I’m not going to lie, Yakuza 6 was a game I’ve been both sleeplessly looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. I’m a recent convert to the series. I’d heard endless recommendations from friends to give the series a try for years, and I finally got that chance with last year’s phenomenal Yakuza 0. Within an hour of taking my first steps on the mean streets of Kamurocho I, aloud, asked myself where this series had been all my life. What I had thought for years was a Grand Theft Auto clone was more the crossover between The Sopranos and grandiose anime cheese I never knew I wanted.
Over the hundreds of hours of catch-up I’ve been playing ever since, I’ve completely fallen in love with the wacky world of Yakuza, and that’s why playing this newest entry feels bittersweet. Yakuza 6 marks not just the first truly “next-gen” game in the series with its new Dragon engine, but also the end of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu (having been the star of every game since 2005) as he bows out of the limelight.
As of writing I’m still making my way through the lengthy main quest on offer, but first impressions are the rodeo this time round is going to have a bit more gravitas as a now near 50-year-old Kiryu not only tries to uncover the attacker behind an attempt on his adopted daughter’s life, but also who the mysterious father of his new grandson is.
The neon lights of the city shine like never before and the character models are some of the most realistic I’ve ever seen
If you’re new to the series, please play them. Every single game in the series is completely weird and wonderful and all of them hold a special place in my heart. Yakuza 6 is not the game to dive in (but I will happily point you in the direction of 0 instead). As for this game, I must talk about the new engine. Yakuza 6 looks amazing. The neon lights of the city shine like never before and the character models are some of the most realistic I’ve ever seen. Most load times are completely gone and animations have been significantly improved.
I’m not sure the same can be said of the new combat system. Gone are the multiple attack styles of 0 and Kiwami in favour of just one. Kiryu’s attacks feel heavier and more deliberate, with a greater emphasis on crowd control. The quick combos, snappy dodges and ludicrous finishers are still here, just slower than before. This game running at 30 frames-a-second (versus the 60 of previous games) doesn’t help matters either.
Yakuza 6 has left a lot of Yakuza’s PS2 roots by the wayside in favour of a more streamlined style
Of course, many play Yakuza games for the huge number of side-quests, minigames and distractions on offer. 6 is no exception. The experience system has been revamped, granting more when you sample some of what the many local restaurants and bars have on offer or play Batman and assist a distressed local. You can also create and manage your own gang, make friends with the strays to help save a floundering cat café, play darts or go bowling, sing along to karaoke tunes, or even dive into the meticulously detailed and sprawling baseball management game. This is only scratching the surface, and the staggering detail placed into every facet of it all always leaves me speechless.
I’m honestly worried about Yakuza’s future. Sega have committed to future games, but I’m worried with how Kiryu’s departure will be handled, and just how much of this series I love he’ll take with him. 6 has left of lot of Yakuza’s PS2 roots by the wayside in favour of a more streamlined style. Sega have decided that, for the series to grow past 2005, it has to leave one of gaming’s greatest characters there as well.