How Yakuza Ishin completely changed the franchise

In celebration of RGG announcing that not only would they be remaking Yakuza Ishin, but also localizing it into English, I have begun to play through the game in Japanese for the first time.

As I have been playing through the game I have been shocked at how many gameplay mechanics I had previously falsely claimed originated in 0 actually made their debut in Ishin. One of which I consider to be the best gameplay change in the franchise!

What am I referring to though? Ishin introduced a lot of important changes, for example, the run button which previously was only in Yakuza 3’s chase segments. The most important for many people is likely style changing, which is amazing and has rightfully been in nearly every game since (with 6 and Kiwami 2 being exceptions). But nope, I’m talking about something else: How they changed the Completion List!

The gameplay change I want to talk about today is the Completion List and how starting with Ishin this minor part of the game previously only important to completionists to a major mechanic that all players pay at least some attention to.

In Yakuza Ishin, fulfilling sections on the Completion List will reward you with a form of currency known as Dharma points that can then be exchanged at specific shrines in the city for rewards. These rewards range from game changing things such as increasing how long you can run to minor things such as giving you a better fishing rod.

I love this, while the Yakuza franchise has always been touted as having some of the best side content in gaming it’s undeniable that the franchise always had trouble getting players to actually engage with all the content it had. By giving players an actual gameplay incentive to fill out their completion list the process of doing side content is much more satisfying to a casual player.

However, being the first time that RGG tried this mechanic, this has several flaws. The two biggest being that not everything on the Completion List gives Dharma points and those that do give you points give you far too many.

The problem with only certain tasks giving you Dharma is that you aren’t encouraged enough to get good at specific minigames. Instead of rewarding you for being good at Karaoke, you are only giving Dharma for playing the minigame a certain amount of times.

Similarly the issue with the tasks that do give Dharma is that they give too much. I am not even done with the game yet and I have bought all the Dharma rewards with only 37% of the Completion List done.

To put it simply, the main problem with the Dharma system is that it isn’t balanced at all due to not everything giving Dharma. Thankfully though, this was fixed with the franchise’s very next entry.

The evolution of the Completion List

Yakuza 0 sees a return of the Dharma shrines, however the word Dharma has been replaced with CP. The big change 0 makes to the system is that now every single task on the Completion List now gives 1 CP instead of specific tasks giving a few hundred Dharma.

Now that everything on the Completion List gives you points that you can exchange for actual gameplay advantages every part of the game feels like it has purpose. No longer is something like getting a high score in karaoke just a side distraction, now getting a high score in minigames like that will help get you one step closer to being able to buy the get rich quick upgrades!

But what about players who don’t want to spend long periods of time messing with minigames? Doesn’t this system disadvantage them? Nope, it doesn’t! Because there are plenty of tasks on the Completion List that don’t require touching minigames at all such as eating all the food at a specific restaurant or defeating several enemies with a specific style.

No matter which way you play the game you will be encouraged and rewarded for it. I have a lot of issues with Yakuza 0’s gameplay and side content but the change it made to the Completion List is absolute perfection.

And because Yakuza is an ever evolving franchise this Completion List mechanic evolved with it, so let’s see how the other games handled this mechanic.

Completion = EXP

Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2 had a strange change to the EXP and Lvling system of previous games. Now EXP was separated into several types of different colored EXP where different actions would reward you with different kinds of EXP.

How does the Completion List tie into this? Simple, now instead of every task on the Completion List giving you CP to exchange at shrines every task gives you a different amount of the various EXP.

While I personally prefer the shrine system of Ishin and 0 I cannot deny the instant satisfaction of being able to immediately get a skill after you complete a task on the Completion List.

Of course, this system has its own flaws and one of them I cannot believe got past testing for two games. For some reason the game does not give you enough green EXP to get every skill, even doing the entire Completion List simply does not give enough green EXP. This forces players to grind the sushi restaurant in Kamurocho for green EXP, which is an annoying slog.

This wasn’t the end of the Completion List being used to give EXP of course. Judgment and its sequel Lost Judgment got rid of the multi-colored EXP of Yakuza 6 but kept the Completion List giving you EXP.

I already think Lost Judgment easily does the best job at encouraging players to engage with the side content by tying it into the plot in a natural way, so the Completion List giving EXP is just a nice little bonus to reward the player even more.

And now, let’s backtrack to the game that was released between the two Judgments; Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Putting Personality into Completion

Like a Dragon features a combination of a job system you see in most good JRPGs and the personality stat system of the Persona series. The higher your personality stats, the more jobs Ichiban unlocks. Pretty simple, and as I’m bringing it up here you may have guessed that fulfilling tasks on the Completion List boosts your personality stats.

And while you are right, the Completion List does give you minor personality boosts, it isn’t even worth mentioning. Like a Dragon is filled to the brim with easier ways to increase these stats (Such as Vocational School) and you don’t even need to max these stats out to unlock every job, making Like a Dragon’s Completion List much less enticing to complete than the other modern Yakuza games.

If there is one change I would like to see be made in Like a Dragon 8 it’s to make doing the Completion List more worthwhile. Either by making it a more important part of unlocking jobs or by having it give big bursts of EXP to make late game grinding easier.

Overall, the past decade of Yakuza games has seen RGG repeatedly experimenting with the Completion List and trying to find out the best way to encourage players to engage with all aspects of the game. My personal favorite implementation of this was in Yakuza 0 but the way the Judgment games handled it was pretty great too.

Of course, for me personally, no matter how RGG changes the Completion List next game I’ll be there to do every single task on it. I have 100%ed every English game in the series and I won’t stop now. Now maybe I can finally get to writing that deep dive article about every single minigame in the series.

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