It’s a battle of the East as Tiger and Rabbit brawl over which organized Asian crime game is the best. Yakuza is a series that spans over 5 main games and 5 spin-offs. The original Yakuza was released in 2006 on PlayStation 2 and saw its sequels brought stateside but more recent entries have yet to be released in the West. Sleeping Dogs came out in 2012 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC and was re-released this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in an all-inclusive “Definitive Edition.” Triad Wars, a PC spin-off game, is set to release in 2015.
Tiger: You ready to do this, Master Asia?
Rabbit: I’m so ready, bring it on Paco!
Tiger: Paco? Who’s Paco?
Rabbit: I have no idea; I just thought that it sounded like a gangster’s name.
Tiger: Wow… that is kind of racist.
Rabbit: Hey, I thought the Godfather was all about Italians. To my defense, I’ve never seen those movies.
Tiger: Wait, how can that be?
Rabbit: I don’t like R-rated movies.
Tiger: Oh wow, the Godfather is an awesome movie, I especially love the sequel.
Rabbit: All I know is ^in a crackly voice^ “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.” ^throws up horns^
Tiger: Please stop. You just aren’t cut out for the mob.
Rabbit: I be gangsta.
Tiger: You be trippin’.
Rabbit: Sun On Yee, woot woot!
Tiger: Ooookay. I think that’s enough of that. Let’s get on with the battle, shall we? It’s an all East affair with Yakuza and Sleeping Dogs fighting it out to see which game is the best.
Tiger: *rolls eyes* My choice, which is clearly the best game, is Yakuza from the glory days of the PlayStation 2.
Rabbit: There’s a new one coming out soon, right?
Tiger: Which I hope we will see soon! Anyway, I’m focusing on Yakuza 1 and 2 on the PlayStation 2 for this Versus Mode.
Rabbit: Hey! That’s not fair since I’m only fighting with one game, you can’t tag team.
Tiger: I just had this image of you summoning up Sleeping Dogs Pokemon style.
Rabbit: Wei Shen, I choose you!
Tiger: Anyway, the only reason why I’m going to reference both is because… they are so stupid similar that I get them mixed up.
Rabbit: ^crosses arms^ Fine, and my champion racehorse is the awesomesauciest United Front Games’ game, Sleeping Dogs. The reason why this game is so awesome is because it’s open world and yours is not. It has an awesome driving mechanic, great combat, and a really well done story… Yakuza, not so much. I’m actually surprised you didn’t pick this game since you love open world environments so much.
Tiger: Yakuza is an open world game too, abet on a much smaller scale. It also has the most satisfying beat-em-up combat with a great story and an even better setting. Kamurocho is one of the coolest places to just kick back and relax or beat up a bunch of thugs. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a badass Yakuza member? And I will tell you, Kiryu Kazuma is the baddest of them all.
Rabbit: You are such a perv, Kamurocho is a redlight district! At least in Sleeping Dogs you spend your time enjoying the sights of beautiful Hong Kong. The map is quite large and while it might sound like a pain to explore the city, driving in this game is so much fun that you won’t want to use the quick-travel option.
Tiger: I can’t believe you would judge me; you’re the one who dated two women at the same time in Sleeping Dogs. *shakes head* Sheesh, Kamurocho is much more than just your run of the mill redlight district, it’s-
Rabbit: How do you even know what a run of the mill redlight district is like?!
Tiger: *glares* It’s a figure of speech, Rabbit. Anyway, it’s filled with many different attractions such as the Millennium Tower and Stardust. Kamurocho has fantastic restaurants to try like Matsuya and Atenshi. If you need to do some shopping, you can stop by Don Quixote or M-Store. Then, when you’re ready to party the night away, you can visit Asia or Club Ageha. And no trip to Kamurocho is complete without stopping at Club Sega Nakamichi or the Karaoke Palace.
