The Yakuza series of games have always been serious, testosterone-filled stories about hard men kicking each other’s asses, broken up sporadically by mini-games, activities, and general fooling around. The latest game, Yakuza 5, is no different. As previously reported, Namco Bandai’s Taiko no Tatsujin appears as a fully playable game within the Yakuza 5 game. So what’s it like, playing a video game within a video game, a la Inception?

Surprisingly enjoyable, it turns out, after a brief session with the Yakuza 5 playable demo on display at Tokyo Game Show 2012. The demo basically consists of a cut scene and running from point A to point B with a few fights and then another cut scene, but during that little trip, that could have been no further than about 500 meters, there was a Club Sega arcade. Inside, right near the entrance, was the Taiko no Tatsujin machine. There were a couple of mafia honchos waiting for me on a bridge, but the drums were calling…

The game was pretty much the arcade version of Taiko no Tatsujin with two rounds of drumming for ¥100 in-game money with 3 songs to choose from at two difficulty levels apiece. Gameplay was simple and very fun. After I was done, going back to the Yakuza game was a little jarring. As fun as the drumming is, it does break the immersion of Yakuza 5 quite a bit. Still, it adds a level of variety and silly fun to an otherwise hard-boiled mafia brawler game.

– Toshi Nakamura