Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the latest installment in the beloved Yakuza series, which has been captivating gamers for over a decade. With its stunning visuals, engaging storyline, and unforgettable characters, this game has become an instant classic. But where does it fit in the timeline of the Yakuza series? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a closer look at the evolution of the Yakuza series and how Yakuza: Like a Dragon fits into the picture. So, get ready to dive into the world of the Yakuza and discover the exciting journey that awaits you.

Quick Answer:
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the latest installment in the long-running Yakuza series, which has been active since 2005. It takes place after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and features a new protagonist named Ichiban Kasuga. While the game’s story is self-contained, it does reference previous events in the series and introduces new characters that were featured in earlier games. Overall, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a natural evolution of the series, building on its predecessors while also offering something new and exciting for both returning fans and newcomers alike.

The Origin of the Yakuza Series

The First Yakuza Game: Yakuza (2005)

Introduction to the Yakuza series

The Yakuza series, also known as Ryū ga Gotoku in Japan, is a popular action-adventure game series developed and published by Sega. The series was first introduced in 2005 with the release of the first Yakuza game, which was later followed by numerous sequels, spin-offs, and remastered editions.

Setting: Kamurocho, Tokyo

The first Yakuza game is set in Kamurocho, a red-light district in Tokyo, Japan. The district is known for its vibrant nightlife, neon lights, and bustling streets, which made it an ideal setting for the game’s storyline. The game’s setting is an integral part of the story, as it reflects the dark and gritty world of the Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime syndicate.

Main character: Kazuma Kiryu

The first Yakuza game features Kazuma Kiryu as the main character. Kiryu is a former member of the Tojo clan, one of the most prominent Yakuza families in Japan. He is portrayed as a strong and stoic protagonist who is fiercely loyal to his friends and family. Kiryu’s character is the backbone of the game, and his actions and decisions drive the story forward.

Plot: Protecting Haruka Sawamura from the Yakuza

The plot of the first Yakuza game revolves around Kiryu’s quest to protect Haruka Sawamura, a young girl who is the daughter of a fellow Yakuza member. The game’s story is filled with twists and turns, as Kiryu navigates the complex world of the Yakuza and battles against rival gangs to protect Haruka. The game’s storyline sets the stage for the subsequent games in the series, as Kiryu’s past and his ties to the Yakuza continue to play a significant role in the franchise’s narrative.

Building the World of Yakuza

Developing the Kamurocho district

The Yakuza series began with the release of the first game, simply titled “Yakuza,” in 2005. One of the key aspects of the game was the meticulous development of the Kamurocho district, a fictional district in Tokyo that serves as the main setting for the series. The developers spent countless hours researching and studying the layout, architecture, and overall atmosphere of real-life districts in Tokyo to create an immersive and authentic experience for players. The result was a vibrant and detailed environment that has become synonymous with the Yakuza series.

Introducing supporting characters

In addition to the intricate world-building, the Yakuza series also gained recognition for its well-written and memorable supporting characters. These characters, who range from allies to adversaries, help to flesh out the world and provide a more immersive experience for players. From the hot-headed street thug to the cunning corporate boss, each character is meticulously crafted to bring their unique personalities and motivations to life. By creating a rich tapestry of characters, the Yakuza series has become known for its strong narrative and compelling storytelling.

Incorporating Japanese culture

Another key aspect of the Yakuza series is its dedication to showcasing and celebrating Japanese culture. The games are filled with references to Japanese history, art, and pop culture, making them a valuable resource for those interested in learning more about the country’s unique traditions and customs. From the traditional Japanese music that plays in the background to the intricate designs of the clothing and tattoos, the Yakuza series is a veritable treasure trove of Japanese culture. By incorporating these elements into the game, the developers have created a series that not only entertains but also educates and informs.

Evolution of the Gameplay Mechanics

Brawler-style combat system

The Yakuza series began as a traditional beat ’em up game, featuring a brawler-style combat system where players engaged in hand-to-hand combat with various enemies using punches, kicks, and special moves. This system was refined and expanded upon in subsequent games, with the addition of new techniques, weapons, and enemy types.

Mini-games and side quests

In addition to the main storyline, the Yakuza series has always featured a wide variety of mini-games and side quests for players to enjoy. These have included arcade games, batting cages, and even karaoke. The series has also been known for its robust side quests, which often involve helping out the citizens of Kamurocho and other Yakuza-controlled territories.

RPG elements

Over time, the Yakuza series has evolved to incorporate more RPG elements, such as leveling up characters, acquiring new skills and abilities, and managing inventory. These elements have been integrated seamlessly into the gameplay, allowing players to experience a more immersive and dynamic game world.

The Evolution of the Series

Key takeaway: The Yakuza series has evolved significantly since the release of the first game in 2005. From its humble beginnings as a traditional beat ’em up game, the series has grown to include RPG elements, a variety of playable characters, and an expanded scope that explores different cities and characters. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the series took a bold step forward by introducing a new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, and placing him in a brand-new setting. This move allowed the developers to explore new themes and directions, while also giving the series a fresh coat of paint. The game’s focus on themes of friendship, loyalty, and family adds depth and richness to the game’s narrative.

