There's no point in denying it: we have a massive man-crush on Yakuza protagonist Kazuma Kiryu here at Push Square. We've known the guy since the days of the PlayStation 2, and our admiration seems to grow with every new Yakuza title that makes its way to Western shores.
For the heathens among you who don't know who Kazuma Kiryu is, allow us to briefly explain. As mentioned, he's the main playable character in the Yakuza games - a man of iron will who seemingly stops at nothing in his attempts to dish out sweet justice in the general direction of the Japanese criminal underworld. SEGA's series takes place over a number of years, with each instalment - barring prequel Yakuza 0 - seeing Kaz grow older and wiser. In Yakuza 6, which is heading West in 2018, our hero is approaching 50, and he's still kicking arse like there's no tomorrow.
With three decades of street fights and potentially fatal encounters under his belt, we reckon that there's a case to be made for Kaz to be crowned the hardest bloke that PlayStation has ever seen. Here are five reasons why we think that's probably accurate.
He's just a man
Much like Batman, Kaz is just a guy in an expensive suit - he doesn't have any superpowers, he's no chosen one, and he doesn't exist in some fantasy universe where the rules of physics don't apply. Okay, that last point might be pushing it a bit since Kaz has been known to pull off some truly preposterous fighting moves from time to time, but you know what we mean.
Unlike fellow PlayStation hard man Kratos, Kaz doesn't have the luxury of being a God. There are no magical weapons of legend here - just bare fists and the ocassional baseball bat. Kaz doesn't care, though - he just makes do with what he's got. He knows that he's only human, yet he still strives to push past his limits, obliterating everyone's expectations again and again as he avoids almost certain death at the hands of just about every gangster in Japan.
Kaz teaches us an important lesson in that if you're naturally built like a professional wrestler and you've spent your life kicking people to bits, you can achieve anything.
He can turn anything into a weapon
Have you ever seen Kaz fight? The man's a bloody monster. Being a self-taught street brawler, Kaz has learned that surviving usually means adapting to your situation, so much like a violent Ray Mears, he's quick to use anything and everything to his advantage in a fight.
Cornered in a tight alley? Use the nearest wall as a face-grater. Stumbled into the office of a murderous yakuza? Grab a three piece sofa and crush him with it. Stray salt shaker? Sprinkle its contents into the eyes of your enemies. Cinematic heat moves are the best part of Yakuza's combat, and Kaz has mastered hundreds of them over the years. It doesn't matter where he fights - the Dragon of Dojima will always find something to pulverise his opponents with.
He never kills
It would be too easy for Kaz to simply pull out a small pistol and shoot every mob boss who stands in his way. But if he resorted to killing people, he'd be no different to the ugly buggers that he's trying to stop - and that's the coward's way out. Instead, Kaz strives to spare the life of anyone that crosses him, unless he's left with absolutely no choice.
Admittedly, it can seem a little naive to walk away from a powerful adversary who swears vengeance after having every bone in their body broken, but that's the beauty of Kiryu's philosophy. He believes that no matter how many times he's opposed, he'll never stop fighting. If that means he has to go head-to-head with the same boss character four times in a single Yakuza game, then he's more than happy to throw down over and over again.
Okay, we know what you're thinking. We've all seen Kaz throw goons off the roof of a five storey building. We've seen him take a katana and slice some bozo straight across their body. Heck, even when he's just stomping on someone's head, you're sat there wondering whether they're ever getting back up. Brutal combat is the bread and butter of the series, but have you noticed how defeated enemies are always breathing after a battle wraps up? Yeah, there's our proof - it's a K.O. count, not a kill count.
Alcohol makes him more powerful
Kamurocho, Kaz's usual stomping ground, is packed with bars big and small. Finding a stiff drink isn't difficult, and Kiryu is always more than happy to knock a few back. Why? Because it powers him up in battle, obviously.
We've all been there. You've had a bit too much to drink and you feel like you could quite easily take on the world - but in reality you're a bloody mess and you should have a sit down before you embarrass yourself. Kaz is nothing like us - he can gulp the harshest of spirits all night long, and the only price he pays is that his vision goes a bit wonky when he's playing darts.
When tipsy, Kaz takes to the streets safe in the knowledge that his heat bar builds at a faster rate, meaning that he can dish out devastating special moves more frequently while under the influence. He doesn't head to the pub to unwind after a hard day's work - the local tavern's the very first port of call for our boy Kaz. Hard men, hard drinks.
He fights for what he believes in
This one's probably the most important point to remember when considering whether Kaz is PlayStation's hardest hero. Real tough guys don't go looking to cause trouble - they're not the street thugs running up to Kiryu and picking a fight. Kaz only raises his fists for what he believes in - to protect those he holds dear, or to drop a ton of justice upon those that need to be taught a lesson.
The thing with Kaz is that he's been down that darker path before. In his youth, he was collecting debts from Kamurocho's biggest losers, beating them half to death before picking their wallets clean - but he came to realise that he had to potential to blaze his own trail as a yakuza, without having to resort to such questionable traditions. You could say that Kaz is an enlightened criminal.
If Kaz didn't have such a keen sense of justice, he wouldn't have overcome the many hardships that have been thrown his way over the course of the series. Having something to fight for and never straying from his ideals, he's the hero that Kamurocho doesn't deserve, but definitely needs.
Do you have a dedicated shrine to Kazuma Kiryu in your office? Do you want to be just like Kazzy-chan when you grow up? Crack your knuckles in the comments section below.
Is Kazuma Kiryu the hardest man on PlayStation? (34 votes)
Without a doubt
Please login to vote in this poll.