Hands-on review: Gang warfare awaits you in Yakuza 6
The popular Yakuza franchise started back in 2005 with the release of the first Japanese version of the game for the PlayStation 2. Since that time, the series has grown in popularity with people all over the world now enjoying the adventures of the main character Kazama Kiryu.
I've been a fan of the series for a long time as I've played Yakuza 2, Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 previously. Now I can add Yakuza 6 to the list and arguably this new game could be the best one of the series so far.
The great thing about the Yakuza series is the amount of things that players can do to entertain themselves in Japan. Sure you can just follow the main epic storyline, or you can muck around for hours doing all of the humorous side missions and side activities too!
Before I begin talking about the side activities, let's talk about the main story first. The main story in Yakuza 6 is a very personal one as Haruka Sawamura is in a coma after getting hit by a vehicle. As fans of the series may already know, Haruka is like a daughter to Kiryu so this news is very devastating to him.
Due to Haruka not being able to talk being in a coma, Kiryu has to scour Tokyo to find clues on who tried to run her over and why she ran away from the orphanage in the first place. The story has a lot of twists and turns and has one of the best narratives of the entire franchise. The plot is something that will keep you engaged from the beginning until the end. Kiryu's quest takes him to two different cities that come alive brilliantly in virtual form thanks to the power of the PS4 Pro console. You can explore a nice looking town by the ocean called Onomichi or see the sights in Kamurocho which is a district that fans of the series will be very familiar with as it's in nearly every Yakuza game.
If you are a Yakuza veteran, there's not many major gameplay changes made in Yakuza 6 as the combat and RPG-like levelling up system is almost the same as has always been. The PS2 like combat system is still the same which can be both a blessing and a nightmare in my opinion. I was hoping the combat would have been smoother in this new game, but sadly it still feels stiff and awkward.
However, there are some new moves that you can unlock and several quick time events make the combat scenes look more cinematic. Yakuza 6 also removes random battles as you can now see where gangs of enemies will attack you as they roam around the city.
You will need to be an expert in the combat system mainly because you will be doing a lot of fighting. There's many boss fights for you to do and you will also need to climb high towers in order to beat up waves and waves of gang members. This is easier said than done because in one level the bad guys have bazookas and even an attack helicopter chasing you!
Even though the combat is the same, there are some minor gameplay changes that I noticed in Yakuza 6. One annoying change is that Kiryu now has stamina when he sprints around the city. I thought this was annoying since you have to buy energy drinks to make him run longer distances. A change for the better however is the fact that there's now autosave so you don't have to find outdated phone booths to save your game anymore. Not to mention the PS4 is more powerful so the game doesn't need to load up shops when you visit them.
Speaking of shops, there's a ton of side things that you can do in Yakuza 6 that make it very enjoyable to play. In this game you can visit a Cat Cafe, live chat with cute girls online, visit hostess clubs, play Virtua Fighter 5 and more. You can literally spend hours just doing the leisure activities and forget all about the main story.
In terms of side missions, one of my favourite ones involve a gang made up of wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Their leader is none other than Kazuchika Okada who has been animated to perfection in this game.
While I'm talking about visuals, Yakuza 6 is by far the best looking game in the entire series. The character models are more life-like than ever before and the city is dense full of great looking stores, people to talk to and more. I have not visited Japan in real life yet, but playing Yakuza 6 makes me feel like I'm really there due to its intricate detail.
Overall, Yakuza 6 is a very good game that fans of the series will instantly love. The story is excellent while the side activities are arguably more enjoyable. That said, I would have liked if the combat system was smoother, but that's just a minor grip. I would put Yakuza 6 as my second favourite game in the franchise just behind Yakuza 5 since the latter has more playable characters.