Here at TechnoBuffalo, we’re big fans of the Yakuza series of games on Sony’s PlayStation platform. It was one of our top 10 PlayStation 3 exclusives and a game we thought might be a good preparation for a visit to Japan (minus the random street fights). As you can guess, we were stoked when SEGA showed off the newest entry in the series, Yakuza Ishin (Yakuza Restoration), at Sony’s Pre-TGS show this week.
Unlike the main-line numbered Yakuza games, Yakuza Ishin takes place about 150 years ago. It’s important to note that it’s not a sequel to Yakuza Kenzan, which took place in the 1600s and followed the life of the famous swordsman Miyamoto Mushashi. Instead, the game takes place during the Meiji Restoration. Get ready for some serious nerding out about Japanese history.
The Japanese characters at the beginning tell us that the clip ahead is taking place just before the Meiji Restoration, when Japan restored their Emperor to power and overthrew the Shogunate. The uniforms the characters are wearing are classic Shinsengumi garb, the Shinsengumi essentially being the Shogun’s S.W.A.T. team. The man killed at the end of the trailer is supposed to be a guy named Ryoma Sakamoto, who was important to the Restoration movement, but was assassinated before it actually happened. This is all historically accurate so far. While Yakuza Kenzan was focused specifically on Musashi, it’s less obvious exactly what Yakuza Ishin is about. This is, however, the time period when the yakuza started to form into something discernible as a mafia instead of what were really just loose coalitions of gamblers and carnies, so this could be something of a “Yakuza Origins” game. Maybe we’ll see the beginnings of the Tojo clan the main Yakuza games focused on.
These Yakuza side stories, Kenzan and Ishin, seem to be an excuse for Yakuza series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi to explore other periods in Japanese history while giving fans of the more modern games a hook to get invested. He takes the characters from the Yakuza series and has them play historical characters while retaining their voices and faces; fans of the Yakuza series will recognize four central characters from the series in this trailer.
Unfortunately the chances of this game heading stateside are slim to none. The Yakuza games have been having an increasingly difficult time finding U.S. release. Yakuza Kenzan never came out over here and Yakuza 3 and 4 took longer than they should’ve. Yakuza 5 and the HD updates of Yakuza 1 and 2 haven’t seen any announcements about a U.S. release. Yakuza Ishin will be a launch title for the PlayStation 4 in Japan as well as heading to the PlayStation 3, and will release on Feb. 22. At least now I know what day to mourn on.