Yakuza 2 (2006)

  • Introduction of Goro Majima as a playable character
    • Majima serves as a loyal underling to the protagonist, Kazama, and is known for his brute strength and fearsome reputation within the yakuza world.
  • Addition of new mini-games and side quests
    • “Casino” mini-game: Players can gamble and win money at various casinos throughout the game.
    • “Hostess” mini-game: Players can manage a hostess club and interact with various customers.
    • “Real Estate” mini-game: Players can purchase and manage properties in order to earn rental income.
  • Further development of the Kamurocho district
    • Expansion of the area with new buildings and landmarks, such as the Millennium Tower and the Tokyo Tower.
    • Introduction of new businesses and shops, such as restaurants and bars.
    • Increased interaction with non-playable characters (NPCs) and the ability to engage in side quests with them.

Yakuza 3 (2009)

  • Expansion to the cities of Osaka and Nagoya: Yakuza 3 marked the first time the series expanded beyond Tokyo, introducing players to the bustling streets of Osaka and Nagoya.
  • Introducing new protagonist, Taiga Saejima: In addition to series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza 3 introduced players to Taiga Saejima, a former police officer turned yakuza member.
  • More RPG elements and customization options: Yakuza 3 continued the series’ evolution towards becoming more of an RPG, with a larger emphasis on customization options for player-created characters.
  • New side activities: The game also introduced a variety of new side activities, such as hostess clubs and cabaret clubs, which players could participate in to earn money and build relationships with characters.
  • Expanded storyline: Yakuza 3’s storyline was more complex and intricate than previous games, with multiple plotlines and characters that intertwined throughout the game.
  • Improved combat system: The game also featured an improved combat system, with more fluid and responsive controls, and a greater emphasis on player choice and strategy.
  • Reception: Yakuza 3 was well-received by critics and fans alike, with many praising the game’s expanded scope and deeper RPG elements. However, some felt that the game’s multiple storylines and characters could be overwhelming at times.

Yakuza 4 (2010)

  • Addition of multiple playable characters
    • Introduction of four playable protagonists: Shinji, Masao, Jo, and Reina
  • Introducing the “Dragon of Dojima” storyline
    • Focus on the story of Kiryu Kazama, the Dragon of Dojima, as he navigates the world of the Yakuza
  • More side quests and mini-games
    • Increased variety of side activities available for players to enjoy, including a wide range of mini-games and side quests.

Yakuza 5 (2012)

  • A pivotal entry in the series, Yakuza 5 marked a significant shift in gameplay and storytelling
  • The game introduced five playable characters, each with their own interconnected stories and character arcs
  • The narrative was heavily focused on character development, with each protagonist having a distinct personality and backstory
  • The game also featured an increased emphasis on mini-games and side quests, with a wide variety of activities to engage in outside of the main story
  • Players could switch between characters at any time, allowing for a more dynamic and flexible gameplay experience
  • Yakuza 5 was also notable for its branching storylines, where player choices could affect the outcome of certain events and character relationships
  • The game’s story took place in multiple cities across Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Hakata, showcasing the diversity of Japanese culture and providing a rich backdrop for the story
  • Overall, Yakuza 5 represented a significant evolution in the series, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in a traditional beat ’em up game and laying the groundwork for future entries in the franchise.

Yakuza 0 (2015)

  • Prequel set in the 1980s
  • Introducing Kiryu and Majima as young adults
  • Expanded on the origin stories of characters and the creation of the Yakuza

Expanded on the Origin Stories of Characters and the Creation of the Yakuza

Yakuza 0 served as a prequel to the entire series, taking place in the 1980s, where the players were introduced to Kiryu Kazama and Goro Majima as young adults. The game’s storyline was focused on the origins of these two protagonists and how they became involved in the Yakuza.

Throughout the game, players got to witness the early days of the Yakuza and how it evolved from a small gang to a powerful organization. The game provided insight into the creation of the Yakuza and how it became a dominant force in Japan’s criminal underworld.

Yakuza 0 also expanded on the origin stories of other characters that appeared in the series, such as Kazama’s adoptive father, Shintaro Fuma, and Majima’s mentor, Taiga Saejima. The game’s storyline provided a comprehensive background of these characters and how they became involved in the Yakuza.

Additionally, the game’s storyline was intertwined with the storylines of the other Yakuza games, providing a better understanding of the events that took place before the first game. Overall, Yakuza 0 was a critical success and was praised for its engaging storyline, well-developed characters, and immersive gameplay.

The Rise of Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Shifting the Perspective

A New Protagonist Takes Center Stage

Yakuza: Like a Dragon marks a significant shift in the series by introducing a new protagonist, Jumanji. This change in perspective allows the game to expand its narrative scope and explore fresh themes and characters. Players follow Jumanji as he rises through the ranks of the Yakuza, encountering familiar faces and forging new alliances along the way.

