Hopefully I’ve hooked you in with that clickbait-esque title BUT, before you berate me for using such shady tactics, I do actually mean what I say…sort of. Yakuza 6 IS the worst game that I have played in the main series (ignoring the Dead Souls spin-off) but it is still a Yakuza game. Branding the sixth chronological installment of Sega’s beloved franchise as the worst one is like being presented with a group of semi-naked Playboy bunnies and being asked to select your least favourite.
What I’m saying is that Yakuza 6 ranks bottom for me, but it’s still a fantastic game regardless of its issues.
But before I get into what this game doesn’t do, let’s look at one big thing that it DOES bring to the Yakuza series, namely THIS epic Heat move that I just can’t get enough of:
Now that I’ve gotten that little nugget of awesome out of the way, let’s talk about the shortcomings that make Yakuza 6 the least endearing game for me. It’s a decent-sized list so I’ll just break out the bullet points…
- No coliseum mode and no Purgatory.
- No weapon/gear crafting. You can equip a very limited number of defensive items/accessories but you can’t collect and equip weapons.
- The Champion District, Park Boulevard, and Kamurocho Hills are all blocked off by construction work. At first I thought that the works might disappear later in the game and open up the rest of the map but this isn’t the case. They simply didn’t include these areas.
- There are no casinos or gambling games other than Mahjong.
- There’s no pool, and darts has been completely revamped to the point that there’s no skill involved at all.
- No lockers to open this time.
- No bowling.
- Only one hostess club and it’s very easy to complete.
As you can no doubt tell, my main gripe with Yakuza 6 is what’s missing rather than what the game does wrong. All of the above is classic Yakuza content, most of which has been present since the very first game, so it feels odd to see so much missing. Some of it isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The casino and traditional Japanese gambling games, for example, are things that I absolutely hated having to deal with in previous Yakuza games when going for the 100% completion. As for the hostess club, it’s swings-and-roundabouts; on the plus side, it doesn’t decimate your in-game wallet like before, and each girl is so much easier to “complete”. On the downside, I do miss having to put that work in to get to know the hostesses properly.
The most jarring issues that stand out are the blocked-off areas, lack of a coliseum mode, and the total inability to equip weapons and craft gear at Works Kamiya. I definitely got the sense that the game’s development time was cut short in order to push it out of the door and, after poking around online, this does seem to be the case. Yakuza 6 was the first PS4-exclusive game in the series and, as such, had to be built from the ground-up. Previous sequels had the luxury of borrowing assets from their predecessors and being able to continuously build on what came before without having to have the entire engine and game world built from scratch. No such luxuries for the development team here. In fact, if you play Yakuza Kiwami 2 (which was released after 6), you can see that almost everything missing from 6 was added back in…and then some.
So I absolutely cannot blame Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio for 6‘s shortcomings but the fact remains that they are there. Even the combat is lacking, with far less available Heat moves than ever before (seriously, you can’t even stomp on downed enemies!). Then there is the 100% completion checklists which are less of a challenge this time, and more menial and dull, involving loads of repetition. For example, there is a new minigame that sees Kiryu becoming a regular at a small bar and befriending all of the other regulars. I managed to max out the relationships with the other patrons and complete this substory, yet I still had to visit the bar another ten times in order to tick it off the list (you need to visit thirty times total). This meant entering/exiting the bar ten times for no reason. The completion list is padded out with annoying crap like this and, even though ALL Yakuza completion lists have featured similar pointless quotas to fulfill, it just feels worse than ever here.
So, this is the worst Yakuza game thus far but – as my opening analogy involving the lovely ladies of the Playboy Mansion pointed out – this absolutely doesn’t make it a bad game. First of all, despite all of that missing side content, there are still more distractions and optional stuff than many games can boast, including a load of brand-new stuff. There is the Clan Creator minigame for starters, which sees Kiryu assembling an army of fighters to take down a dangerous street gang. Then there is a baseball team management game, “Trouble” missions, RIZAP fitness programme and an on-rails arcade shooter-style game in the form of Spearfishing. The Japanese obsession with vending machines also finally makes its way into the series. No, not THOSE sorts of vending machines; just regular drinks machines. The various licensed (this IS Yakuza after all) drinks grant Kiryu a range of buffs.
Yakuza 6 also drags Kiryu into the modern age with all of the menus accessed from his smartphone, and I feel ULTRA cool because he has the same Sony Xperia XZ handset that I do in real life! Sticking with the times, you can also live-chat with girls at the internet cafe, the ‘video’ cleverly constructed with pre-recorded clips featuring the gravure models Yua Mikami and Anri Okita (some of the chat from other users is HILARIOUS). Oh, and Kiryu can take selfies now too. Yeah.
Retro Sega love returns too with Club Sega hosting various authentic arcade cabinets to enjoy, including Puyo Puyo, Out Run, Super Hang-On, Space Harrier, and Fantasy Zone. These alone would make any Sega fan’s day but the development team went one further and managed to cram in Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, which is pretty crazy really. For all you fighting game nerds out there, you may be interested to know that this is the Version B revision of VF5:FS, and Yakuza 6 is the only way to officially play it outside of Japan.
Yakuza 6‘s main story may not be my favourite, but it’s still pretty damn epic in the way that only Yakuza storylines can be. Kiryu’s quest to find information on comotose Haruka’s newborn son leads him to the fictional town of Onomichi, Hiroshima, and a brand-new cast of characters brimming with personality (in no small part thanks to the game’s fantastic graphics and cinematic cut-scenes). Before long, it’s business as usual, and numerous Yakuza organisations are involved as is the customary double-crossing and far-fetched schemes. It’s classic Yakuza and goes a long way toward making up for all those shortcomings.
The thing that has kept the Yakuza series going for so damn long is its incredible consistency, high quality, and obsessive level of detail. It shines through as brightly as ever in Yakuza 6 and I couldn’t help but lose myself in the game, despite all the things that I dislike about it. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did a fantastic job rebuilding Kamurocho for the Playstation 4. It’s just a shame that we would have to wait until Kiwami 2 to see the new engine used to its full potential, and all the stuff missing from 6 to be reinstated.