Welcome to a new OffColour series paying homage to the beautiful, under-appreciated music featured across video games! First up on our list is the music composed by Hidenori Shoji, found in the seventh installment of the Yakuza series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Please keep reading to learn more about the game and to listen to our personal favourites from its soundtrack!
(Please note slight spoilers for character/boss encounters up ahead)
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has you playing as Ichiban Kasuga, a former Yakuza grunts seriously down on his luck. After suffering a bullet wound to the chest from his former boss, Kasuga finds himself dumped in the city of Ijincho, struggling to piece together the clues behind his betrayal. Joining in a gang of those cast aside from society – a struggling barmaid, a fired police detective, and former nurse turned homeless – Kasuga takes to the city streets to fight its misdoers and climb his way to becoming a hero. Along his journey, he’ll encounter some strange adversaries and some unique music tracks to boot.
Main Music Melody:
You don’t have to start playing to become antiquated with Like a Dragon’s fantastic music. Its dynamic main menu sets a great precedent for what’s to come; what begins as a light and calming melody transcends to tense and foreboding with a push of the start button. As Kasuga and his friends enter a storm of trouble through their encounters with shady characters, the opening music becomes a direct expression of the narrative threads the game will take on. Thrust into an unfamiliar city with danger lurking around every corner. Its main menu theme reminds us of the uncertainties the future holds for Kasuga and his friends, the perfect setup for a trepidatious journey.
‘Ijin Three’ Themes:
Throughout this journey, Kasuga and his team find themselves tangled in the affairs of the Ijin Three. A “checks and balances” of crime if you will. The Yakuza ‘Seiryu’ Clan, Chinese ‘Liumang’ Mafia, and Korean ‘Geomijul’ mafia work to keep the city in harmony through less than legal means.
With suspicious motives, the groups are quick to put their guards up when Kasuga interferes with their plans. What results from this is not only a tangling thread of story beats, but some great battle themes for each faction, one of my personal favourites being the Geomijul theme:
The group’s first encounter with the Korean mafia takes them through a dilapidated apartment complex fitting of the Geomijul name; it is a spider’s web of dense corridors, rusted staircases, electrical wires strung from every corner. Their adversaries watch them from afar, trapping them as they wait for the perfect moment to strike. When battle commences, their theme erupts into this high-energy, bombastic music telling of the strength of the enemies the team is up against. After a foreboding setup, it’s the perfect energetic contrast to motivate us to push through and break free from their web.
An Homage to the Greats:
Like a Dragon’s great music comes from its boss themes, one of which pays homage to series’ legend Kazuma Kiryu. In a face-off against the man himself, this theme oscillates between its high-energy electronic music and acoustic interludes. The perfect theme to pump us up in this struggle against a foreboding enemy, this battle track drives home what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a main character’s attacks.
One of Like a Dragon’s best tracks is easy to miss; coming from a certain post-game boss featured across the series, the track fits its “Fiercest Warrior” name. Unlike most of the other battle themes featured throughout, this one takes things more slowly. With chilling vocals and a consistent, untempered beat, this music serves as a harsh reminder of the enemy before you. Fitting as the backdrop in a battle of both strength and wits, it’s the perfect track to keep us focused and on our toes in the game’s showdown.
That wraps up our first entry for stellar soundtracks in gaming. Be sure to let us know what soundtracks you enjoy, and stay tuned for our next entry soon!