Gangland treachery, power struggles and alley brawls? It can only be the history of the Yakuza series on PlayStation.
Honour and obey
October 1995, and when police arrive at an apartment in Tokyo's red light district they find Kazuma Kiryu standing over the dead body of the Dojima family patriarch. Yet this is not the tragic outcome of some domestic dispute or petty gangland squabble, it is the cut-throat world of Yakuza on PlayStation 2.
Doing the right thing runs a distant second to maintaining the honour of your blood brother – even if that means a ten-year prison sentence and a dramatic fall from grace. And so Kiryu's stellar rise through the ranks of the Tokyo underworld is halted by his respect for the yakuza traditions by which he is bound.
Fast forward to December 2005, and Kiryu breathes in the cloying air of Tokyo for the first time as a free man. But freedom for a man like Kiryu brings its own pressures. His old Kamurocho stomping ground has changed beyond recognition, one of his oldest friends is missing and, worse still, his Tojo clan brothers in crime consider him a traitor for the murder he didn't commit.
Akira Nishikiyama, the man Kiryu gave ten years of his life to protect, is now the head of his own family and far from grateful for Kiryu's sacrifice. Meanwhile, the entire Tokyo criminal fraternity is tearing the city apart in search of ten billion yen recently stolen, and Kiryu is in the firing line.
All this is set against a neon cityscape of hostess bars, game parlours and seedy clubs, where light-hearted conversation can quickly turn into a brutal knuckle fight with the slightest word uttered out of turn. Trust no one and watch the shadows and you might just survive the treacherous world of Yakuza.
Kazuma Kiryu is determined to leave his dark past behind him once and for all in Yakuza 2 for PlayStation 2, but fate conspires against the man once known as the Dragon of Dojima.
One year on from the events of Yakuza, Kiryu is trying to settle into a tranquil existence. It isn't long before his former life seeks him out, however, as a bitter typhoon of secrets and clan rivalry whips up to sweep Kiryu back into the seedy fray.
Kiryu's Tojo clansmen face a storm on two fronts: from Japan's south, the Omi clan; and from within, a terrible secret which has never been forgotten by a powerful Korean organisation. Revenge and a hunger for power swirl through Yakuza 2, as terrible forces clash and quickly cause Kiryu to regret ever having left his new found peace behind.
If it's not the murder of a Korean mob boss by Kiryu's foster father some 20 years previously, then it's the ruthless ambition of the Dragon of Kansai, Ryuji Goda, desperate to ditch his Kansai connection and become the most feared yakuza in all of Japan.
Kiryu must use the dubious skills he thought himself finished with to fight, outwit and bury once and for all the threats to his old clan. Only then can this battle-scarred dragon claw his way back to a life of relative serenity.
Ghosts from the past
As Yakuza 3 for PlayStation 3 proves beyond a doubt, once you join the ranks of the Yakuza, you can never truly leave.
World-weary Kazuma Kiryu has finally established the sedate life he craved in the idyllic islands of Okinawa. Running a seaside orphanage with the daughter of his childhood sweetheart, his time as one of the most feared gangsters in Japan seems to belong to another life.
But when two suspicious men begin stalking Kiryu and loitering around the orphanage, a painfully familiar anxiety takes hold. Kiryu is forced to take action – and he soon discovers that much more is stake than his peace of mind.
An eviction order arrives, placing the orphanage under the threat of closure. Its beachside location is prime real estate, and a holiday resort developer has the land in its sights. All is not as it seems, however, and the fleeting glimpse of an old friend's face in Okinawa confirms Kiryu's growing trepidation: the Yakuza are somehow involved.
The menace of the Yakuza has even deeper roots in Japanese society than even Kiryu could have imagined. Working in murky unison with the Japanese government, it soon transpires that these gangsters are paving the way for a military base to be built.
With powerful clients to satisfy, the local yakuza clan will stop at nothing in getting rid of Kiryu, and he finds himself tangled in an all too recognisable web of tradition, deception and cold-blooded killing.
Kiryu is reluctantly thrust into a struggle for his home, his honour and his future that can only be won by confronting the shadows from his past. But the Yakuza's grip on Kiryu's life is vice-like, and even at the conclusion of Yakuza 3, he knows only too well his struggle to shake free is far from over. See how the saga continues with Yakuza 4 for PlayStation 3.