Yakuza fans will undoubtedly have a soft spot in their hearts for these karaoke tracks.
It’s difficult to believe that the karaoke minigame wasn’t always a part of the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series. Yet, when it debuted in Yakuza 3, it felt as much a part of the franchise as the Millennium Tower, throwing bicycles at thugs, and gambling games.
Even if poker and oicho-kabu are enjoyable, karaoke stands out for the way it communicates its characters and exhibits a wide range of musical styles. Every fan has a favourite song, whether it’s “Heartbreak Mermaid” in the style of the 1980s, the gentle ballad “Tonight -restart from this night-,” or the KISS-inspired “Hell Nabe.” However, the ranks for Yakuza’s best karaoke songs look like this.
Like A Butterfly
Many people love this song because of Kiryu and Ichiban’s energetic, mostly English rapping (“Fly like a beautiful butterfly!”) and groovy hues. The song first appeared in Yakuza 6, where it became the favourite of hostesses Saki Akai (a real-life pro-wrestler) and Riona Ichijo (also a real-life hostess). It later appeared in Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, where it was given a full English recording for party member Eri.
Normally, translating a song entails changing it to fit the beat, but the result here is surprisingly close to the original. It’s still a dark, melodramatic song that works because to passionate performances in both languages. It will be difficult to shake the beats once the video begins.
The Future I Dreamed Of
Ichiban’s major hallmark song from Yakuza: Like a Dragon contains the fewest notes to hit, making it perhaps the easiest song in the series to play. There are only 66 links to connect. However, these songs are ranked based on how much they satisfy the ear rather than how much they soothe the fingers, and “The Future I Dreamed Of” is very pleasing to the lugholes.
Ichiban sings a song about conquering adversity and how he’s “not gonna stop questing until I’m a hero.” The song is upbeat and upbeat, and it fits Ichiban perfectly, given his reputation as the “Rock-Bottom Dragon.” The English version is as good, however it leans more heavily on video game lingo with its promises to “level up.”
At first glance, this appears to be a serious game, as the title of Like a Dragon: Ishin translates to “Dirge of the Warrior.” Then players notice Sji Okita, Goro Majima’s Bakumatsu-era proxy, performing a strange dance. It’s a tongue-in-cheek parody of old Japanese folk music, like most of Majima’s tracks prior to Ishin’s original 2014 release.
The sole shadow is the sombre opening lyrics, which Okita forgets and babbles in place until he regains his feet. He extols the samurai as invincible, save against guns and cannons. Even before Okita breaks out the audience and pyrotechnics to show off the Samurai Ondo in full, it’s a fun-loving tune that’s hard to ignore.
If players were looking for something more serious from Ishin, “Ijizakura (Fighting Sakura)” delivers with soaring woodwinds and fervent chanting. Ryma sings a heavy opening stanza on how life is difficult for commoners, who struggle until they are exhausted just to alleviate the weight.
The song then continues into a chorus about how important it is to assist society and the future generation. In other words, life is difficult but also precious, like the sakura cherry blossom, which blossoms short but persists till the end. That’s the suggestion, at least. The song was remixed for Yakuza Kiwami, however without Ishin’s customary instrumentation and drumbeats, it loses power.
Konnan Ja Nai
With its dark themes and loud vocals, “Ijizakura” is one of the series’ more brusque-sounding tracks. So, is there something softer and more excitable in it? “Get to the Top!” has a similar theme as “Ijizakura,” but is far more upbeat and less depressing. “X3 SHINE” is another popular song about having fun in the sun on the beach.
Haruka’s pop star days in Yakuza 5 brought “Konnan Ja Nai (So Much More!)”. It’s the best song she’s ever sang, with cryptic lyrics that allude to Haruka’s personal conflicts over her aspirations and a vibrant, infectious tune. Furthermore, Kiryu’s backup vocals perfectly depict his over-eager, loving father side (“LOVELY HARUKA!”).
