Yakuza 6 – So long Kiryu, thanks for the memories

So my time with Yakuza finally ends.  After 8 games on PC, I’m caught up and ready for wherever the series will take the player in the future.  While Judgement and now Lost Judgement is hopefully coming to PC, for the moment I’ve arrived at the temporary end of the journey. 

And Yakuza 6 ends what I consider the main arc of the franchise, ending the games that star Kiryu Kazuma in one final epic tale, at least that was the hope. 

Yakuza 6 is probably not what fans expected, and unfortunately may not be what fans want, but many issues with Yakuza 6 come from this potentially being the final time players take on the role of Kiryu Kazuma in the franchise. 

With Yakuza 0 releasing the year before Yakuza 6, players now had taken on the role of Kiryu in six previous titles, each time Kiryu finds a new way to get involved with major conflicts that trouble the Tojo clan.  Yet in Yakuza 6, while the Tojo is important to the story, pretty much everything the series has built up about the Tojo Clan, and the Omi Alliance is wiped away or ignored. 

Instead, Yakuza 6 revolves around a new group, the Yomei Alliance, and while this new organization does have an interesting and unique story, it struggles when compared to a group that players have been associated with for so many games. 

It also doesn’t help that the first half of Yakuza 6 focuses quite a bit on a new baby in Kiryu’s life.  A baby who appears to be born to a certain character and in a very un-Yakuza-like fashion is proven correct, rather than being a mysterious plot point. 

Much of Yakuza shoots straight. X person appears to be married to Y person, that can’t be… except it is and it’s just treated as fact.  The baby is found with Z.  And sure enough, Z’s the mother. It’s a shame because the Yakuza series has found ways to tell and experience complex stories that surprise players, but Yakuza 6 seems happy just to tell a straightforward story, and it loses something important for the series. 

That’s not to say there are no big reveals or bombastic moments.  Once the game gets going, the final third of the story is one giant roller coaster, but the problem is that the first two-thirds are dry mostly because Yakuza 6 has to establish new characters, relationships, locations, and storylines which feel all unnecessary considering the wealth of history this series can draw from.

About half of Yakuza 6 occurs in a town called Onomichi, located in Hiroshima, and while Kiryu returns to Kamurocho often, it’s not the Kamurocho that fans remember.  Part of the reason is the upgrade to the new Dragon Engine, but the other more important side is that the Tojo Clan and friends Kiryu has made over the six games are suddenly absent. 

Daigo Dojima and Majima Goro are fan favorites and neither character gets more than a couple of minutes of screen time.  Worse, there are side characters from previous games that get more development such as Yuya, the host of Stardust.  But even those characters only appear for a couple of minutes apiece.  The lack of core characters that have been series staples is noticeable, but it also contributes to the fact that Yakuza 6 spends so long introducing its new setting because that’s where the story will take place. 

This is only made worse by the fact that Yakuza 7, also known as Yakuza Like a Dragon has a more appropriate story for Yakuza 6, and includes those characters that fans want to see even though that game has a brand new protagonist.  Yakuza 7’s story is the story that should be in Yakuza 6 and where Yakuza 6 attempts to branch out, Yakuza 6 fails because it also attempts to give a final game to Kiryu, but even in this, it feels like it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. 

Without spoilers, I can’t say too much, but the ending of Yakuza 6 upset me mostly because it was predictable, and something I had already seen twice in this series. 

With that said, Yakuza 6 still has a typical Yakuza story, which contains all the same elements, and while it focuses on a new group, the Yomei Alliance, Yakuza 6 still keeps fans interested. The story for Yakuza 6 is well told and works perfectly well, involving many groups.  The problem is it never really feels like Kiryu’s story.  Where Kiryu has a tie to the Tojo which explains his participation, it almost feels like Kiryu forces his way into the major conflict here and should have been rejected, even with his history from the previous games.  

At the same time, Yakuza 6 is a major accomplishment for the gameplay.  While Yakuza 0 and Kiwami were previously on the Dragon Engine, Yakuza 6 was on a vastly improved Dragon Engine and is unbelievably smooth.  There are no loading times or broken-up scenes when it can be avoided.  Walking into most buildings is a single continuous shot as is battle. and the battle system feels far more fluid than ever. 

There’s a huge technical step up for Yakuza 6, and it’s a noticeable one, though there are limitations, most noticeably, some sections of Kamurocho is “locked off” and players are unable to venture into the Champion District or the north end of Kamurocho, which is a strange limitation since it’s just a single block along the top of the map, that is blocked off for no reason. 

Yakuza 6’s battle system feels excellent as well.  This is familiar territory for fans of the series, though the battles will feel slower at first. By the end of the game, the Yakuza 6 battle system feels excellent, though the combat in Yakuza 6 is frightfully easy, playing on hard I only had to continue a couple of times in the entire game, and abusing health restorative medicines would remove even that difficulty.  

But after the previous games, much of Yakuza 6’s systems are what people will expect.  Sidestories are back to distract and entertain the player like always, though similar to the writing many of them feel like they’re lacking the level of depth as the previous games.  However to even find many of them will take a decent amount of time, and some of them are linked to side activities. 

Where Yakuza 2 was stuffed with side activities, and Yakuza 5 had so many they were forced into the story, Yakuza 6 seems to take the right approach of having so many activities players might miss, but not required.  I missed one of the large activities of building a baseball team until after finishing the game, and once I found it, I enjoyed it immensely.  Clan Creator, which is also playable in Yakuza Kiwami 2, was introduced in Yakuza 6, and it’s also another side activity that will require hours of work but is an enjoyable form of a real-time strategy game.   

There is also a drinking discussion mini-game, a workout simulator, and even a strange online chatting mini-game where Kiryu ends up typing “BOOOOOOBS” and I still can’t believe that isn’t fan-fiction. 

But ultimately Yakuza 6 gameplay is the culmination of a decade of games at that point.  Yakuza 6 is what players have come to expect from Yakuza’s style, large worlds, tons of different stories, and variety where players can stumble on something new.   From the gameplay perspective Yakuza 6 succeeds. 

But that expectation is a double-edged sword because Yakuza 6 fails to deliver what is important to fans, a satisfying ending for Kiryu’s arc, and what’s particularly strange is that it’s clear RGG made the game to give Kiryu a send-off but then didn’t make an attempt to make that sendoff particularly poignant or tie in with the series as a whole. 

What a shame and missed opportunity in Yakuza 6, yet I still enjoyed my time with it.  

I’ve thought a lot about my score and for Yakuza 6, I’m going to give it an arbitrary 

7/10.  

Yakuza 6 probably deserves an 8, it’s a solid game, and if you’ve enjoyed this series there’s no reason to stop at the previous game, but Yakuza 6, fails to give fans what they deserve and it fumbles what should be either closure or a continuation of the Kiryu Saga. 

Understandably, Kiryu’s story might have continued after Yakuza 6, but even in that case, the story here lacks what has drawn fans into the series for so long, and it’s not just Kiryu, but the entire Tojo Clan that is at the center of the story in the franchise.  Yakuza 6 just takes a huge step away from that, and it’s not a step for the better.   If only they had given a conclusion worthy of the series…

If you enjoyed this and want to see more from me, you can check out my youtube channel at 

https://www.youtube.com/c/KinglinkReviews

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