Rabbit: You aren’t the only one who can play tour guide. It was my dream job before yours anyway. ^clears throat^ The city of Hong Kong sits on a lush island with breathtaking views of the ocean found almost everywhere. The city is vibrant and full of life with it being a popular destination to visit and live. Hong Kong is divided into four neighborhoods. North Point is where many of the game’s characters call home. The Night Market, Yau Ling Park, and Club Bam Bam are notable attractions of North Point. The luxurious Central Neighborhood is where all the rich and powerful people go to play. The beautiful Victoria Park is found in this neighborhood along with the Central Hospital and K-Bar. Up next on the tour is Kennedy Town where Hong Kong’s cemetery is located. Lastly, we have Aberdeen which encompasses a small island to the south of Central. Many of its residents live on houseboats and enjoy the spectacular scenery. ^sticks out tongue^ Beat that you silly cat!
Tiger: While that sounds all good and fine, but what about your game’s character? It doesn’t matter how cool your surroundings are if you have a lame character. Yakuza has the coolest and most badass wanna-be-dad you can find-
Tiger: Just roll with me. Yakuza centers on Kiryu Kazuma better known as “the Dragon of Dojima.” Kiryu was a member of the Tojo Clan who was about to start his own subsidiary group before taking the fall for the murder of his boss. When the game starts, he is finished with his 10 year prison sentence and returns home to Kamurocho only to be marked for death by the yakuza community. He soon finds out that 10 billion yen has been stolen from the Tojo clan and that a little girl named Haruka has something to do with it. He eventually starts taking care of Haruka while trying to track down the money. Things happen, people die, yada yada, and then you get an awesome ending. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot but it involves a pretty explosive final battle.
Rabbit: ^raises eyebrow^ Yada yada?
Tiger: I’m ignoring you.
Rabbit: Aww, you’re just a sad ‘iddle kitty cat with a daddy complex.
Tiger: *makes a fist* Shut your trap! And for your information, the only “daddy” I like wears number five and he left me.
Rabbit: ^snickers^ Ooh, I think I struck a chord.
Tiger: Kiryu is a great character; he’s kind and compassionate but also willing to beat the living daylights out of you if you cross him. There’s even a review from an actual yakuza member that said Kiryu was like an old-school yakuza who kept the streets clean.
Rabbit: Your dude may be living in the past but my guy is a modern mobster. Wei Shen was born in Hong Kong but moved to San Francisco when he was young. The move was an attempt by his mother to save Shen’s older sister, Mimi, from drugs and the Triads that controlled Hong Kong. While stateside, Shen joined the SFPD and became a rising star in the force. During this time, he was reprimanded six times for violent behavior and fighting, but due to his natural aptitude for police work, he was never dismissed. His cultural background landed him in a special task force that specialized in Asian gangs and Asian organized crime.
Tiger: That guy is hard boiled.
Rabbit: Hey, no interrupting. Shen’s sister eventually died of an overdose and their mother committed suicide over the loss. Shen used his position in SFPD to infiltrate the gang and eventually track down the dealer who supplied the drugs to his sister. He not only gunned down the dealer but also killed a high ranking member of the gang during his rampage. His superior at the department covered up the murders and Shen was never charged of the crimes. Many in the department believed that Shen was responsible for the murders and these rumors caught the ear of Thomas Pendrew, the superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Department. Pendrew recruits Shen to infiltrate the Sun On Yee, the most notorious Triad in all of Hong Kong.
Tiger: That guy actually sounds morally ambiguous; I didn’t think you like those types?
Rabbit: That’s the great thing about Sleeping Dogs; you can choose where you draw the line. Want to stick to your cop ways? You can by not hurting civilians. Want to prove your worth to the Triad? Shoot everyone that gets in your way! By doing this, you earn experience points for whichever faction your actions align and you’ll start to unlock special moves. This double life is what makes Sleeping Dogs’ story so compelling. Shen starts out with a mission to complete but soon is accepted into the Triad family. He has to decide if he’s going to do what he was hired to do or turn his back and join the lifestyle his mother sacrificed everything to try and save him from.
Tiger: I’m actually surprised by you, Rabbit. You usually don’t pick characters like him so I’m glad you’ve expanded your video game tastes.
Rabbit: Well, I really only played the game because it had the word “dog” in the title and I thought Shen was cute.