Fewer Ties to Previous Games in the Series

Unlike previous installments in the Yakuza series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has fewer connections to the events of its predecessors. While there are still nods to the rich history of the franchise, the game primarily focuses on Jumanji’s story, making it an accessible entry point for newcomers to the series. This shift in focus allows the game to stand on its own and cater to a broader audience.

Embracing Turn-Based Combat and RPG Elements

Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduces a new combat system that replaces the previous brawler-style gameplay. The game now features turn-based battles, which adds a new layer of strategy and depth to the gameplay. Additionally, the game incorporates more RPG elements, such as character progression and skill trees, further differentiating it from the previous games in the series.

These changes in perspective allow Yakuza: Like a Dragon to carve its own unique path within the Yakuza series, while still retaining the core elements that have made the franchise so beloved by fans.

Modernizing the Series

  • Introduction of a new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, and a shift in perspective
    • The previous games were centered around Kazama Kiryu, a long-time protagonist in the series
    • Ichiban Kasuga, a former yakuza member turned homeless, brings a fresh perspective to the story
  • Introduction of a new setting, Isezaki Ijincho
    • The previous games were set in real-life cities in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka
    • Isezaki Ijincho is a fictional city created for the game, allowing for more creative freedom in the story and world-building
  • Incorporation of modern issues, such as homelessness and poverty
    • Previous games in the series dealt with themes such as crime, honor, and family
    • Yakuza: Like a Dragon expands on these themes by tackling issues that are relevant to modern society
    • For example, Ichiban Kasuga is homeless and must navigate the challenges of poverty and social stigma throughout the game
  • Increased focus on side quests and character development
    • Previous games in the series had a strong focus on combat and story, with fewer side quests available
    • Yakuza: Like a Dragon includes a larger number of side quests, allowing players to explore the world and characters in more depth
    • These side quests often focus on character development and building relationships with other characters in the game

Yakuza: Like a Dragon as a Reboot

Yakuza: Like a Dragon marked a significant turning point in the Yakuza series, as it was designed to reboot the franchise and attract new audiences while still retaining the core elements that made the series popular.

Revitalizing the Series with a Fresh Perspective

Yakuza: Like a Dragon took a bold step forward by introducing a new protagonist, Jurocho Ichiban Kasuga, and placing him in a brand-new setting. This move allowed the developers to explore new themes and directions, while also giving the series a fresh coat of paint.

Introducing New Characters and Stories

One of the most notable aspects of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the introduction of a large and diverse cast of characters. These characters each have their own unique stories and personalities, which adds depth and richness to the game’s narrative.

For example, Ichiban’s fellow inmates in the detention center where he is imprisoned at the beginning of the game become key allies throughout his journey. These characters, along with other newcomers like the charismatic young entrepreneur Eri Kamuro and the enigmatic Dragon of Dojima, help to create a vibrant and engaging world.

Exploring Themes of Friendship, Loyalty, and Family

Another hallmark of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is its focus on themes of friendship, loyalty, and family. Throughout the game, Ichiban and his allies face numerous challenges and obstacles, but they always stand by each other and support one another.

This sense of camaraderie is especially evident in the game’s many side quests and substories, which often involve helping out friends and loved ones in need. By emphasizing these themes, Yakuza: Like a Dragon sends a powerful message about the importance of community and support in times of hardship.


1. Where does Yakuza: Like a Dragon fit in the timeline of the Yakuza series?

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the seventh mainline entry in the Yakuza series, and it takes place several years after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. The game is set in Ise-Shima, a fictional region in Japan, and follows a new protagonist named Kasuga Ichiban, who is a former yakuza member turned homeless man. While the game is not directly connected to the previous entries in the series, it still maintains the series’ focus on crime, family, and friendship.

2. How does Yakuza: Like a Dragon differ from the previous games in the series?

Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduces several new gameplay mechanics that distinguish it from the previous games in the series. For example, instead of the traditional beat ’em up combat, the game features a turn-based RPG battle system. Additionally, the game also includes a larger emphasis on character development and exploration, with a greater focus on side quests and character interactions. The game also features a new protagonist, Ichiban, who brings a fresh perspective to the series.

3. Will I be able to play previous games in the series before playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon?

Yes, all previous games in the Yakuza series are set in different locations and follow different protagonists, so you can play them in any order. However, we would recommend playing the games in chronological order to fully understand the story and characters. Additionally, Yakuza 0, which is set in the 1980s, serves as a prequel to the entire series and can be played first to provide more context for the later games.

4. Is Yakuza: Like a Dragon a sequel to Yakuza 6: The Song of Life?

While Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes place several years after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, it is not a direct sequel. The game features a new protagonist, Ichiban, and a new location, Ise-Shima, so it does not directly follow the story of Kiryu, the protagonist of Yakuza 6. However, there are some references to previous games in the series, and players may recognize some familiar faces and locations.

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