Hello and welcome back to the Story Arc, last week I began an adventure where every other day in December of 2022 I examine a minor mechanic in the Yakuza franchise and look at how it has evolved game by game. In the previous two articles I looked over how super small mechanics like locker keys and taxis have evolved, so today let’s go over a larger mechanic that players remember more: chases!
Every single Yakuza fan knows how chases work but for the sake of catching people who haven’t played the games before up to speed, during certain sections of the plot or in substories your protagonist is required to run away or chase after someone else. During these segments your character is essentially on a rail as you need to continuously run forward to either escape or catch your target, dodging obstacles along the way.
Chases are an odd mechanic in that while they have been in nearly half the series it isn’t very odd for a game to just skip the feature altogether. I for one really enjoy chases in the same way that I support any mechanic that breaks up the typical Yakuza gameplay.
Now that I’ve explained how the feature works, let’s go over how much it’s changed in each game!
Chases throughout the series
The first Yakuza game to include chases was Yakuza 3, and as such they’re easily at their weirdest here. Unlike most later games in the series you aren’t stuck running along a rail here, in fact you aren’t stuck running at all! In order to run during these chases you must hold down the R2 button, which will begin to eat through Kiryu’s stamina. In addition, during chases where the goal is to avoid someone if they get too close to you, you must mash the X button to escape their grasp.
The oddest part about going back to Yakuza 3 chases after playing later games is how much free reign you’re given of your movement. You can go as far to the left and right as you want and even turn around to run backwards! The only things stopping you at any point are various roadblocks placed around the streets of Kamurocho.
Another thing about Yakuza 3’s chases that stands out is how obstacles are handled. While you will be given a QTE to jump over larger objects like cars you will need to jump over most things in the road yourself with the X button.
Unlike most gameplay features RGG also made some optional chases in the Climax Battles menu throughout the series to show off exactly how versatile this feature is. One particular optional chase in Yakuza 3 I like is one where you must run from the bottom right of Kamurocho near Serena to the top right near Purgatory while the game times and ranks how fast you were as if this was a Sonic game.
Once you complete all of the optional chases you get to face off against the supreme chase boss: Ultimate Mack! Mack is a pure running machine and you will need to practice a lot to catch him, it’s a very fun climax for this feature!
Chases then returned in the second PS3 Yakuza game, Yakuza 4, with some major evolutions to the formula. The most immediately noticeable change about chases in Yakuza 4 is how you are no longer required to hold down the run button during them. I quite like this change because you are pretty much always going to be holding down that button anyway.
Another major change this game made to chases is the addition of random glass bottles laying around the streets of Kamurocho. Running over one of these bottles will cause your character to pick it up, you can then throw these bottles at whoever you’re chasing for some extra damage! Finally, they added a 1 time use per chase heat action where if you’re being chased by someone and they’re getting too close to you, you can punch them in the face quickly to slow them down!
Just like in Yakuza 3 RGG decided to put some optional chases in the Climax Battles menu, but this time they got a lot more creative with what they had you do such as having a chase where you cannot knock over any trash cans or a chase where you must avoid a group of kappa trying to kill you. The latter one will remain in my nightmares forever.
Like before completing all of the chases will have you unlock a chase battle against Ultimate Mack. As if to tease me and make writing this article a whole lot easier they actually made Ultimate Mack run along the same track as in Yakuza 3 but with Yakuza 4’s chases gimmicks and….the chase is pathetically easy. Yeah, as the franchise went on, chases slowly turned from a gameplay mechanic that you could fail to more of a new way of moving along the plot of a main story chapter or a substory in a unique way.
Next up we’ve got Yakuza 5 chases. There haven’t been a lot of major changes to chases in this game compared to Yakuza 4 but there are still a few worth talking about. Such as how although you do still have the ability to go as left and right or even backwards as you want, the areas you’re chasing people in are much more hallway-like so I had honestly forgotten that you weren’t stuck on rails at this point in the franchise.
Another change Yakuza 5 made to chases is that now when your target gets to half health they will occasionally try to kick back at you, creating a QTE where you must avoid their attack. It’s a fun little way to mix things up.
Yakuza 5 is where the trend I alluded to back in the Yakuza 4 segment really takes effect. Starting with Yakuza 5 there will be some chases that are plain unwinnable because they exist not as a gameplay but as a story mechanic. A key example of this is the final chase at the end of Saejima’s chapter of the game, you are not able to catch this person but as you’re chasing them the game directly leads you to the back alley where the final cutscenes take place.
I honestly don’t mind the franchise doing stuff like this, I love it when games have unique methods of gameplay-story integration. My only gripe is that normal chases have become a lot easier alongside this and I wish there was more of a balance.
Like Yakuza 3 and 4 we’ve also got some unique optional chases in the Climax Battle menu for this game! Sadly there’s much less to talk about this time as three of the four optional chases are recycled ideas from 3 and 4. Though the unique one to 5 has a rematch against the Forklift from Shinada’s section of the story and that’s pretty fun to experience again.