Tiger: *rubs brow* Oh geez.
Rabbit: Hong Kong is so cool, unlike Japan.
Tiger: How can you say that?! Japan is our home country.
Rabbit: I know, but we haven’t been there since we were little. All I remember is going to Wendy’s, the mall, and getting corn on our pizza. We might as well have been in Kansas.
Tiger: Wha? Why Kansas.
Rabbit: Because people eat a lot of corn there?
Tiger: Are you just trying to offend everyone you can with your blanketed stereotypes?
Rabbit: Hey, I’m just saying.
Tiger: It’s true though, I mean about what we remember from Japan. I would add McDonald’s and eating hamburgers with rice patty buns but that’s about all.
Rabbit: And ice cream! Weird waffle-esque ice cream sandwiches. And going to Disneyland. And strange toilets. Oh, and don’t forget all the pigeons.
Tiger: I think we’re getting off track here. Let’s talk about gameplay because we know both games have great settings and cool characters but gameplay is where it’s at.
Rabbit: Well Sleeping Dogs combines the best of both worlds with its action-adventure gameplay. Shen can run, jump, climb, and swim all over Hong Kong as well as drive cars, boats, and motorcycles. There are some great RPG elements with earning XP to unlock new combos and abilities. I mentioned it before, but you gain XP by pulling off different moves such as environmental kills for Triad XP or minimizing property damage for Police XP. While Shen can shoot guns, the bread and butter are in the melee combat system.
Tiger: I like toast and jam.
Rabbit: That’s what my baby feeds me.
Tiger: I’m her loving man.
Rabbit: You’re a man?!
Tiger: That’s just what the lyrics are! *pouts* Anyway, continue.
Rabbit: As I was saying, the melee combat system is where all the fun is at. Shen can attack, grapple, and counter in a variety of ways. He can even pull these off with or without weapons. There are also really great environmental attacks that you can pull off, eliminating your enemies in some crazy and violent ways. Combat is always fast and furious in Sleeping Dogs. You can’t just keep pounding the attack button and hope to mash your way to victory. Often it takes timing and thought to throw out the right combinations of moves, but it’s always fun and exciting to slam that baddie’s head into the wall to finish him off.
Tiger: For a moment there, I thought I was talking with all that violent stuff.
Rabbit: ^crosses arms^ I’m only violent in video games; you’re violent in real life. I do have to add how awesome the racing is in Sleeping Dogs too. I know, I’ve brought it up already but it’s so fun cruising around the city in a fast sports car or on a tuned up motorcycle. The races around the city add opponents for you to challenge and try to beat. They can be brutal to win but it gives you a nice break from the action and when you do beat them, you get some solid dough to buy even better cars.
Tiger: Sleeping Dogs combat system actually sounds a lot like Yakuza where it’s heavily focused on melee. Kiryu can also use guns but it’s more fun to just punch someone’s face in. You can also pick up objects lying around the environment to defeat your enemies. From bats to folding chairs, whatever you find can be turned into a weapon. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience that can be used to unlock more moves and abilities. Though Yakuza lacks vehicles, there are a lot of mini-games you can play. You can go to the batting cages, play a few games at the casino, or check out the arcade. There are a ton of sidequests too.
Rabbit: Ooh! I love those.
Tiger: I don’t mind them when they add something to the story, but so many are tacked on and feel like busy work. Luckily, the sidequests in Yakuza actually help Kamurocho come alive. From the barkers handing out tissue to the little beggar girl you can help, there’s a lot of things going on in that game.
Rabbit: OMG, remember all those barkers in Las Vegas?
Tiger: *laughs* Yes, and they also were handing out tissue amongst other things.
Rabbit: Those weird collectable cards with strippers on them. Those were fun.
Tiger: Yeah, you really just need to walk around the Strip with your hands in your pockets; otherwise they’ll just shove stuff into your hands.
Rabbit: Sleeping Dogs has a lot of sidequests but no barkers, luckily. You do get girlfriends, quite a few to pick from. Those were kind of fun, I liked the different personalities you get to meet.
Tiger: And date all at the same time.
