Official soundtrack releases for games developed in Japan tend to remain exclusive to their own country, respectively. It’s pretty disappointing when this happens, as titles like the Yakuza series (or, Ryu Ga Gotoku if you hail from the land of Nippon) have really stuck out to the Western gaming world. One minute, you may be trying to dig yourself out of a conspiracy with gangsters on your tail, or preventing a terrorist attack from a Korean mafia syndicate. In between all of this, you’ll probably be wasting your time dancing, cooking, playing tag with a clown, running your very own cabaret club, and so much more.
However, the most memorable feature in the series has to be the karaoke mini-game. First appearing in Yakuza 3, it was implemented in the spin-offs, remakes and subsequent sequels as a result. Hearing the protagonists sing their hearts out to cheesy love songs or head-banging rock anthems is a real treat, especially considering how it completely juxtaposes the straight-faced tone of the main storylines.
There were two limited edition releases for Yakuza Kiwami 2 (a remake of the second title in the series), one of them featuring a soundtrack CD centered around the singing antics of the recurring protagonist Kazuma Kiryu. Ryu Ga Gotoku Kiryu Kazuma Karaoke All Time Best Collection CD offers a sizable selection of his greatest solo songs and duets, with a handful of instrumentals alongside.
Nearly every track on the album are their full, uncut versions never heard outside of the respective games they starred in. Tracks like ‘Honjitsu Wa Diamond’ (‘Today is a Diamond’) and ‘Hands’ are delightfully upbeat numbers (even though the lyrics to the former are incredibly depressing!). Same goes with the duets, which has Kiryu barking lively interjections alongside the female-led vocals in tracks like the peppy ditty ‘BRAND NEW STAGE’.
Some of the slower and melancholic songs are well worth listening to, as well. There are two versions of the iconic love ballad ‘Bakamitai’ (‘Foolish Lover’), but Yakuza 0’s ‘Taxi Driver Edition’ is iconic, thanks to its passionate chorus and soothing backup vocals. Tracks like ‘Junmuro Kamuro’ (‘Pure Love In Kamurocho’) and the short version of ‘Junmuro Kamuro’ (‘Kamurocho Lullaby’) have a cool and romantic sound to them, although their fairly-reserved sound means they don’t have as much bite to them to help them stand apart from the rest.
The trio of Heavy Metal songs stand strong on this release. Their killer guitar riffs and Kiryu’s bass vocals make the badass ‘Like a Butterfly’ and the synth-licious ‘Ijisakura 2000’ (‘Stubborn Sakura’) hit hard and leave a lasting impression on your ears. His signature song, ‘Judgement-Shippan-’ is the highlight of the bunch, with a kickass solo and the striking English lyrics in the chorus. Honestly, how can anyone resist shouting along to ‘Breaking ze law! Breaking ze world!’?.
Five karaoke versions of songs are packaged alongside as bonus tracks, omitting the lead vocals while leaving the back-ups intact. Chances are if you love the originals, then you’ll still love these mostly-instrumental tunes. ‘Honjitsu Wa Diamond’ is still a cracker, while ‘Fork in the Road’ will still have you waving your hands in the air to its elegant, dream-like instrumentals. Still, it’s a shame that ‘Judgement’ and ‘Bakamitai’, being some of the more beloved tunes in the series, didn’t get karaoke versions.
Providing you can track down a copy of this rarity, Ryu Ga Gotoku Kiryu Kazuma Karaoke All Time Best Collection CD is a smorgasbord of brilliant karaoke ditties and nifty instrumental bonus tracks. Let’s face it, Kiryu is both a badass protagonist and singer, and will likely melt your face off with his razor-sharp chants, or lull you to sleep in some of his warm and welcoming tunes. Most of the duets prove to be a great listen, as well. To summarize, it’s strikingly energetic and infectious to listen to, making it well worth checking out when you’re not playing the games.
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our Top 10 best karaoke songs from the series?