For nearly as long as I’ve been playing Yakuza games, I’ve always read comments from fans saying, “These games are like Shenmue”. At first glance, that definitely sounds accurate. I even remember making such a claim after playing the demo for Yakuza 3,which reminded me a lot of what I had heard about Sega’s Dreamcast classic. It has taken me until now to see how wrong that statement is.
For those unaware, I’ve never personally owned a Dreamcast. My friend had one and I’ve played games on it, but the consumer distrust that Sega bred after the release of the Saturn got to me even in my youth. I absolutely loathed Sega’s 32-bit system and I didn’t want anything else to do with their consoles for the foreseeable future. Maybe it was just my nine-year-old self being hyperbolic, but I wrote off the Dreamcast long before it was even announced as coming west.
While that may or may not be a tragedy, it was how I felt at the time. That decision ended up causing me to miss out on some crazy and memorable games from Sega’s final console, most notably Shenmue. I’ve never had a frame of reference for properly comparing Yu Suzuki’s magnum opus to Yakuza, but after reviewing the two games this past week, I can finally make a declarative statement.