It’s not unheard of for the Yakuza series to have you playing as more than one main protagonist, for example Yakuza 0 did it brilliantly by having us play as both Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.  However, Yakuza 4 tries something far bolder by having us play as not one, not two, but four main protagonists whose slow-burn tales each entwine as you progress through the campaign, heading towards one jacked conclusion in typical Yakuza series fashion.  At first, the prospect of playing as four main protagonists is a little daunting and can feel a little congested, but as the story unravels, you soon realise that Yakuza 4 is still a series at its finest, with its story taking place about a year after the events of Yakuza 3.

Without giving too much away, because I believe out of all the Yakuza games that I’ve played so far, this is probably the one most shrouded in mystery and betrayal, and that’s saying something for this series.  First up, we play as Shun Akiyama aka “The Lifeline of Kamurocho”, an incredibly wealthy and generous loan shark with a very unique perspective on life.  Taiga Saejima aka the “Tiger of Tojo”, a powerful and fearlessly loyal member of the Tojo Clan, currently serving a sentence on death row for a brutal mass murder which has gone down in Kamurocho folk law.  Masayoshi Tanimura aka “The Parasite of Kamurocho”, considered to be a dirty cop with questionable methods, but there’s certainly more than meets the eye for this law enforcer of this Yakuza run city, and finally, the one and only, Kazuma Kiryu “The Dragon of Dojima”.

In terms of gameplay, if you’re used to this series by now, then you’re going to know how it plays.  With this being a game that originally released in 2010 in Japan (2011 for the West), naturally the combat isn’t going to be as refined as let’s say Yakuza Kiwami 2, which runs on a brand new engine.  But in comparison to the likes of Yakuza 3, this 4th instalment certainly handles a little better and its quite interesting to not only get invested into each of the four playable characters stories, but also how each of them handle themselves in a fight.  Kiryu, Akiyama, Saejima and Tanimura all feel different in a fight and you’ll have to adapt to each of their fighting quirks for better or worse, and each of them have their own XP and upgrade system, with you earning and unlocking new abilities as you progress in the campaign.

Likewise, with this being essentially an eight-year old game, obviously it doesn’t look like something developed in this generation, however from recently finishing Yakuza 3, I can see the visual upgrade in this instalment, only with in-game character animations, and dense city of Kamurocho as well as the environmental textures, but also with the fantastic cinematic cut-scenes which as they often do in this series, it helps excel the gripping story from start to finish, which is accompanied by the fantastic soundtrack and voice-acting performances.  As always, Kamurocho is brimming with life, interesting side-missions and characters, and of course a wealth of mini-games.  Also, at least with these older versions of the series, Kamurocho in Yakuza 4 is the most open version of the city yet, as you can not only explore the surface, but also much of its rooftops, the underground and more!  I always spend an excessive amount of hours exploring the city in this series, but this has been cranked up several notches in Yakuza 4.

To conclude, if you’re playing Yakuza 4 Remastered, by now you’re clearly already sold on this brilliant series.  At first I felt a bit overwhelmed knowing that I was to play as four main protagonists, as I’d much prefer playing as Kiryu, and perhaps good old Majima.  But after you start to learn more about the three new characters and how all their stories entwine into one, you soon not only get used to them, but you’ll also grow to perhaps love them too.  Plus from what I’ve been told, you also play as four characters in Yakuza 5, so it’s something that I’d have to get used to either way.  That said, Yakuza 4 might not be my favourite in the series so far, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredibly immersive and fun experience from start to finish.  Bring on Yakuza 5!

Yakuza 4 Remastered is included and available now in the Yakuza Remastered Collection, as well as Yakuza 3 RemasteredYakuza 5 Remastered will unlock on February 11th, 2020.