Rabbit: To my defense, I didn’t realize I was doing that until she came up and slapped me in the face.
Tiger: *laughs* Kiryu has girlfriends too, sort of. You get to woo the girls from the host club in Kamurocho and even get their phone numbers. But nothing really happens since you just buy them stuff and they laugh at your jokes. Speaking of that, the hostesses have terrible voice actors in the first game.
Rabbit: Oh really?
Tiger: Yeah, Sega redid everything in English and it was pretty bad. Not terrible, but it wasn’t great. The second game, however, had the original Japanese voices which is so much better.
Rabbit: Sleeping Dogs has a great voice cast. I love how they switch back and forth between English and Cantonese. They even have some famous actors too. Will Yun Lee plays Shen and does a fantastic job. Lucy Liu, Kelly Hu, and Emma Stone are also in the game.
Tiger: Kiryu is voiced by Kuroda Takaya but you would know him as the Recycler from R.O.D. the TV.
Rabbit: Sonny Wong! He’s Darcia in Wolf’s Rain too, right?
Tiger: Yup, that’s him. There’s another R.O.D. the TV alum with Goda Ryuji being voiced by Iwasaki Masami.
Rabbit: Who played Drake Anderson! Wow!
Tiger: Haruka, the little girl Kiryu takes care of was voiced by Kugimiya Rie who also played Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist and Mikan from Rental Magica. Though in defense of the English version, Majima Goro was voiced by Mark Hamill and he did a great job with that character. We’ve actually covered a lot about these games, any closing statements?
Rabbit: I just have to say that overall, I love how morally gray Sleeping Dogs is. You play a cop that may have murdered someone to exact revenge for his dead sister. He then goes undercover in a serious Triad only to find out that he is more like them than he originally thought. It’s a fun push me/pull me situation for Wei Shen. On one side, he fights for justice and the safety for the citizens of Hong Kong but on the other side; he fights to protect this new family he’s been adopted into. I just really love this conflict that he has to face with almost every decision he makes.
Tiger: Kiryu is in a different situation. He was always a part of the Yakuza lifestyle but he takes the blame for a murder that even outcasts him from these criminals. He spends almost the entire game trying to help the people who least want his help. On top of that, he finds out that the people he loved and trusted weren’t who he thought they were. All this happens while he tries to protect one little girl, one girl that everyone seems to want. It definitely makes you grow attached to the characters, even the bad ones, because they are all shown in a human light. No super villain that has no soul or a straight-laced hero that has no flaws; the characters in Yakuza possess real human characteristics which makes the game that much more enjoyable.
Rabbit: I have to admit, even though we battled it out to the end, it looks like we were pretty evenly matched. So I say there’s only one way to settle the score once and for all, in a bonus round!
Rabbit: Wei Shen’s tattoos are much cooler than Kiryu’s. For one, he has more and they also have a lot of meaning behind them. Take for instance the tattoo on Shen’s left arm, which is a depiction of the Taoist god of War, Guan Yu. This tattoo is interesting because in the game, both the Hong Kong police and the Triad worship him. Shen also has a tattoo of his sister, Mimi on his left arm, which was the catalyst that caused Shen to go after the Triad in the first place. Shen also has a few dragon tattoos across his body. Chinese dragons tend to symbolize power and intelligence but also ferociousness as well.
Tiger: Well, Kiryu doesn’t need a bunch of tattoos because he rocks the single best tattoo on the planet. Kiryu has a massive dragon tattoo that covers his entire back. It not only represents his commitment to the Yakuza lifestyle but it also represents who he is as a person. That person is someone who is wise but fierce and also powerful, someone who is called “the Dragon of Dojima.” What makes Kiryu’s tattoo even more impressive is that it’s probably done in the traditional style of irezumi, which is when ink is inserted beneath the skin using handheld needles. The procedure is usually expensive, very painful, and can take months to complete.
Rabbit: ^clasps hands over ears^ Stop! Stop! Stop! I don’t want to hear anymore about needles, okay? You win, just stop, just stop.
Tiger: *laughs maniacally* I guess that means this bonus round has revealed the true winner, me!