That time SEGA Made Us Want to Watch Game Install Screens

The Yakuza Series' PS3 Install Screens

Loading screens… Data Install screens… Game update screens… Ugh!

There is little that can kill the excitement of getting to play a long-awaited game, then popping the disc in your console only to be met by minutes or (depending on your connection) hours of waiting as updates are downloaded or the contents of the game disc are saved to your hard drive. While still a thing now on the latest generation of gaming consoles – the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S alike – the wait times we experience now were nothing like they were a decade ago. HDD storage drives, lesser spec’d hardware and poorer internet speeds meant that for some games, you would need to set aside a good hour, often complemented by a drab system-default loading screen, until you played the game.

As a PlayStation 3 gamer during the 7th generation of gaming, I was all too familiar with this issue. The PS3’s limited storage space often meant sitting through a lengthy install process for many console exclusives and multiplatform games.”. Often I was met with a generic data transfer screen or some vague attempt at branding such a screen with the game name – but as impossible as it sounds – one company, somehow, against all odds, perfected the installation screen to a point one could sit through it all.

This came from the development team at SEGA behind the Ryu ga Gotoku series, also known as Yakuza in the west, which at that time were releasing their games exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and were cram packed with assets that needed installing. Three of their games – Yakuza 4, Yakuza: Dead Souls, and Yakuza 5 – required installations that took approximately 10-15 minutes each to complete. But how they went about presenting these installation screens was surprisingly simple and I doubt would have taken almost any development time at all, but served as an effective means of giving you a taste of what’s to come, and delivering an experience that holds a special sense of nostalgia for me.

How did they accomplish this? A simple 30ish-second animation loop that seamlessly transitions between each game’s 4-5 playable characters, as basic biographies of the protagonists are displayed, with the animations exuding the level of badassery one can expect from the series. Each of these install screens was complemented by each game’s stellar main theme. This is especially true for Yakuza 4’s chill and complex lyrical song For Faith composed by Hidenori Shoji. With the song not that prominent in the game, and this being before the time you could easily access video game soundtracks, I will openly admit I uninstalled Yakuza 4 just to listen to the song again. Given we are in an era where short videos on the likes of TikTok and YouTube Shorts tend to require a second video being played underneath the main one, I am uncertain if this would hold the same weight nowadays – but damn, these were a refreshing sight to behold a decade ago.

Anyone remember how cool it was to finally play as Majima?

Unfortunately, for those who wish to watch these in 2023, you can’t do so on any of the modern-day HD remasters. This is understandable given the improved specs of each platform render the installer moot, but it would have been nice for these to have been included as small extras – perhaps as character profile summaries you could switch between. Given it is probably not something worth picking up a PS3 copy of a game for, thankfully (as you can see in this article), kind members of the community back in the day shared recordings of these install screens in action, to help reignite that nostalgia in those who sat still for 15 minutes straight to watch the same animation loop over and over.

These install screens for Yakuza 4, Yakuza: Dead Souls, and Yakuza 5 are relics of an era where we had to wait around to play games, and couldn’t jump between freshly installed titles in a matter of seconds. It was simple, out-of-the-box thinking on SEGA and Studio Ryu Ga Gotoku’s part that helped improve the user experience and is one of many small innovations that have seen the Yakuza series continue to thrive since the first game released almost two decades ago on the PS2.

Interested in more? While this article covers only the three games I had direct experience with (Yes, I imported Yakuza 5 never expecting it to be released in the west), there are additional opening screens for other Yakuza games released in the west – available to view in the below playlist:

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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