The Yakuza series is probably one of the most under-appreciated, and the grand appeal of Kiryu and friends seems strictly limited to the niche gamer. I stumbled across Yakuza quite some time ago, and it’s only been in recent years that the games have reached further afield with the release of the magnificent Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. I’ve been looking forward to a sequel to Yakuza 5 for nearly 3 years, but with the way things ended up for Haruka and Uncle Kaz at the end of it, it seemed like the end of an era. A fitting finale? No, not for the legend of the Dragon of Dojima, but one where he survived. The problem with sequels is that you can never rest easy until you see your favourite characters alive and well at the end, and with Yakuza 6, there has never been more of a threat for Kiryu Kazuma.
The story here is possibly the best of the series. Set across two very different towns, Kiryu must find out what happened to the girl he has been taking care of since the very start of the series, Haruka Sawarmura. She’s involved in a car accident, but not only that, she’s had a child (Haruto) with a mystery father, and along the way, you find out that there’s a hidden depth to what transpired on the streets of Kamurocho that day. If you really like the look of the game, but are worried you’ve missed the previous games, there’s a “memories” section on the main menu that lets you catch up on the previous entries, but even if you didn’t watch this, there’re plenty of new faces in Yakuza 6, so don’t worry too much.
It’s currently 2016 in Japan, and Kamurocho has had a huge facelift. There are arcades and cabaret clubs everywhere, all illuminated by the neon lights of a stunning city and ready for whatever vices you are keen on indulging in, giving you plenty to do outside the main story. Eating in restaurants will give you EXP, and certain combinations of meals will give you bonuses. Fancy a bit of fun? Go to the SEGA arcades and Play Puyo Puyo or Virtual Fighter 5, or play a game of cards in a shady part of town. Like previous entries, there’s so much to do, and even if you’re feeling a bit frisky, you can go and chat with live models, but I’d suggest not playing these sections in front of just anyone.
The other town in Yakuza 6 is Onomichi, a small ship building town in Hiroshima. It’s a very different place to what you’re used to in the bright lights of Tokyo. It’s a quaint town, filled with a picturesque view of the river, small and intimate bars, cafes, and restaurants. It feels like a closer community, and everyone seems to know everyone. There’s a shrine, with poem stones located throughout the city showcasing the culture and the warmth of Onomichi. You’ll find yourself flitting between the two locations right until the end, and it’s always a pleasure returning, no matter where you’re currently visiting.
Combat has never felt so satisfying, and it feels stripped back and tighter at the same time. Also, if you used to get sick of constantly having to fight gang after gang when you were only trying to nip to the shop for some Stamina XX, you can run away – a first for the series. You can still level up your stats to unlock new moves, and EXP will also build your Health, Attack, Defence, Evasion, and Heat ranks, but the simplicity of the battle works really well. Combining Square and Triangle outputs variations of strikes and the ability to block and focus on certain enemies makes it much easier. There are tons of weapons, so picking them up in battle can aid you no end. Heat is back again, and whilst building up Heat through successful strikes and attacks, the new Extreme Heat mode dishes out plenty of damage, meaning tougher opponents go down much harder and faster. Environmental attacks are incredibly satisfying, so is picking up a sledgehammer or sword, activating Heat and battering opponents into oblivion, and as you face harder bosses as the story progresses, these actions can come in extremely handy.
Aside from the main story, Yakuza 6 offers its own weird and wonderful sub stories, much like it always has. You’ll be tasked with saving a couple of young lovers faking a body swap to evade the disappointment of their parents, a time traveller, a pervert’s addiction to sex chat (which is quite possibly the funniest scenario I’ve ever witnessed in a video game), and ghost pirates. Yep, Ghost. Pirates. They offer a nice break from the main story, and don’t last for too long, as well as giving you a chance to take a break from the heavy hitting action and depth of Yakuza’s final story.
One of the things SEGA has talked about is the Clan Creator, and by the time of finishing the game’s main campaign, I’d only done a handful. They aren’t part of the story – instead, they’re part of a side story that continues throughout. A gang of thugs called JUSTIS are capitalizing on the gang war breaking out between the Tojo Clan, the Triads, and the Jingweon Mafia, so you’re asked to raise an army to battle them. The concept is simple enough, and when playing, you’re viewing from a kind of FPS angle, directing soldiers to fight JUSTIS by clicking on them.
You get different kinds of fighters such as heavy or light, and bosses take up some of your time before reaching the goal of that said mission and defeating JUSTIS. I feel much the same way I do about this as the rooftop battles in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – it’s ok for a while, but I just wanted to get back to cracking skulls. Thankfully, it’s only optional, and you only recruit gang members for these battles if you want to.
There are a few issues I had with the game, such as the occasional screen tear (which disappears if you use a PS4 Pro), and the awkward movement when running through a street of people slowing you down or stopping you, or if an obstacle is in your way, but on the whole I had the best time. Yakuza 6 is a wonderful game, and the story is exceptional. The Hirose family you meet in Hiroshima become great friends, with Yuta and Nagumo growing as characters, and growing on you as a player. The villains are real shits, and with safety never guaranteed, you’re left on edge throughout, especially in the gripping and tense final few hours.
I didn’t want it to end, and the thought of never seeing a sequel again makes me sad, especially as this has been called the final chapter, but it’s a fitting finale for Kiryu and his friends, especially the relationship he shared with Haruka and Daigo; even Haruto, who you become connected to, treating him as your own grandchild. The sections where you have to try him calm down and stop crying are a beautiful touch in such a violen, yet poignant tale. Let’s just hope that SEGA decides to remake the other 4 games, because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye just yet.
Every character is important and often fantastic
Onomichi is stunning
Combat is better than ever
Occasional screen tearing
Awkward movement at times