It’s more rare than it should be for a series that’s not an RPG to make it all the way from Japan to North America, and in that sense I’m really glad that at least most of the Yakuza games crossed over. It means that more of us will get to experience the fascinatingly heavy roots in its native culture instead of merely hearing about it in easily forgotten forum threads.
I may have taken a few too many years to get around to beginning the series myself but I’m glad that I finally did. It has a number of critical gameplay flaws that try to bring it down, but the world it brings the player into more than makes up for it.
The story of Yakuza 1 hits the ground running as protagonist Kazuma’s friend and fellow Yakuza member Nishiki shoots their boss Sohei Dojima to stop the sexual assault of their friend and mutual love interest Yumi. With the police only moments away Kazuma takes the blame to protect Nishiki, going to prison for a long 10 years to pay for it.
It’s around Christmas in 2005 once Kazuma is released, and not even a single night can pass before things get complicated.