Thanks for enduring the eye-rolling title. It’s one part fact, one part humblebrag and one part pun/smug. I guess you could say I’m into making my own fun — which is ironic because that’s how I’m enjoying Yakuza 6! (PULITZER — dat transition, tho)
Due to daylight savings time I had to wait until 10pm on a Monday night to unlock the newest Yakuza game from the Playstation Store. Usually it’s 9pm on the west coast, but you know, the traditions America holds dear, no matter how worthless, still prevail. And that’s the most entitled I’ll get through the rest of the write-up. So how is the actual game, whining white male? It’s good, it’s not groundbreaking, and it’s Yakuza af.
Kiryu’s Story This Time
Thankfully I fucked around with the Yakuza 6 demo that came out a hot minute ago — because as with every Yakuza game I’ve played, the opening two hours are highly story-driven. The narrative centers around Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, legendary Yakuza-turned-orphanage-dad-turned-felon-turned-endless-cog-in-wheel. No matter how many times Kiryu thinks he’s done with a life of underground crime, he’s pulled back in. This time, his story begins after his adopted daughter is stuck by a car in what seems to be a random hit-and-run. But there’s a silver lining! Kiryu’s adopted daughter apparently has a secret baby boy! As in a real baby who is a boy, not some underage sex toy…but it is a Yakuza game, so that woudln’t be unexpected.
Kiryu, freshly released from a voluntary, multi-year prison stint, has never heard of this mystery child and sets out to find answers. Who is the boy’s father? Who nearly killed his now-comatose adopted daughter? And was it an accident as the evidence suggests? Oh, and there’s a war between the Triads and the Yakuza, and Kiryu quickly becomes ensnared in their fighting. Besides sounding like Dwight Schrute’s wet dream, the story so far seems well-trodden territory for a Yakuza game. I’m hoping in the coming hours they vary up the story progression from past entries in the series, but it’s looking like a re-tread with a fresh cast of characters. Even if it doesn’t move into revolutionary territory, it’s Yakuza and that’s always a good thing.
Kicking Ass and Taking Names
One of my favorite features in the Yakuza games is that they make the old-school design choice to assign names to the countless random dudes you brawl with on the streets of Komurocho and beyond. Last night I got an achievement for beating up a guy named “Sega,” and if you beat him more than once, you get extra experience bonuses. Stupid little things like that combined with impactful combat make the Yakuza games a delight to play.
In Yakuza 6, the developers, Sega, (not the bad guy, the company) opted to streamline the leveling and progression systems. Now, every action you partake in, be it combat, eating food, stifling a boner in an online chatroom (more on that later) and even playing in-game video games like Hang On and Virtua Fighter 5 contribute to experience points you use to level up Kiryu and his abilities. The points are based on your core attributes like strength, evasion, defense, etc. — and you’re rewarded accordingly. Doing some bench presses at the gym? You’ll gain strength experience. Killing it at skill based games like darts? You’ll gain evasion and stamina points. It’s a really great system that encourages you to engage with the ample side content sprawled throughout the game. For the first time in the series (at least the three games I’ve played), you have other options to strengthen your character outside of combat, eating and general story progression.
Video Chat Is One of the Single Most Uncomfortable Side Activities in Gaming
One of the first side quests you unlock throughout Yakuza 6 centers around chatting with Japanese cam girls. While there’s no nudity involved and it’s stupid and silly — the tone of it seems off, even for a series where courting, flirting and dozens of genuinely pervy activities are explored without judgement. In my personal experience I was playing in my studio apartment last night while my girlfriend slept. I also knew there was a trophy awarded for completing the video chat sidequest, so I dove in late last night, in the dark, while my girlfriend slept feet away from me — hoping to fucking god she didn’t wake up and see the TV screen. The chat minigame involves tapping out button prompts to mimic Kiryu typing at a keyboard. The entire experience is way too easy from a gameplay perspective and goes on for far too long. As you type correctly, the real-life woman on the screen makes moaning noises and flirts with you while removing articles of clothing. All the while, the Dragon of Dojima, this hard-boiled Yakuza bad ass, is ogling a young woman and sending messages like “IT’S GROWING!” Literally. Thankfully I was able to move through the sidequest as quickly as possible without having to explain to my girlfriend that I’m not sex chatting someone in Japan. As an added bonus, now my girlfriend can read this as forewarning in case the game makes me engage with this minigame again — trust me, lover, it’s all in the name of completionism (which the red squiggly lines are informing me, isn’t a word).
The God of War Factor
This is the first busy week in gaming this year. With the impending release of the reworked God of War game, and the overwhelmingly positive buzz around it, I worry that I’ll get dragged away from the carefree and simultaneously engaging gameplay in Yakuza. Because, make no mistake, I will be playing the hell out of God of War when it comes out. And that’s okay, because at their core, the Yakuza games can be straight slogs through story mission after story mission to reach the end of the narrative, or they can be months-long endeavors you dive into for a few hours a week while fully enjoying every silly sidequest, story beat, and mini accomplishment. That’s how I plan on playing Yakuza 6 — because after 4/20 when God of War descends upon us, we enter another drought for games. Thankfully I’ll be able to sip from the rich world of Yakuza for many hours to come.