We all know December is Virtua Fighter month, but this month is also the 15th Anniversary of the Yakuza franchise. Crazy, right? 15 years since Yakuza debuted as one of SEGA’s IPs from the mid-2000s.
On December 8, 2005, Yakuza (known as Ryu Ga Gotoku in Japan) was released for the PlayStation 2. It has a combination of crime drama yakuza films, action adventure, open-world sandbox, and action RPG elements all mixed into one, with a hint of some Japanese humor and culture included. Since then, the franchise has spawned over a total of 18 releases, with 13 of them released in the West, 8 spinoffs, and two remakes. There’s also two films that were released in Japan, but… we don’t talk about that. And just recently, Yakuza: Like A Dragon was released for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, and PS4, while a PS5 port is on the way in March. Side note: Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a fun game, you should play it.
But I know what you’re thinking: “VK, what’s the connection between Virtua Fighter and Yakuza? We know about how VF2 and VF5FS are included in the Yakuza games!”
It is true that VF2 and VF5FS have been part of the minigames that can be found in Club SEGA arcades in the main games, let alone having a two-player version of them in the main menu. But did you know that Toshihiro Nagoshi actually had some involvement with Virtua Fighter in the past during his 30-year career?
When Nagoshi joined SEGA back in 1989, he worked under the AM2 division. His work contributed to several games such as G-LOC: Air Raid Battle and a console game like Rent-A-Hero. Then in 1992, he worked on a couple of games for the Model 1 hardware, starting with Virtua Racing in which he was the chief designer for the game. And then came Virtua Fighter…
Nagoshi served as a CG Designer for the first Virtua Fighter game, as he became part of something great while working with Yu Suzuki in the AM2 division. During the development of VF2, he was the Stage Designer. And lastly, he had two roles while developing VF3; he was responsible for the Character Modeling Direction and he was also the Supervisor. Daisuke Sato also worked on Virtua Fighter 3 as a Character Designer, even though he became a frequent collaborator with Nagoshi starting with Scud Race first. After his work was done for the first three VF games, he continued to work on other games such as Scud Race, Shenmue, Super Monkey Ball, and Nintendo’s F-Zero AX and GX. Then came the Yakuza series and the rest is history.
But now we come full circle. In Yakuza 3, some of the enemies in the game share the same mocap from some of the characters in VF5 such as Jacky and El Blaze for example. Yakuza 5 is the first game in the series to add a real SEGA game into the Club SEGA arcade area with VF2, which includes both 2.0 and 2.1. It also included a non-SEGA game such as Taiko no Tatsujin into the arcades, which I thought was neat, along with a pachinko VF game. Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of the original Yakuza 2, also had VF2 as well.
Then came Yakuza 6 with the additional arcade ports of various SEGA games such as Fantasy Zone, Super Hang-On, Space Harrier, OutRun, and Puyo Puyo. This is also the first Yakuza game to include Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown into the Club SEGA lineup of minigames, but it was based on the Version B arcade release which completely omitted the online features. I will shamefully admit that the inclusion of VF5FS is what led me to buying Yakuza 6, but later on… I ended up enjoying the Yakuza series. Not to mention, I finally beat Yakuza 0 on my Twitch stream last week and I had an amazing time with the game.
Judgment, a game that I have yet to play, not only have VF5FS, but it also has Fighting Vipers and Cyber Troopers Virtual-On as well. And lastly with the recent release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, both VF2 and VF5FS are playable in the arcades.
Virtua Fighter in the Yakuza games are more than just extras in the Club SEGA arcade. It also serves as how far Nagoshi has come since he first joined the company and I’m glad to see the Yakuza series are making an impact in the West.
Happy 15th Anniversary to the Yakuza series! May we see some of the side games that were only released in Japan come to the West as well.
Virtua Fighter Month is still going strong. While there’s no stream tomorrow for FGHS 101, there will be a PS3 tournament that will be happening this Sunday, and for the first time ever: there will be a pot bonus from Matcherino! Don’t forget to pre-register.
And speaking of which, next week’s blog will be about the rise of a stream series that I created, which is Virtua Fighter Takeover.
Until then… Train Up, Fighters!