Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! (translates to "Like a Dragon Arrives!"; unofficially known by fans as Yakuza Kenzan) is a Spin-Off of the Like a Dragon series released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on March 6, 2008. It is the third game overall in the franchise, developed primarily as a way for Sega and the developers of Yakuza to acclimate to PS3 hardware before moving on to the proper third installment in the Kiryu saga.
Set in feudal Japan during the 1600s, the game tells the story of real-life Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, albeit a fictionalized account. Musashi, who was once a member of the Tokugawa clan before retiring, works as a yojimbo (Japanese for "bodyguard") in Gion, Kyoto under the alias Kazumanosuke Kiryu. Five years after his retirement, a young girl named Haruka asks him to seek out a hitman going under Musashi's real name. Initially refusing the request, he takes it on after Haruka offers herself as a servant at a brothel in order to pay off the assassination, not wanting her to go down that path. Musashi's adventure then takes him on a journey to find the man impersonating him, and his reasons for doing so.
The gameplay remains very much the same as the rest of the series, with the main difference being the combat. While mechanically much the same as the mainline games, it is more Hack and Slash-oriented, allowing Kiryu to use and upgrade numerous swords of varying types in addition to using his bare fists. Additionally, Kiryu can switch weapon styles mid-battle, from Musashi's famous dual wielding to a large broadsword. This mechanic would later be refined into the much beloved style switching seen in Yakuza 0.
In addition to being the first Yakuza game to be released during the seventh generation, Kenzan is the first in the series to make use of motion capture technology in order to model the characters' faces after their voice actors, a practice that has been used in every single Yakuza game since.
Unlike the main series, Kenzan was not officially released outside of Japan. However, due to the PS3 not being region-locked, players outside of Japan are still able to play the game by purchasing a copy online. Fear not if you do not speak any Japanese, as the fansite KHHsubs have created a full English translation of the main story, which you can view on YouTube. With the recent rise in popularity of the main series in the West, many fans have speculated whether or not Kenzan will ever get an official release stateside. While it does not seem likely, series producer Daisuke Sato said that he would love to see a Kiwami-style remake of the game, and that if it were to happen, it "could" be released in the West. Given that it was just a consideration, however, the claim should be taken with a grain of salt. In 2021, Sato once again expressed interest in remaking it, also considering doing so for its successor, but once again, it is only a consideration - however, with Sato having left Sega in October of that same year, a localization now seems unlikely, though with its below-mentioned sequel receiving a remake in early 2023, the possibility has increased somewhat, though it's still not likely as due to the game's age, it was confirmed that it would need to be completely rebuilt from scratch with no reused assets.
Kenzan received a follow-up six years later on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, titled Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! (English: "Like a Dragon Restoration!"), unofficially known by fans as Yakuza Ishin, which revisits the feudal Japan setting, this time taking place in the 1800s and telling the tale of Ryoma Sakamoto, another real-life figure in Japanese history.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan! provides examples of the following tropes:
- Awesome, but Impractical: Greatswords, to an extent. While they have a wide range, dish out ridiculous damage, and have the ability to block bullets, you don't get to use them until around a third of the way through the game, and you can barely move while equipping one due to their weight. They usually come in handy for crowd-clearing, but they limit your maneuverability enough to make using one a lesser priority.
- Dual Wielding: One of the available styles of the game's Stance System.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Being only the third game overall in the entire franchise, a few things stick out about it compared to both the main series and future spinoffs including its successor:
- QTEs use a pastel-esque design for onscreen button prompts that hasn't been used before or since.
- Every single asset for the game was built 100% from the ground up, in contrast to all succeeding games since reusing at least a few assets from prior titles. This was due to the drastic leap in technology between the sixth and seventh generation consoles.
- When you're knocked down, there isn't a visual of the X button onscreen upon hitting it to get back up.
- It is the first and only Yakuza game on a home console post-PlayStation 2 not to have trophies/achievements in any formnote , as it was released right before the PS3 introduced them and remains the oldest console title in the series not to receive a re-release or remake/remaster.
- Nearly every location in the game besides the interior of buildings has a fixed camera, which no game in the series since has had.
- Hostess and karaoke minigames are not present, as they wouldn't be introduced until 3, making it the only spinoff not to feature either. The closest thing to the latter is the waterfall training activity, but aside from following the onscreen button prompts, it has nothing in common with actual karaoke.
- Excited Show Title!: Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan!
- Historical Domain Character: The game has you play as Miyamoto Musashi.
- Jidaigeki: The game is set in feudal Japan in the 1600s.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Random mooks always brush off injuries in the series, but Kenzan takes it to extremes due to your option to use weapons all the time. No matter how many times Kiryu slices up his foes during random encounters, they always come out alive somehow. It gets especially egregious when using greatswords, which are so heavy that your movement speed is reduced to a snail's pace when using them, as enemies will somehow survive getting sliced or even smashed with them.
- Orphaned Series: Possibly. At the moment, the samurai subseries of Yakuza is likely done, as the gap between Ishin and Kenzan was 6 years as it was, and in the time since then, the main series moved away from action to turn-based RPG, with Judgment serving as a continuation of the brawler format. Unless the duo does get localized, it's likely to remain as such.
- Red Light District: Gion, one of the explorable areas in the game, is one.
- Reused Character Design: Miyamoto Musashi is clearly modeled after series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu.
- Secret Identity: Musashi takes on the name "Kazumanosuke Kiryu" after retiring.
- Sequel Hook: The story ends with Musashi separating from Haruka following Tenkai being taken down, rushing to take on the Tokugawa clan on his own. A post-credits scene reveals he died protecting the nation. Indeed, Ishin takes place in the Bakumatsu period, which immediately follows the period Kenzan takes place in, and its opening narration indirectly hints at the events of the game, despite their stories being entirely unconnected.
- Stance System: The game has 4 styles of combat you can switch on the fly: hand to hand, one-sword style, two-sword style, and two-handed swords. You can also wield daggers in place of two-handed blades if you wish.