The Yakuza Remastered Collection for Xbox review: An incredible value magnified by Xbox Game Pass

The Yakuza games add exceptional value to the already excellent Game Pass.

Yakuza Remastered Yakuza 5
(Image: © Sega)

It seems like every console generation, Microsoft makes a full-on attempt to get the Japanese market's attention. While they almost always end up failing to generate significant sales, they usually end up a pretty good game under their belt (remember Lost Odyssey? Cause Microsoft doesn't). This time around, instead of making a brand new game, they've latched onto the Yakuza series, Sega's long-running crime drama that part anime, part Streets of Rage, and part RPG, and have placed it at the center of Xbox Game Pass.

Enter The Yakuza Remastered Collection, a collection that includes Yakuza 3, 4, and 5, with updated visuals and improved performance, as well as restored content and updated localization. While the collection released on the PlayStation 4 early last year, what makes its appearance on Xbox significant is that it is available alongside Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2, which means you can experience The Dragon of Dojima's saga in almost its entirety on Xbox Game Pass — but would you want to? While Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 don't enjoy the full remake treatment that the first two games received, they're full of enough charm, drama, and action to make them well worth your time and are some of the best games available on Game Pass.

The Yakuza Remastered Collection for Xbox review: The Dragon of Dojima finds a new home

Yakuza Remastered Yakuza

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)
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TitleThe Yakuza Remastered Collection
DeveloperRyu Ga Gotoku Studio
GenreAction Adventure
PlatformsXbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
Game Size80.3 GB
PlayersSingle player
Xbox Game PassYes

The Yakuza games follow Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, from his earliest days in the Yakuza to a hardened older man, occasionally switching perspective to other supporting characters. The Yakuza games all take place in fictional Kamurocho, a seedy area of Tokyo where crime is frequent. Kiryu is unlike other men in his line of work and is kind-hearted, and he believes in an idealized version of the yakuza, one where honor outweighs the underworld's evils.

Each Yakuza game can be enjoyed on its own, and that's true for the games included in this collection. If you follow them back to back, you'll easily pick up the threads that connect the stories. I almost think of these particular Yakuza games as filler arcs in an anime. Yakuza 3 sends you off to Okinawa to run an orphanage for the first few hours of the game. Yakuza 4 introduces a host of new characters before Kiryu even makes his first appearance. Yakuza 5 finds Kiryu working a dead-end job and sending money home to his foster family.

No matter the situation, however, one way or another, Kiryu ends up embroiled in Yakuza drama. What follows is a full-blown crime drama that takes itself seriously one moment and then juxtaposes it against scenes of total ridiculousness. Yakuza is at its best when it pairs moments of drama next to moments of levity, and every moment is brought to life thanks to a superb Japanese voice cast. The same can be said for the excellent localization, which ensures that nothing is lost in translation, no matter how weird.

A little something for everyone

Yakuza Remastered Yakuza

Source: Sega (Image credit: Source: Sega)

The gameplay can be described as a hydra of different genres. At its core, Yakuza is a brawler, not unlike a 2D beat 'em up. Players must mash buttons and chain combos to beat the living crap out of their opponents, who range from drunks and punks to dangerous high-ranking Yakuza. With every victory, Kiryu gains experience, which he can use to unlock more combos and feats of strength. But what makes the Yakuza games stand out is the huge variety of things to do. Throughout the game, players can engage in side stories and help the citizens of Kamurocho with their mundane and often absurd requests. But no matter how goofy the ask, Kiryu is happy to help out.

Aside from the myriad of side quests, you'll find a lot to do in these games. Do you want to golf? You can. Play some Taiko no Tatsujin at the Sega arcade? You can. Recruit Hostess and run a club? You can. Yakuza games have time for that, and that's what I love about them. They're not afraid to waste an hour on a date or have you get involved with middle school drama. Just when you think Yakuza can't get weirder, it does, and that's what makes these games so great.

The Yakuza Remastered Collection for Xbox review: An acquired taste

Yakuza Remastered Hero

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

While the Yakuza games are brimming with charm, they're not for everyone for a few reasons. The Yakuza games all follow the same formula — the first few hours are cutscene heavy and full of Yakuza politics, crooked cops, and loan sharks, and someone is almost always murdered or framed, and then Kiryu somehow finds his way into the mess. That's not too much of a problem, but what might be is the stiff gameplay. You spend most of the game punching and kicking, but while it's not terrible, it's probably the worst part of the Yakuza games.

The games feel and look like early PS3 games, stuck in that mid evolution between console generations.

The gameplay improvements made in Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2 are not found here, and the games feel and look like early PS3 games, stuck in that mid-evolution between console generations. It's particularly noticeable in Yakuza 3, thanks to the incessant bloom effect on everything. The other Yakuza games have that feeling, too, but to a lesser degree. Yakuza 5 feels the most modern, and while it's nice to see the series evolve from game to game, I can see players being turned off by it.

I can also see players having an issue with how Japanese the game is. I mean this as a compliment when I say it's a "Japanese weird" that fans of anime and manga will be familiar with, but I'm not sure if everyone will want to play along. There also some dicey content that may not always mesh with western standards, but it's never done to be edgy or mean; it's simply a reflection of eastern traditions and beliefs, of which the games make a note of at the start of each title.

The Yakuza Remastered Collection for Xbox review Worth the trip to Kamurocho?

Yakuza Remastered Yakuza

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

The Yakuza Remastered Collection adds three great single-player experiences to the Xbox Game Pass, and I think that's great. For me, the Yakuza series consists of some of the most entertaining games I've played, and I think having the series on Game Pass increases the value of the service tenfold. The series as a whole is a sprawling epic that has gone under the radar for far too long, and it's never been easier to get into thanks to Xbox Game Pass, and with the 7th and final entry in Kiryu's saga set to release in March, what better time to start than now.

Since being introduced to Yakuza, I've been a huge fan and have become totally invested in Kiryu's journey. While the gameplay may be a little stiff or even boring for some, the story and acting are top-notch, and the sheer number of things to do and experience make every Yakuza game a long and involved affair, and every one of them is worth the price of admission on their own.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was my Game of the Year choice last year, and it seems to have resonated with fans as well. With the recent announcement that the Yakuza spinoff, Judgement, Is heading to next-gen consoles, it seems that Sega is using Yakuza's newfound popularity to make more Yakuza fans, and I hope it pays off for them. The Yakuza Remastered Collection would've been a great value on its own, but thanks to Xbox Game Pass, it's never been easier to experience one of gaming's most underrated series as a whole. No matter where you start, you're sure to find a Yakuza game that resonates with you.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. I like playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.