SEGA’s Ryu ga Gotoku (known as Yakuza worldwide) series experienced a massive increase in popularity this generation. Though it’s been around since the PlayStation 2 era, it was never quite able to catch on worldwide. It wasn’t until the late PS3/early PS4 era that the series’ popularity began to grow outside of Japan, with SEGA and Sony figuring out how to accurately represent its weird and cool sides at the same time.
As the Yakuza series prepares to release it’s seventh installment in Yakuza: Like a Dragon next year, it leaves behind both of its primary characters: Kazuma Kiryu...and Kamurocho. Though other characters have come and gone, the great city of Kamurocho has been with us since the beginning, and before we say goodbye to it and welcome Yakuza 7’s “Ijincho”, we decided to take one last look, and talk about 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kamurocho.
10 ITS MOST IMPORTANT IMPORTANT LANDMARK IS THE MILLENIUM TOWER
The Millenium Tower has existed in Yakuza since the very first game released in 2005. It’s been featured in key scenes for nearly every Yakuza title that’s ever released, including all of the mainline titles and even some side story games like Yakuza: Dead Souls and Project X Zone. The tower was featured so much that it’s construction plays a major part in the storyline of Yakuza 0. That game’s “Empty Lot” is where the tower is eventually built, though in 1988 it’s merely the subject of a battle between Kamurocho’s Dojima Family and Kansai’s Omi Alliance.
9 ARCADE HEAVEN
Every game, Kamurocho is stuffed to the gills with mini-games that players can lose themelves in. Players can experience actual fights in coliseums, play with Pocket Cars, or become the manager of a baseball team. But perhaps the most in-depth thing available is SEGA taking advantage of developing games for years to offer arcades that are stuffed with actual games from their past, which change depending on the era each Yakuza title is set during. These games range from simple stuff like UFO catcher to offering fully playable old games like Virtua Fighter.
8 LITTLE ASIA
Massive cities are always known for having pockets where groups of people from a specific ethnicity are able to congregate. It’s where we get our Chinatowns, Koreatowns, and so forth. Surprisingly, Kamurocho has it’s own variant of this in the form of Little Asia. This is a tiny piece of Kamurocho where Chinese and mainland Asian immigrants are able to live. Though it appears in multiple games, it plays a major role in both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 6. Each time it has a different major leader, and shenanigans Kiryu’s involved in bring the town more trouble than they were looking for.
7 THE CITY CHANGES OVER TIME
Yakuza is a game series with events that unfold over multiple decades when we include Yakuza 0, which is set in the 80’s. In real life, no city ever stays the same over that many years—instead they’re constantly upgrading and renovating things to make them look more modern. It works the same way in Kamurocho, as the city develops over time. Businesses come and go, shop owners change, and more.
This emphasizes the “realistic” world the game takes place in, but there’s another reason for Kamurocho’s change. In Yakuza 6, developers had just recently made a change over to a new engine, and simply didn’t have time to meet the strict turnaround for release while introducing the entire city. By folding these problems into the story as “changes to the city”, they can make the place any size they like.
6 IS ALSO THE SETTING OF JUDGMENT
The Yakuza studio is an expert at getting the most out of their assets. When the developer announced that they wouldn’t be releasing a Yakuza game in 2018, they followed it up by explaining they would instead be releasing an entirely new game. Judgment was a game about Takayuki Yagami, a lawyer who turns into a private investigator after one of his clients he got acquitted commits murder. Judgment sees Yagami attempting to discover the truth behind a group of Yakuza murdered in the city of, you guessed it, Kamurocho.
5 BASED ON A REAL CITY
It’s no surprise that a city as alive and detailed as Kamurocho is based off an actual city. Yakuza’s Kamurocho is actually based around the real life city of Kabukicho, located in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo. Kabukicho, much like it’s virtual counterpart, is a red-light district—an urban area where “adult” oriented services can thrive. In Kabukicho’s case, it’s known for hostess clubs, love hotels, and nightclubs. In the early 2000s, Kabukicho was known for having a heavy Yakuza influence, though by the time the first Yakuza video game launched, the police had already made a move to clear out much of this.
4 YOU CAN BECOME A HOSTESS CLUB OWNER
While Yakuza is filled with actual games for players to play, they also come up with a number of games that simulate other activities. One of the more popular ones is allowing the player to take over as the manager of a hostess club. During each session of the hostess club mini-game, players learn to match clients with the right women to make as much money as possible. As the game goes on, they can find additional women to work in the club, customizing their clothes and upgrading their abilities while getting to know them as a boss. It ain’t easy being a former yakuza, but getting to own a nightclub helps.
3 CHAMPION DISTRICT IS REAL TOO
A tiny labyrinth of bars and clubs, Champion District is one of the most well-known parts of Kamurocho. It makes appearances in many of the games, and the bar Earth Angel is one lead character Kiryu often frequents during his downtime. It’s an area that contains so much heart, and much like the city itself it’s based on a real life location. The real life Champion District is located in Kabukicho, and is known as Shinjuku Golden Gai. Just like the Champion District, Golden Gai is made up of a bunch of a group of narrow alleys and features a ton of bars, many of which these days only serve regulars.
2 IT WAS TAKEN OVER BY ZOMBIES ONCE
Periodically, the developers over Yakuza like to have fun with the fact that they’re constantly using the same city over and over. They’ll have certain games that play out as side stories which aren’t necessarily canon, and in one of these...Kamurocho was destroyed in a zombie outbreak.
Set not long after Yakuza 4, Yakuza: Dead Souls sees Kamurocho blocked off and referred to as the “City of Death” as the survivors do their best to hold off against the hordes. In this game, players take on the roles of four different characters, including series star Kazuma Kiryu. While prior versions focused on the brawler aspect, Dead Souls is a full-on shooter, with each character having specific main weapons to use on the zombies.
1 YOU CAN FIGHT PRO WRESTLERS
Kamurocho is a place where dreams can come true. As Kiryu players often help those roaming the streets in achieving their own goals, whether big or small. But it also allows players to run businesses, compete in tons of sports, and even...fight professional wrestlers. Since Yakuza’s been around for so long, it’s effectively become a staple, a well-produced virtual window into Japan and Japanese culture. Part of that is Japan’s love of pro wrestling, which is why players can throw down against several of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s top stars, including the Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada, the Ace of the Universe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and everyone’s favorite disrespectful faction leader, Tetsuya Naito. Too bad they won’t let you have a show at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.