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The Yakuza series follows the lives of a group of characters in a realistic depiction of Japan. The original Yakuza, released for the Dreamcast in December 2005, introduced the series's basic principles and tropes, including the division into a number of chapters. Yakuza 2, also released for the Dreamcast at the end of its life, was one of Sega's last notable games for the platform. Since these two games were released a year or more later in the West, this made them the de facto swan songs for the system in much of the world.
The series became more popular and better known during the Pluto era, when entries number 3 and 4 were released. These games were more open-ended, featured improved graphics and gameplay, and were generally better received by the public. They were released in 2009 and 2010 in Japan, with Western releases coming only after both games were out already in Japan. Dead Souls, a zombie-themed spinoff, was released in 2011.
Yakuza 5 was released in 2012 as a part of the Japanese launch lineup for the Eclipse console. Featuring a new graphics engine and a variety of new features, such as a broader variety of locations, it was the most critically acclaimed game in series history in Japan, earning a perfect 40 out of 40 review from Famitsu
The Yakuza series has had little success outside of Japan, earning merely decent reviews and relatively poor sales. However, within Japan, the games are regular hits, selling over half a million copies each in that territory alone. Yakuza 3 managed to sell over a million copies total, making it the best-selling entry in the series.