By Andrew Munoz:
I’m going to go out on a limb and say you haven’t heard of the “Yakuza” series. Sega’s first release in this beat-em-up series back in 2005 was completely miss marketed in the west since its open world structure drove comparisons to the “Grand Theft Auto” series. Those comparisons only set the series up for failure because gameplay has more in common with the mini-game collections and beat-em-up style gameplay.
Let’s not forget the hefty amounts of eastern comedy and whacky animated fighting moves, all of which take the main protagonist, Kiryu Kazuma, from a new Yakuza recruit, to orphanage owner, to legendary bone breaking hero forever with a heart of gold. Set to wrap up the story for main character Kiryu Kazuma once and for all, “Yakuza 6” dives headfirst into a murder mystery involving his adoptive daughter, Haruka; a small infant child, Haruto, and the remaining whims of a retired Yakuza chairman, Kiryu Kazuma, who the criminal life just won’t leave alone. Sadly, “Yakuza 6” feels torn between two ideals. It wants to be the biggest and most essential entree while tying off loose ends for those who have been with these characters for more than a decade and remain accessible for all who say, “Oh there’s a “Yakuza” being made exclusively for the PS4? Cool!” “Yakuza 6” is still ultimately a satisfying tale of family, honor, criminality and Kiryus’ place among all of that. But what’s gone is the multiple characters from “Yakuza 4” and 5, as well as the feeling of exploring the cities, running into random pedestrian’s interactions, secret moves and game recommending side content. “Yakuza 6” introduces Havoc physics, meaning bodies and objects in the environment tumble and fly semi-realistically.
You can even take the fights into shops and cafes for the first time too and end up doing something like microwaving a guy’s head. Combine all this and the game can feel fantastic, but, sadly, despite this innovation, the story supporting all the face punching action takes a good 12 or 14 hours to kick in. You get lost in a sea of redundant fetch and go here, trigger a cutscene, go back quest design. It’s nothing the series hasn’t shown before, but usually, the script or action itself is the payoff here.
After the punchy and pacey “Yakuza 5,” it feels like we are back to boring busy work. Kiryu Kazuma was a character who was dodging rocket launchers and taking on an entire gang of 50 people with his bare hands in the last games.
“Yakuza 6” takes a long time reaching that point, but I truly enjoyed myself watching everything unfold in the second half of the game. Oddly my biggest recommendation of “Yakuza 6” is actually an inversion. If any of this actually interests you, play at least “Yakuza 0” or “Yakuza 3” first.