit too intense. Kiryu decides to assist him in the investigation because he “owes him one” and also feels responsible for screwing up Date’s life. Date’s voice actor in the dub is Bill Farmer, better known for voicing Goofy since 1987. Gawrsh!

Reina

The owner and bartender (mama-san, as female bar proprietors are traditionally called in Japan) of Serena, the bar Kiryu and Nishiki used to frequent since the late 80s (I’ll say she’s aged remarkably well, looking younger here and in Yakuza Kiwami than she did in Yakuza 0) and where Yumi worked at prior to her disappearance. As an old friend, Reina still offers Kiryu her help and support, letting him use Serena as a hideout and keep Haruka safe there. Now, I could’ve sworn Reina’s family name is mentioned at some point in Yakuza 0 or Kiwami, but couldn’t find it anywhere so maybe I’m mistaken. Voiced by Rachael Leigh Cook.

Shinji Tanaka

Shinji used to be Kiryu’s right-hand man in the Dojima Family, and is now a Nishiki family lieutenant. Shinji is actually Fuma’s man on the inside, spying on Nishiki and relaying information back to Fuma as well as Kiryu. Not that anyone really cares, but he’s voiced by Daniel Capellaro.

Kazuki & Yuya

Kazuki is the owner of Stardust, a host club on Tenkaichi Street. What’s a host club, you ask? Well, you know how Japan has these hostess clubs where you can pay money to hang out with women? It’s like that, but with guys instead of ladies. Anyway, Kazuki is an acquaintance of Fuma, who puts him in touch with Kiryu and tells him to help out Kiryu however he can. Yuya is Kazuki’s friend and employee of Stardust, and while Kazuki’s the one running the show you can’t really mention one of these guys without the other. Their voice actors in the dub aren’t credited, but in the Japanese version Kazuki and Yuya are voiced by Hiroshi Tsuchida and Kenta Miyake respectively.

Kage (JP: Hanaya [The Florist])

Kamurocho’s legendary informant, who has set up shop in a secret underground red-light district because why the hell not. As you probably figured out by now, Kage (whose name was changed for the English version presumably because flowers aren’t hardcore enough) deals in information and provides it to those who can afford it. He also runs a fighting ring where Kiryu can participate in a variety of tournaments for fun and profit. Kage is voiced by Howling Mad Murdock himself, Dwight Schultz.

Mizuki

Haruka’s mother and apparently Yumi’s younger sister, who runs a bar named Ares in the Millennium Tower. Mizuki’s whereabouts are currently unknown.



#6

I think the problem with Madsen’s voice is that he doesn’t go far enough from what you’d expect from Shimano: loud, proud, and boisterous, that there isn’t enough of a contrast between what he looks like and how he sounds to make the contrast seem intentional.


#7

Episode 05: Bacchus

We escape the funeral with the help of a familiar face and team up with him, get our next story objective, and avoid going to that objective because we’ve got sidequests to do and keys to collect (the latter mostly off-screen). Also, I apparently forgot to adjust the brightness/contrast on the recording so it looks a bit more washed out than usual, but that shouldn’t be a massive issue.


#8

Episode 06: Somebody Put Something in My Drink

In which several upstanding citizens of Kamurocho attempt to scam Kazuma Kiryu out of his hard-earned money, and get curbstomped for their efforts.


#9

Episode 07: Mizuki

Oh hey, it’s the plot! For about five minutes at the end of the video, but still! We also screw up our chance for 100% completion, and find some secret establishments around town. There must be a thriving secret door industry in Kamurocho.


#10

Episode 08: Improper Dancing

Well, that happened. I wonder how much time that hitman spent practicing the dance routine, he’s got some moves. Also, if I were Yuya, I’d be slightly more concerned about the shotgun.


#11

Episode 09: Haruka

We meet one of the least annoying child characters in video gaming, although the English dub does its utmost to ruin her. More importantly, we get an adorable puppy! :dogee:


#12

Episode 10: Bar of War

We finally find our way to Mizuki’s Ares bar, but of course things aren’t going to be as simple as that. (How did those Omi Alliance guys even get in? Were we followed? And if so, how did they see us input the code for the elevator?)


#13

I wasn’t planning on posting this until tomorrow but what the hell, might as well release the bonus episode now.

Bonus 01: Ryu ga Gotoku HD Edition

In this bonus episode, we’ll take a look at the Japan-exclusive HD remaster. We get native (or native-ish, there’s a border a couple of pixels wide to the right and the bottom but that may just be my cables) 1080p and higher frame rates during gameplay, along with a number of quality of life improvements such as nearly nonexistent load times, more camera control and Yakuza 3 style item storage! This is an excellent way to play the game, at least if you’re familiar with the story and/or aren’t bothered by the language barrier.

Something I meant to mention in the video but forgot: The pre-rendered FMVs are still low-res and look awful next to the actual gameplay. Fortunately there aren’t that many of those in the game.


#14

Episode 11: Brawl for All (uncut commentary)

ChaosArgate joins me again as we head deeper into Purgatory and meet up with the legendary informant. Then we beat up some men in a cage.


#15

Episode 12: Mad Dog at the Bat (uncut commentary)

I am once again joined by ChaosArgate, as we face off with Goro Majima for the first time in the Yakuza series. Here’s the Majima fight music without us talking over it, the track is called “Receive You the Prototype”.


#16

No new video yet because I’ve kinda been a lazy bum this week, but I thought I’d give you a little behind-the-scenes update:

I’ve finished recording the main story along with the sidequests and most of the planned bonus content (the one thing I still need to record is the hostess club stuff, which I really don’t care about in the slightest but probably have to show off at some point), and I’ve also edited all of the episodes together so now it’s just a matter of recording commentary for them.

I was even able to fight the secret bonus boss despite the fact I screwed up two sidequests and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to fight him. Don’t know what went on there, but I’m not complaining.

I’ve also given the OP a bit of an overhaul and added some new character profiles to the second… err, fifth post, so go ahead and check those out if you feel like it.


#17

Episode 13: Chapter 6 Substories, Part One

We help out a bunch of folks in Kamurocho, and beat up a few others. We even use a baseball bat for actually hitting baseballs instead of whacking people in the head with it.


#18

Episode 14: Chapter 6 Substories, Part Two

Oh good, we’ve got a loyal minion, and we also manage to stumble across a rather nefarious plot. Speaking of plot, next time will be a story update again, and I figured I’d put Komaki’s training sessions from this chapter into a separate bonus video:

Bonus 02: Komaki’s Training

Komaki’s going to teach us some moves by throwing baseballs at our junk. There’s a couple more training sessions after this, but those will be in the main videos since we only get to do one at a time.


#19

Episode 15: Young Hearts

Be free tonight. Time is on your side. And so on and so forth.


#20

Bonus 03: Coliseum Battles, Part One

We participate in the first set of tournaments available at the Coliseum. In editing, I decided to speed things up a little, because I figured that hearing me go “and then we kick him in the face again” for 20 minutes would’ve been too boring even by my standards. So, instead of that, you get a sped-up version with some good music.