Ryu ga Gotoku / Yakuza 6 is a dope game, there is no doubts about it. I don’t know if it’s even possible for this series not to bring the hype. What’s more, is that every game in the series continues to improve on the formula making each new game even better than the last, which is quite impressive and makes me dunk my soul to the devs every time a new one is announced. Zero turned out to be insane, so naturally, I was ready to party and get a taste of life as a god once the 6th game was announced and hearing that it was made purely for the PS4. Full power Kiryu preaching that violence isn’t the answer while also stomping everyone’s faces in?! Count me in!
Unfortunately, part 6 breaks the pattern – it is not better than Zero.
Yakuza 6 finds Kiryu being released from prison and trying to reconnect with all the silly little kids he looks after at his orphanage. But one thing – Haruka is gone! She’s been in an accident back in Kamurocho and is in a coma. The one clue that she left behind is a baby – apparently, her baby?! What in tarnation! So Kiryu has to get to the bottom of Haruka’s accident while juggling backbreaking and diaper changing. He heads off to Onomichi, where Haruka was apparently living for some time. Anything more is Spoiler City.
In terms of story, 6 is about what you would expect from these games – mystery, twists, Yakuza being dicks, kidnappings, murders, whodunit, colourful characters, etc. This one reaches pretty ridiculous levels with its big secret, giving it a charm similar to MGS stories where it takes itself so seriously despite being silly, thus making it actually awesome and fun. There’s no shortage of loss, sacrifice, redemption, and man tears, which is exactly what I expect from the series – it wasn’t this that held it back, so I’ll look at the pillars of what makes this series one of the Ten Gods of Games: combat gameplay, and side shit.
The combat gameplay is took a funky turn. This is where the game really facesmashed but also owned itself. Combat transition is much more smooth now; there are no cutscene transitions for every fight and you don’t have to listen to them cry to you after you beat them, somehow still talking about getting diced by a sword. The overall normal combat moves feel better, albeit mostly the same. In exchange for draining HEAT, Kiryu can enter a powered-up state that allows him to enhance his regular moves, essentially turning any combo finishing Strong Attack into a HEAT move, and other cool things like a flurry of punches by mashing light punch, etc etc. While the fighting certainly feels nice, it didn’t take long for me, a connoisseur of HEAT, to realize the combat has also been stripped of a lot stuff that made the other games so hype. Despite adding the HEAT factor to finishing normal combos, there are actually overall less HEAT moves in the game. There are still some hilarious situational ones and what is in the game is good, but it feels like a Kiryu is missing half of his arsenal of stomps. This is largely due in part to the riddance of the majority of weapons. The only weapons one can use in the game are what enemies drop, and it is limited to like 4-5. No longer can you carry The Nunchaku of Jesus or whatever and do a ridiculous HEAT move off of it. No longer can you find a dirty syringe in an alley and stab a dude in the ass with it. No more is the strange liquid in a jar in a parking lot you can get some punk to drink. And so on. A slimmed HEAT list made me cry. It makes the fights a little less varied and thus more repetitive, which is a shame. But at least the side shit can’t be hurt right?
Help these guys.
The side shit is another case of forward and back for me. The sidequests are, as always, gold, so there’s no issue there. Can’t go wrong. On top of cabaret clubs, Kiryu can also go hang out with a bunch of old dudes in a snack bar that works in a bit of a similar way. Each of these guys then have a sidequest attached to them because they are all so troubled, and the answer can sometimes be found with punching. It is a nice pace to add some bro-ing up instead of just getting yo sausage wet all the time.
The more involved side events include Spear Fishing, Making a Baseball Team, and Clan Creator aka gang warz.
The Spear Fishing has you diving into the ocean to FPS-railshooter snipe out a bunch of fish, culminating in a boss enemy. It’s pretty ridiculous as Kiryu rides up in his boat and punches sea creatures in the face. While the presentation and concept is sweetness, it’s quite empty, with only 3 levels to repeat over and over. It’s a good way to make some early cash, but becomes obsolete later. So while cool, it’s over too soon.
Making a Baseball Team has you playing in a local baseball league, recruiting new members via sidequests etc., and trying to win all the games. You only gain control of the batter a few times in the game, otherwise it’s all simulated with minor choices such as pitching changes. It is a very humourous and relaxing mode that requires a little bit of grinding/replaying missions to complete challenges and level up your players. It requires some time and is overall good stuff.
Clan Creator seems to be where a lot of resources went into this game as it is heavily promoted and can be the only thing I see that could take away from more HEAT and funny side things like FPS snowball fights, or dance battles, or taxi driving, or cabaret club management, or or or many of the other cool timesinks other games has. During the game you are confronted with a gang that’s bein dicks and you join forces with some punks to take down all their main banchos and take back the streets. It’s basically a RTS-esque game where you summon fighters of various classes to clash with other clans. You direct them where to go and they fight automatically. There are boss characters to defeat, made easier with your own boss characters that can be recruited via sidequests, fighting certain dudes, etc. There is also a password system to get super rare/strong cards, and honestly, that’s the only way I could get through and have a good time. The battles aren’t very exciting or varied and it’s a total grindfest to level up your heroes. At least with the super strong cards there is amusement to be found by having series classics fighting as grunts in your clan for some weird reason. Anyway, after you beat a number of missions you fight one of the leaders of the badguys and when you win he joins you; it’s all those weird looking dudes above. Overall, good for a chuckle, but Clan Creator did not fill the hole left by the combat trimming. Tooooo baaaaad.
What this all ends up with is that Yakuza 6, while still an amazing game, feels more…empty than the others. Almost like it’s more casual, despite some cool side stuff and a more streamlined fighting system. The typical playtime for me in these games is over 100 hours. In this it was about 60. If I really got into Clan Creator, it may have been extended, but if you’re not into watching gangs derp around on screen for hours, then it’s pretty light. Hopefully the next ones have all the HEAT actions and weapons to collect back! Yakuza games are HEAT, in my world.
One other thing it does have: some of the best Karaoke music vids.