Like in the previous games the final chase battle is against Ultimate Mack and although he isn’t running along the exact same track from 3 and 4 if this chase goes on long enough you will actually reach that original track! Just like 4 he is a pretty easy chase but I do enjoy this one more than 4’s as he doesn’t go down in twenty seconds flat.
The next game to include chases was the Japanese exclusive Yakuza Ishin. Before I get into talking about chases I would like to apologize for an error I made in my previous article, Yakuza Ishin has its own taxis spread around the city but I completely forgot to mention them!
Anyway, chases in Yakuza Ishin actually bring back the run button from Yakuza 3! Now back in the Yakuza 4 sections I said that I felt the run button was unnecessary because you are always holding it down anyway. Well I actually don’t hold that opinion in regards to Ishin, because in Yakuza Ishin you can’t run infinitely or Ryoma will need to stop and catch his breath! Because of this the run button becomes a challenge as you want to conserve your stamina while also using it at key moments to catch your targets. Ishin also wisely moved the run button from R2 to X.
Chases in Ishin generally resemble Yakuza 3 more than they resemble Yakuza 4 and 5 as the areas you are chasing people in are much more open and have you running every which way and even taking different streets from your target to catch up to them!
Perhaps the biggest change Ishin made to chases (And one that remains exclusive to Ishin) is having chases where you have multiple targets running in separate directions! I absolutely love this as a way to mix up chases, your targets will stick to a specific square of the city but it’s always engaging to have five different people running around and deciding on the spot which one you will try to tackle first.
Like in the previous games we’ve got several optional chases in the Climax Battles menu and I’m happy to say we’ve got a few unique chases worth highlighting! Because Ishin is firmly in what I would like to call the “chicken” era of Yakuza there is of course a chase where you must collect ten eggs laying on the ground while an angry chicken tries to kill you…wait, that’s not an obvious feature at all.
When you’ve completed all of the optional chases you will sadly not be able to face Ultimate Mack, but you will get to live out my lifelong dream: tackling Daigo Dojima! This Daigo chase is honestly a contender for being as hard as the original Yakuza 3 Ultimate Mack chases, make sure you cut any corners you can and take different streets from him until you catch up!
After Ishin, chases sadly vanished from the franchise for several years as neither Yakuza 0 nor Yakuza 6 had chases. The feature had its grand return in 2018’s Judgment but almost everything about it was different!
Now is the time when you’re completely on a rail during chases, so much on a rail in fact that the game runs forward for you and you can only move a little bit to the right and left. You no longer have access to your jump button either as any obstacle you need to jump over is now a QTE.
Speaking of QTEs, there’s a whole lot of them now! Whenever Yagami needs to swerve around people in the streets or slide over boxes there will be a QTE for it. Failing these QTEs will slow you down, as the only way to lose chases in this game is for your target to get away. Yes, they even removed health bars from chases now.
While this may seem like the feature has been stripped down to its bare minimum I do actually like chases in Judgment. Because they’re primarily cinematics they feel like an evolution of the gameplay-story integration approach Yakuza 5 was taking with them and as such we get some cool moments like Yagami stealing a skateboard and briefly riding it in a chase after someone who you cannot catch.
Sadly because Judgment completely lacks Climax Battles we don’t get to see RGG try anything super unique with this new chase feature like in previous games (Ultimate Mack is still gone!) But there are some fun chase substories in the main game such as a chase where Yagami must run after a wig flying throughout town
While Yakuza 7 does have exactly one chase at the very, very beginning of the game we aren’t going to give it its own section because well, it’s a blink and you’ll forget it moment where you are only running forward at your target. There Isn’t even any QTEs like in Judgment! No, the final game with chases we’ll be talking about today is Lost Judgment, the most recent release in the franchise
Like in the original Judgment you are always running forward on a track with minimal left and right movement. The game did make some changes to Judgment’s chases though to make them more in line with the feature in previous games. For one, your health bar is back, allowing you to actually fail them!
The readdition of a health bar has also created a very interesting change to chase QTEs. Correctly succeeding at a QTE will give you a minor health covering. Now if you fail them Yagami will continue to run without being slowed down at all, but you will not get that health recovery. It’s a very odd change and I’m not sure how much it actually affects chases.
The final major change made to Lost Judgment’s chases is that now if your target turns a direction down an intersection you must quickly choose for Yagami to turn in the same direction. If you turn down the wrong direction you will instantly lose your target and fail!
Sadly despite Climax Battles returning in Lost Judgment (although this time around they’re call the Gauntlet) there is only 1 chase in them and it’s just a harder version of the Suspicious Man chase from the game’s main story. This would have been a perfect time to bring back Ultimate Mack! Why didn’t they do it?!
And that brings us to the end of my coverage on chases. I’m actually a bit sad I didn’t have more to say about these but unlike my previous articles it seems that chases didn’t slowly change game by game but rather got a complete face-lift at one point. I’ll make sure that the next article I post will be about a feature that had a more gradual change throughout its existence.
For now though, just stay tuned to the Story Arc as every 2 days of December 2022 I’ll be uploading new articles about the ever changing mechanics of the Yakuza franchise! This was the third article so why not go back and read my examinations on how locker keys and taxis have changed while you wait? I’m Skeith, signing off.