It was only a few years ago that there was a long and unknowable wait between the English releases of Yakuza titles. After the semi-recent success of Yakuza 0 that isn’t really the case anymore, as SEGA has taken the initiative to close the gaps between the Eastern and Western releases of Ryu ga Gotoku Studio titles. To fill in the space between the release of Judgment (a more or less tangential entry to the Yakuza franchise) and the eventual Western release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the Yakuza Remastered Collection brings the remaining three mainline titles from the PS3-era to the PS4.
Playing Yakuza 4 Remastered made me relive the series fatigue I felt while playing the original release of the game in 2010. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad game then and it isn’t necessarily a bad game now, it’s just kind of there, existing as a bridge between plot points and drama that cycle in an endless all-consuming uroboros of what makes up Kamurocho. The new protagonists help add different perspectives to the latest conflict within the bustling metropolitan city, but they’re only ever as interesting as the characters they provide foils to.
Saejima is only as interesting as his connection to the already established (and fan-favorite) Majima, and Akiyama manages to get by on his charm and sleaze and assurances of being a good man despite his misogyny. Unfortunately, Tanimura is mostly forgettable if you’re not interested in police heavy plot points usually found in your run of the mill Japanese crime drama. His new actor does a well enough job to set his performance apart from the previous actor, but that doesn’t make his individual narrative any more interesting. And as always Kiryu is there doing what Kiryu does best - he serves as a backbone to both this entry and the series itself, but even his appearance and inclusion in the story isn’t enough to make Yakuza 4 truly great.
Mini-games are still plenty, as are side-stories, which always gives players something to do between the story sections. Golfing, fishing, hanging out at the cabaret club or going to karaoke? You name it, you can probably do it.
Other than a new localization, a recast for Tanimura, and slight touch-ups to the PS3 era visuals as well as running at 60 FPS, not much has changed about Yakuza 4. Everything is mostly the same. The new localization is good and adds more character to the dialogue between the cast of characters, but it isn’t enough to carry the bloated narrative.
The combat is the same from the original release so if you’re going into this thinking it will be something like Kiwami 2 or Yakuza 0, you’re going to be disappointed. Much like Yakuza 3 HD, Yakuza 4 has the same systems only now split between the four protagonists. The Revelations systems are still present which adds some variety into learning new techniques that contribute to each character having their own, unique style of combat. This is fun for a while, especially if you gel with the individual flow of the characters, but the combat - just like everything in Yakuza 4 - is mostly the same.
There really isn’t much to say about Yakuza 4 HD other than that it is a more accessible version of the PlayStation 3 release. If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t yet played this particular entry it’s probably on your list and you’ll probably enjoy it. That being said these remasters are fairly emblematic of why the franchise decided to change up the combat and focus on tighter, more concise stories in the case of Yakuza 0. This doesn’t mean Yakuza 4 isn’t without its merits, it just isn’t the strongest entry in the series by far.