Evolution is a concept that has characterized humanity since prehistoric times: ever since the fire was a novelty and not a custom, ever since religions were intersecting in daily life and ever since the hunting of strege was a bit like that of today's boar, with the small difference that the victims , among all the heroine Joan of Arc, died burned alive and did not see their photo exposed on Instagram as a kind of trophy. Evolution is therefore a constant for man and, probably, sees its latest maximum expression in technology: the invention of the smartphone is probably the most important common use of the last fifteen years, with the iPhone having in 10 years scarce of life has exceeded one billion units; dizzying figure, which give an idea of what modern society has become and strongly requires for everyday life.
Here, however, we are on a site that deals with video games, and therefore it is legitimate to speak of evolution linked to this topic; personally speaking I have been playing video games for about 20 years and, in this long period of time, I have seen things that I once thought unthinkable. It seems absurd to think that exactly 30 years ago the first Final Fantasy for the NES was released which, compared with the last wonderful fifteenth chapter, makes us fully understand the incredible evolutionary gap that has been bridged with progress. Of all these videogame generations there is one that immediately makes me think about progress and evolution: the passage to the seventh, that of the arrival of PS3 and Xbox 360 to understand; the arrival on a permanent basis of the online, the boom of multiplayer fps, consoles with capacious Hard Disks and, finally, the explosion of sandbox titles, consecrated then with the eighth generation. And it is precisely about the latter that I want to talk to you in detail, analyzing and comparing a “made in Japan” title of the genre: the Yakuza series.
Sandbox titles are games with a very strong exploratory component: full of things to do, see and play, they see the maximum expression in the Western market. Starting from simpler titles but with global success, such as Minecraft and Terraria, up to the gigantic triple A Bethesda, the genre enjoys disproportionate lymph in this seventh generation, crowned to perfection by his majesty GTA V and the like.. Rockstar is therefore the main architect of a now consolidated genre, a source of inspiration for titles such as Saints Row, Just Cause and the most recent Watch Dogs. On the other side of the planet, the genre sees its main response in the aforementioned Yakuza series, the title of SEGA now in its sixth main chapter. The series starring Kazuma Kiryu is a clear example of "westernization" by the Japanese market, offering a sanbox title full of things to do; but woe to compare Yakuza to a Watch Dogs or a Saints Row, as an inexperienced or documented person could do: the title SEGA is a superfine example of westernization, of an elegance out of the ordinary and above all out of the canons of a, albeit amusing, Just Cause.
The story of the Dojima dragon is a story of honor, respect, love and friendship; Kazuma Kiryu is not just any Rico Rodriguez: the character evolves during the events and during the chapters, showing sides of himself that we did not even know. The story is therefore central to the SEGA title and, despite the many things to do in the title, it is never in the least decentralized or underestimated: it is in fact also emphasized by numerous ancillary activities, often closely linked to the central node of the story.. The map of the title is not in the least comparable to the giants Rockstar but, at the same time, it is full of details and subtleties: streets full of people, parked bicycles, cherry blossoms and an unmistakable architecture will be the pivot of the fictional district of Kamurucho, counterpart Akihabara videogame; neighborhood that will host most of the main missions of the title, with the aim of discovering the truth about the Tojo Clan. Even the secondary missions do not betray the oriental spirit of the title, with a multitude of things to do strictly linked to the game context: the possibility of playing Virtua Fighter V and Puyo Puyo in the arcade, singing Karaoke and experiencing simulated appointments at Stardust, the chance to play baseball indoors and fish at the Okinawan orphanage are all things that do not betray the Japanese and patriotic spirit of the title in the least, but rather sublimate it further.
Yakuza is perhaps the earliest and most crystalline example of videogame westernization, since it was born already at the time of PS2, but at the same time the most elegant; a title that does not need weapons, cars and money to entertain, a title proud of being Japanese, niche and at the same time for everyone, which focuses on a strong story and on ties that only the tradition of the rising sun can tell in a way so emotionally important; a title that knows how to talk about itself and that we are sure it will do so for many years to come, leaving something great inside each chapter of the game. And if in the meantime Final Fantasy XV takes the reverse path, converging on a gameplay tending to the Western world and abandoning the historical and characteristic turns, Yakuza of SEGA does not in the least think of changing course, continuing along that path that may not allow him to make stratospheric sales in Europe and America, but which allows him to maintain a sense of patriotism and uniqueness that only a few know how to appreciate. On the other hand, with an inspiration like Shenmue it was difficult to go wrong ...