The Dragon of Dojima Returns
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of the Yakuza series and thus far, Yakuza 6 is a great addition to the series. For the unaware, Yakuza is an open-world crime drama set in Japan in the fictional city of Kamurocho, which is a fictional recreation of Tokyo’s Kabukicho. The entire series features over the top arcade-style combat in which you can utilize items in the environment to pummel your foes into submission. Yakuza 6 features more of the same with the combat being less complex than Yakuza 0 which released last year. By the way, I recommend picking up Yakuza 0 because it’s excellent in its own right. Running a cabaret club is a great source of income and requires actual strategy to be successful. Besides combat, players are able to engage in various side activities that can be quite addicting. The Yakuza series has always been a rather serious affair, but what makes the series great is how it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which honestly is a nice change of pace because there are some really heavy moments in this game.
The player assumes the role of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, who was the fourth chairman of the Tojo Clan. I won’t divulge too much as there’s a lot to cover but understand that in the sixth entry Kazuma is finally ready to lead a normal life, but is unable too because of a hit and run that left his surrogate daughter in a coma. The player follows Kazuma on his journey to uncover the truth of the accident and it leads him to run-in with various members of his past. It’s a lot to take in especially for new players, but there is a way to recap the events of the Yakuza series from the main menu. Now, I understand that it sounds like a very serious game and for the most part it is, but it is littered with light-hearted moments and silliness that has become staples of this series. There are a ton of characters to meet and it can be very daunting to remember who they are and the role they serve within the grand scheme of the narrative. Somehow, the series makes it work and in my 10 hour play through, Yakuza 6 follows suit.
One of the biggest and frankly most welcome changes to the Yakuza series is the inclusion of voice acting for nearly EVERY character. Thank goodness, because unless it was a cut-scene, the player was going to have read numerous lines of text to understand the story. Also, you can skip certain parts of dialogue to speed up the moments of exposition, which is great because this series, like the Metal Gear series, has a lot of information to put out. Another big upgrade comes in the visuals department. This is the first in the series to have been developed strictly for the PS4 and it shows. Facial animations are fantastic as it gives weight to the various interactions during the game. It took me by surprise as the previous entries in the series tend to feature wooden animations that would take away from a cut-scene. Colors are vibrant and Kamurocho at night is a sight to behold. Overall, the world of Yakuza 6 is impressive, especially given the fact that this game was initially released in 2016.
While Yakuza 6 has been an enjoyable experience, it’s unfortunate that there isn’t much depth in regards to its combat. It’s simplistic, fast, and most encounters can be completed fairly quickly. Players can activate the Yakuza series signature “Heat” mode, in which Kazuma is supercharged and is able to utilize finishers that can deplete health bars fairly quickly. This is especially handy in boss encounters as they are able to utilize a Heat mode themselves. With that being said however, there isn’t much challenge to the combat. I didn’t upgrade Kazuma’s combat abilities until around 8 hours in because I was able to get through most encounters with just basic combos. There was far more depth in the combat of Yakuza 0 as you were able to switch styles in combat based off the enemy you fight. With enemy encounters being so frequent, combat can feel repetitive.
Luckily though, there are enough mini-games and distractions to break up the monotony. Seriously, this game has a ton of content to offer and players will pour hours of their time into the various activities that make up the game world. The two featured maps are relatively small in comparison to other open-world games, but Yakuza 6 is incredibly dense. I’ve lost at least two hours at the Sega Arcade catching up on some classics because I had to scratch my nostalgia itch. Players can head to the batting cages, gamble their money away, sing karaoke, go fishing, and more. there is also Clan Wars, which is a min-strategy game which feels like a lite-RTS. I have yet to fully explore all the mini-games, but it is something that I am looking forward too. I don’t believe there are many open-world games that are as diverse as Yakuza 6 and its honestly very impressing.
Issues with the combat aside, Yakuza 6 could very well become the best in the series. It features an intricate, personal narrative that deviates from previous entries as it doesn’t jump to different characters. The shifting perspective can be quite confusing and feels like it works to artificially extend the length of those games. Luckily, this is Kazuma Kiryu’s story and Yakuza 6 benefits from this focus. Fans of the open-world genre will be disappointed that the maps aren’t large but that doesn’t take away the fact that this game can easily take up to a 100+ hours of your time. Those that do want to venture into Kamurocho for the first time should play Yakuza Kiwami, which is the first entry in the series remastered in HD. Then you can jump into Yakuza 0 and eventually Yakuza 6.. This may be the last we see of the Dragon of Dojima, but it is certainly a helluva way to go out.
On a side note, the legendary Takeshi Kitano is in this game as a major side character and that is awesome.