Yakuza 6 Review

Like a dragon indeed.

Yakuza 6 won’t officially release here in the west until sometime in 2018, but I have the opportunity to grab a copy when I was in Taiwan so I figure why not!  Turns out, it’s one of the best gaming decisions I’ve made so far, and the newest installment of quirky Japanese mafia fighting series doesn’t disappoint at all.  Kazuma Kiryu is back baby!

Taking place three years after the events of Yakuza 5, Kiryu is finally out of the prison and ready to be reunited with children of Sunshine Orphanage.  However, it turns out that Haruka has left the orphanage years ago due to not willing to mix the other kids into her complicated life of an ex-idol.  Worry about Haruka’s whereabouts , Kiryu decides to return to Kamurocho for clues.  An unfortunate car accident allows Kiryu to discover Haruka, but at the same time, it turns out the young girl has a one-year old baby.  What?  Just what exactly happened during the three years Kiryu was in prison?  Meanwhile, like all other Yakuza games, Kiryu is once again caught in a turf war between two different clans trying to control Kamurocho, and the incident somehow involves a whole different clan out in Hiroshima.

Unlike Yakuza 4 and 5, the new game brings the narration back to the simple roots of single narration from Kiryu’s POV.  While it limits the story’s possibilities, it allows a more focus gameplay without distracting the players.  I’m very glad of this, as I was having issues remembering who’s doing what back in Yakuza 5.  This way I’m fully invest in Kiryu again and a great reminder that the Yakuza series is essentially Kiryu’s heroic tales.

Yakuza 6 easily has the best story in the entire series so far.  It mixes drama, comedy and mystery really well together.  Even though it can get quite ridiculous from time to time (classic Yakuza series), I’m still engaged and willing to find out what’s going to happen next.  Also, to my best knowledge, this is the first game that features a huge cast of famous actors playing main roles.  These including Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara and Shun Oguri.  The wonderful performances by these actors enriched the experience, and give Yakuza series the prestige status it deserves.

The gameplay is greatly improved as well.  The main fighting system now allows you to fight multiple enemies at once, and the new ragdoll physic can easily send enemies flying with a strong kick, or by grabbing and spinning enemies around.  These are all really handy when being swarmed by the enemies.  The game also gets rid off the awkward battle transition, and you can pretty much fight the enemies straight on.  The environmental fighting moves are as interactive as ever, and you can perform various awesome finishers base on your current location.

The leveling up mechanic received a complete makeover too!  You can easily upgrade different abilities by selecting the different color associating with them.  I’m not usually one to spend time leveling up characters, but the game makes the experience a fun and easy one.  Also, the game makes earning points an easy one too, because basically everything, and I mean everything, you do earn you points.  Eating, drinking, playing games, singing karaoke, wooing girls, playing baseball or playing mahjong will all give you experience points.

And yes, the game is full of activities like the previous games.  Other than the ones mentioned above, the newest addition including babysitting (which is oh my god so difficult), and chatting with hot girls online trying to convince them to take off their cloth.  I’m dead serious here.  Anyway, the game also gives you the opportunity to fish underway, and play a full game of Virtua Fighter.  This is really a game full of activities that can have you go on for hours.

Once again, the game’s main attraction is all the bizarre sidequests.  While the main storyline can be as intriguing, I can’t help it but spends hours and hours trying to finish as many sidequests as possible, and trying to figure out the pop culture influences behind them.  My favorite ones include the spoof of “The Girl who Leapt through time,” “Her” and many body-swamp sci-fi stories.  Also, the one where you have to fight ghosts at the cemetery, and the one where you have to dress as a mascot to entertain local children are both memorable as well.

The biggest addition to the new game is the Clan Creator.  You can now create your very own clan and have it fight the biggest enemy Kiryu has to face- the JUSTIS.  Yep, that’s how you spell the name I didn’t make a mistake there.  Anyway, the idea here is similar to Total War where you command up to 100 men fighting each others with their special abilities.  This game mode is actually pretty easy, and all you have to do is spawn endless units at the same time.  It does get tougher later on, but it’s definitely nothing you cannot take on.

Fun fact: The bosses in this mode are all NJPW wrestlers.  This game is really full of celebrity appearances.

Every game has flaws, and this one too.  The game has a really slow start where it takes a whole hour before you get to even move around freely at all.  Yeah, the game throws in a little flashback action at first, but after that oh my god am I here to watch an animated film or play a game?  Not to mention the game lacks of veteran characters in favor of newcomers.  Akiyama is the only main character from the previous game that makes a memorable return here, but even he’s hardly in the game at all.  Most importantly, Majima, a fan favorite, is completely sidelined, and didn’t appear at all until the end of the game.  The game also programmed the NPCs to walk way from cutscenes.  It’s great as they won’t interfere important scenes, but the sudden departure is unnatural and obvious, and can be quite distracting from time to time.

Overall, despite some very small hiccups, Yakuza 6 is a very good game and easily the best of the series so far.  The story is engaging and in-depth, and the gameplay is improved with hours and hours of activities to do.  It’s still a long way before the western release, but it’s nice to know that there is something to look forward to next year.