Now like many Shenmue fan, I am guilty of staying away from the Yakuza series. People always called it Grand Theft Auto mixed with Shenmue. I like the Shenmue part, but the Grand Theft Auto part always threw me off, so I basically stayed away for a number of years. Sometimes I would be interested, but by that time, there’d be already so many sequels that I wouldn’t even know when to begin. Then Yakuza 0 came out and was advertised as a prequel…so I thought why not…I’ll give it a try…Grand Theft Auto wasn’t all that bad…just mixing it with Shenmue seemed weird.

Now keep in mind, my only experience with the Yakuza series so far is with Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2…the more and more I played them, the easier I began to realize that these games were almost nothing like Grand Theft Auto…and way more like Shenmue. When people say that Yakuza is kind of an evolution of Shenmue…I think I finally see what they mean.

How Yakuza is similar to Shenmue!

The amount of things you can do in Yakuza 0 is vast. Unlike Shenmue though, there’s no down time where you have to wait…so you can play these mini games at will whenever you want. There’s also side quest…which believe it or not, were in Shenmue as well…now compared to Shenmue, the side quests in Yakuza 0 are much easier to find. In Shenmue, some of them were really cryptic to unlock…now personally that’s what made them so fun to me. Another thing that’s similar is the detail within the pedestrians. They interact with each other and seem to have destinations…this is something I’m seeing in newer games like Zelda…no longer are NPCs just mindless idiots. Even with that said, Shenmue’s NPCs are still a bit more detailed. Another small similarity is the fact that you can follow another character. They even have a discussion as they walk together which is something that happened a lot in Shenmue 2. Gameplay variety is another thing. In Shenmue 1, there’s a scene where you’re suddenly playing a mortal cycle scene similar to Hang On. In Yakuza 0, you’re suddenly playing a shooting game similar to Virtua Cop. There are a lot of nods to Shenmue in this game too like “Iwao Bridge” which shares the name of Ryo’s father Iwao Hazuki…and there are other nods in other Yakuza games. In both games you can level up your moves and learn new techniques. So yeah…way more similar to Shenmue than it is to really any other game I can think of.

Things I like more about Yakuza!

One of the things I like a lot about Shenmue is Ryo. I know it sounds weird right? But Ryo is written in a way for the player to put himself into the story. Similar to twilight…and yes I’m serious. The more dull and emotionless the character you play, the more you start putting yourself in their shoes especially when you start digging round at the details. Ryo doesn’t have a ton of characteristics differently from a normal person while Kyru and Majima are characters that have a ton of depth moreso Majima than Kyru. As a result I feel more connected to Shenmue’s world…and this is just me, but I actually really enjoy the downtime in Shenmue…so much so that in Shenmue 2, I never hit that wait option. I always explore when given the option to and the game rewards me for doing so. I also like the day and night system in Shenmue a lot it adds more to the immersion and realism to the game. It’ll often dictate my play session. Sometimes I think to myself, oh I’ll just play one Shenmue Day or two Shenmue days. In Yakuza I played it for 5 hours straight once. I know that sounds good, but it got me in some real trouble.

Other thoughts:

It’s quite common to hear that Shenmue is more of an experience than a game. Well Yakuza is more like a game. It takes many aspects of Shenmue and makes them more like a game than a real life simulator…and a fun one at that. Like many of other Yu Suzuki games, Shenmue aimed at capturing realism and sometimes that loses people and captivates others. Which is why some people can’t stand Shenmue, I feel that most gamers would enjoy Yakuza.

Now I’m not going to definitively say which one is better…because I really can’t. Most people would probably prefer Yakuza, but Shenmue is really sentimental to me. I’m actually glad it has as many differences to Shenmue when it comes to storytelling because that makes Yakuza its own thing and I will definitely be checking out more of the series. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this little adventure of a Shenmue fan diving into the Yakuza series.


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