The Yakuza franchise has slowly, over the years, been building a fanbase with its GTA-styled look at the seedy world of organized crime in Japan. A Sega sales report, featuring the recently released Yakuza: Like a Dragon on it, indicates that Yakuza may not be as niche as it once was. The franchise has enough appeal, and dedicated fans, at this point that real-life parodies of the series are going viral.
When fans get behind a franchise they really enjoy, they begin to express that love in a number of creative ways. From fan art or fan fiction to cosplay and creating skits based on a game for YouTube or TikTok, fans find a way to show their love for a series. A Nigerian filmmaker recently caught the attention of Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon for his recreation of Jax's fatalities from Mortal Kombat 11. Sometimes fans go even further, taking a game's style and making their own world out of it.
The YouTube group Komazawa Isolation are doing just that with the Yakuza franchise, creating videos in real-world Tokyo that nail everything about the Yakuza aesthetic. The way the fan-as-Yakuza-character interacts with people and objects feels spot-on, as he collects a 'permit' from a garbage can, before handing it over to a robotic NPC human.
It is a challenge to mimic the sometimes-awkward movement of video game characters because while developers attempt to make characters as lifelike as possible in their movements, there is an undeniable clunkiness to that movement. While Yakuza's greatest strength might be its narrative, its characters' mobility in-game suffer a little from time to time, something that Komazawa Isolation picks up on perfectly.
The parody is more of an homage to the classic Yakuza-style gameplay, featured before the game switched over to the RPG mechanics of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Interviews with the voice actor for the new Yakuza protagonist Ichiban Kasuga indicate that the character will likely be around for a while, meaning more games in the series could follow the RPG style found in Like a Dragon.
The Yakuza franchise is reaching a larger audience than ever before, and with a number of Yakuza games included in Xbox Game Pass, fans are getting a good sampling of the action that Komazawa Isolation have lovingly recreated in their videos.
2020 was a major year for the Yakuza franchise. While the series started gaining western popularity with Yakuza 0 in 2017, 2020 proved to be the most important year for certifying the popularity for Sega's franchise. This helped lead to Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 joining Xbox platforms through Xbox Game Pass, making the series' entry points easily accessible to players across PlayStation, PC, and Xbox for the first time ever.
Most importantly though, 2020 marked the biggest transition in the series' 15 year history with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Not only did it introduce a brand new cast of characters including the new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, but it also shifted the series' entire genre from third-person action to turn-based RPG, inspired by the likes of Dragon Quest and Persona. Better yet, Like a Dragon has seen huge western success, coming away with many awards. With all this in mind, it's time to look ahead to 2021 for the Yakuza franchise as, while 2020 was likely the most important year in the franchise's history, 2021 is looking to keep up that momentum coming off of the success of the Game Pass releases and Like a Dragon.
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