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Japan Subculture Research Center

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Yakuza Review The Sega Video Game "Yakuza 3"


Aug 11, 2010

The Yakuza video game series from Sega has been tremendously popular in the United States and in Japan but what do the yakuza themselves think of the game? I asked. It took forever to finally finish this piece but thanks to great patience amongst some underworld acquaintances and the magical editing ability of @tokyomango aka  Lisa Katayama, the article made its appearance today on BoingBoing.

Our honorable yakuza hero wondering the virtual streets of Kabukicho

The game itself is very impressive and not too far off the mark in depicting the yakuza. The attention to details is amazing–they’ve recreated the sleazy red-light district known as Kabukicho in all its former glory. It isn’t that way anymore. The mobsters reviewing the game gave it high ranks on environmental authenticity.


M: I’ve never been to Okinawa, but Kabukicho is dead on.
S: You mean the old Kabukicho. Governor Ishihara’s totally ruined the place. It’s like a ghost town.
K: It’s like going back in time. Koma Theater is there, the pink salons, the Pronto Coffee shops, the Shinjuku Batting center, the love hotels.
S: You got your salaryman in there, the delinquent school girl and her sugar daddy, Chinese people, and even those Nigerian touts. What’s with all the fucking gaijin (foreigners) in the area anyway? It used to be just Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.
M: Don’t say gaijin. Say Gaikokujin. It’s more polite. Jake’s a gaijin.
S: Yeah, I forget sometimes. What’s with all the fucking gaikokujin in Kabukicho anyway?
K: Internationalization. The world’s a smaller place. The Nigerians? They marry Japanese chicks. They get a permanent visa. They stay. The cops can’t get rid of them and they’re good at steering customers into shady places. The young Japanese punks we hire, they give up, they don’t browbeat drunks into bringing business to our establishments. They got no backbone. The Nigerians are aggressive. They can make good touts. By the way, Adelstein, usually when we say gaijin we mean non-Asian foreigners like you and the Nigerians. Not the Chinese or the Koreans.
S: Yeah, Koreans are chosenjin, not gaijin.
M: I like the fact that you power up by eating real food. Shio ramen gives you a lot of power — CC Lemon, not as much. It all makes sense.
S: The breaded pork cutlet bento box is like mega power. More than ramen. That’s accurate.
K: If they had shabu (crystal meth) as a power-up item, that would be realistic. It’s a yakuza game.
S: They have sake!
M: Kiryu is an executive, right? We all know the guys at the top don’t drink or do speed.
S: Yeah, not anymore.
M: Can you smoke in the game? I forget. That should be a power-up.
S: Cigarettes and shabu should be in every yakuza game.

The top yakuza have nicely tailored suits and the platinum badges as well.

There is a lot of attention to detail in the game and the top bosses are all snazzily dressed, as they should be, with the yakuza group emblem emblazoned badge on their lapel. In most groups, platinum badges are for the highest rank. However, these days, even wearing the organization badge is a no-no in most yakuza groups, many low-ranking members are no longer allowed to carry business cards with the yakuza organization crest printed on them.. The era when the yakuza flaunted their existence may be coming to a close, in which case, this game is almost like a historical document. Except for the CIA stuff. And the huge fights where nobody dies.  For the rest of the article see Yakuza 3: Played, reviewed, and fact-checked. With the Yakuza.

10 thoughts on “Yakuza Review The Sega Video Game "Yakuza 3"”
  1. I think online publications should use your article as an example of how it should be done online.

    Great piece of writing. I showed this to co-workers and we talked about what’s going on with the yakuza these days.

    Is it possible that you would do a review of Yakuza 4 with yakuza?

  2. Very interesting and oddly hilarious.

    You should sell this piece (or something like it) to an American gaming magazine.

  3. Got the book 2 days ago and haven’t been able to put it down! As an aspiring film maker/videogame designer, the book is rich with so many novel and insightful details, an amazing cultural resource. I can’t decide if it’s the honest dissection of the ‘exotic’, or if it’s just the vicarious adrenaline felt through your life as a crime reporter, but it’s really effing gripping stuff!

  4. “And the huge fights where nobody dies.” lol, yeah.
    That, and everyone is just a little too pretty compared to real life.

    Doesn’t it seem to me like the game is a glorification of the Yakuza? and it’s giving kids a strange desire to be like them?

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