If you’ve played every Yakuza game chronologically (by starting with Yakuza 0) then you’ve witnessed the life of Kazama Kiryu throughout several decades, you’ve seen him grow older, raise Haruka, start an orphanage, move from town to town, but most important of all you see him grow as a character. It’s hard to NOT get emotionally invested. So it was never going to be easy to play Yakuza 6, with it being the final chapter in the Kiryu saga. Did it end with a whimper or worthy conclusion? Honestly I can’t answer that for you.
The story starts a few years after Yakuza 5, Kiryu is released from prison after three years looking to rebuild his life with Haruka, but she’s been found in comatose state after a hit and run… and she has an infant son!? His only lead to finding out who the father is that he might be located in a small fishing town called Onomichi. Sounds simple enough, only he gets dragged into another conspiracy that alter the power structure of the Japanese mafia. Poor guy, this is the seventh conflict he’s been dragged into and he didn’t even want to get involve this time.
We’re treated to a back to basics approach with only one playable protagonist so no Saejima or my boy Akiyama. It makes sense, it’s better to keep the narrative focus on one man for a more coherent story (one of my issues with Yakuza 5 was that it was a little to spread out and had uneven pacing). You’ll have both the familiar town of Kamurocho and the new region of Onomichi as your playgrounds. All of the familiar side content is here. You got your batting cages, darts, the arcades, host club, and Karaoke which includes my new favorite track “Today is a Diamond” (just don’t look up the English lyrics). Of course you can’t have a new entry in a video game series without new content: “Troublr Missions” (I swear I had to triple check if that was a typo or not), where you stop crimes (in hindsight they feel like a precursor to Judgment’s side cases), spear fishing which is a fishing/rail shooting hybrid, managing a baseball team (minus five points for not involving Shinada in some way), and the best new feature the “Clan Creator” a tower defense game without the the towers. You’ll recruit people to join your clan/gang in a mini campaign to take on JUSTIS. Who are JUSTIS? The better question is who plays the characters in JUSTIS, because the gang consist of New Japan Pro Wrestling icons Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and the GOAT himself Tory Yano all playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Once you finish their levels you’ll fight them in a traditional boss battle and it’s the so weird and surreal. I never imagined I would see Kiryu get hit with a Lariat, Destino, and a Rainmaker in game (side rant, the Rainmaker should have been an instant kill). Hell with the use of secret codes I could recurit Ryusuke Taguchi, EVIL, Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii… but they are all generic models (shame on you Ryu Ga Gotoku, the Stone Pitbull deserves better). It’s like Clan Creator was made specifically for me and offered a fun combat experience… which is more than I can say about the actual combat.
This was the debut of the Dragon Engine and Yakuza 6 was the guinea pig. The combat looks and feels stiff, sloppy, and slow. Maybe they could’ve excuse it in the story like having Kiryu saying “I’ve gotten rusty since prison” or “I’m getting older and my body can’t do half of the actions I use to anymore”. It’s serviceable and not unplayable, but a tad of a downgrade. At least we finally have fully voiced Substories. The sub stories are just as loony as ever. You fight ghost, infiltrate a cult, dress up as a mascot. There’s a substory that is a parody of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and you’ll even reunite with an old friend, no spoilers on who it is, but if you weren’t giddy when you saw him again then I’m sorry you have no soul.
Now it’s time to talk about the ending. Well not really because I don’t want to spoil it. I personally found it satisfying and yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I teared up, but I won’t explain the details as to why. I don’t want my opinion to influence yours because it’s an opinion you have to decide with your own thoughts and no one should sway you into how you feel intentionally or not.
And there it is, the last time I got to play as Kazama Kiryu. At least I can say in confidence that Ryu Ga Gotoku made sure to give him an overall gratifying game that was a fun to play even with a few shortcomings combat wise.
Oh and if we ever get a third Judgment then it’s only fair that we see Mayu Iwatani, Syrui, Utami Hayashishita, and Starlight Kid from STARDOM.
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