Rouge Of Love
Karaoke also aids in the development of rapport with the game’s hostesses. If players wish to maximise their passion for one or more ladies, they must play a minigame with them, and karaoke is considerably easier than, say, mahjong. It’s why “Like a Butterfly” has lasted three games and counting. And “Rouge of Love” is such a smash hit.
It’s a hostess’ complaint about having to dress up pretty to live in “this greedy neon city.” It’s not all that serious, especially with Saejima and Majima’s exuberant backup vocals in Yakuza 5 and, respectively. But it’s performed with passion and conviction, especially by Natsuki Yoshihara (5’s Kaguya), better known as Brock’s Mudkip in Pokemon. Yes, truly.
Honjitsu wa Diamond
If Haruka can cover her actual feelings in a joyful song, Kiryu can do the same with Yakuza 6’s “Honjitsu wa Diamond (Today’s a Diamond).” The narrative of the game involved Kiryu attempting to determine what caused Haruka to become comatose after an encounter with the yakuza in Kamuroch. As a result, the song ends up being about attempting to awaken a loved one in order to seize the day.
It is not intended to be a 1:1 direct portrayal of Kiryu’s feelings, as the second stanza refers to a couple rather than a father and daughter. The karaoke games, on the other hand, simply play the first verse and chorus of each song. Even when Kiryu is beaming like the sun and strumming his guitar to a joyful throng like something out of an Elvis movie, its lines about someone “sleeping like the dead” touch the heartstrings.
Pure Love In Kamurochō
In Yakuza 4, Kiryu can perform this song with a hostess. As can Yakuza 2 boss Ryuji Goda in Yakuza: Dead Souls. However, it feels most natural when Shun Akiyama and his patient assistant Hana perform the duet. In contrast, “Rouge of Love” depicts a happy outcome to life in the red-light area. The lyrics describe a man and a hostess who fall in love despite the fact that they are meant to keep things professional.
For the other couples, it’s a clear option. Though it takes on new significance when applied to the betrayed Akiyama and devoted Hana. Who spend the game on the verge of becoming an item. That, and Kichi Yamadera (Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel) and Aya Hirano (Death Note’s Misa Amane) had the best vocal performances among the game’s singers.
Both Yamadera and Hirano have music careers in addition to their acting jobs, which isn’t unusual for Japanese VAs. Takaya Kuroda, Kiryu’s VA, even has his own band, Takaya Kuroda & Goodfellas. He admitted that he used to get upset when people requested Like a Dragon songs at his gigs. But he gradually changed his mind, and he was especially taken aback when “Bakamitai (I’ve Been a Fool)” became popular in its own right.
Since its introduction in Yakuza 5, it has been the series’ most popular song. Yakuza Kiwami got an unplugged “Sorrow” version, Yakuza: Like a Dragon got an English translation. And Like a Dragon: Ishin got a traditional Japanese arrangement. Why did it become popular? Aside from being a well-composed and sung song, it’s passionate enough to move those who take it seriously. And humorous enough for those who don’t (does Saejima really miss worthless karate dude Sodachi that much?).
Bakamitai is the most well-known song, but is it the best? While it did feature in Yakuza 0 as well, that Backrooms game produced one that is perhaps better in terms of tune, enjoyment, and plot. “Judgement -Shinpan-” (not to be confused with the spin-off game Judgement) is a rockin’ throwback to 80s hair metal that rivals “Machine Gun Kiss” in terms of shredding.
It’s a snappy, vibrant music that’s skillfully sung. It’s also purposefully goofy, with two bros dressed to the nines in leather jackets and headbands. Ready to face the world (with their suit-wearing foster uncle Kashiwagi on keyboards). However, it also demonstrates how close Kiryu and Nishiki were as the franchise’s greatest buddies. When combined with their other moments in Yakuza 0, it adds to their eventual breakup in Yakuza 1. Not bad for a Japanese Poison rip-off.