If you read my recent post regarding my thoughts on Yakuza 6, you might have been under the impression that I was speaking about the game from the perspective of somebody who’d actually completed it. Well, confession time: I hadn’t. But I have now. And what an ending it was too.
But this was more than just the conclusion of yet another Yakuza game: this was the finale of Kiryu Kazuma’s story – an epic, and emotional story that spanned seven main series entries, over a decade of Yakuza/Ryu Ga Gotoku releases (the first being the PS2 original which hit Japan in 2005), and an in-game timeline that began in the late 80’s with Yakuza 0. It’s fair to say that Kiryu went through a lot during that time. He’s been embroiled in countless Yakuza conflicts and shadow games involving corrupt officials, lost countless friends and loved ones to said conflicts, and been shot, stabbed and beaten more times than I’ve had hot dinners.
The Yakuza series has always been OTT, with characters that can survive a highly unrealistic quota of explosions and bullets, but there came a point where Kiryu’s tale simply became far-fetched, so I can understand why Sega decided that it was time to retire the Dragon of Dojima. Nevertheless, I wasn’t particularly happy about said decision when Kiryu and his allies have become much-loved staples of my personal gaming landscape. So this Yakuza 6 ending NEEDED to be pretty good.
[Spoilers ahead, obviously]
First of all, the final act itself was – as hinted by this post’s title – pretty damn epic. The game’s two main villains, Tsuneo Iwami and Katsumi Sugai, might not be the best that the series has produced, but man did I end up hating their guts during the final scenes. They were a pair of evil, greedy bastards who I couldn’t wait to see defeated. Kiryu’s defiance of these guys and the dramatic scenes right before the final battle with Iwami were – in my humble opinion – some of the best, most intense moments of the entire series. The battle with Iwami itself…eh, it wasn’t the most exciting. Piss-easy too, especially with the mighty Tiger Drop counter.
The scenes that followed were pretty powerful though, with Kiryu sacrificing himself to protect Haruka, her man Yuta, and their son, Haruto. Kiryu finally takes one bullet too many and “dies” defending what he holds dearest – Haruka, and the values of family and bonds. It’s an emotional end to his journey, and – perhaps – a fitting one considering that there really wasn’t anywhere else to take the character, or any way for him to exit the Japanese underworld for good.
But it seems that the writers couldn’t let Kiryu go after all! in the post-credits scenes, it is revealed that Kiryu didn’t die, and managed to survive the latest round of it-should-have-been-fatal bullet wounds. The twist? Kiryu brokered a deal with a corrupt politician to falsify his own death (witnessed by Date) and go away for good, and to get Daigo Dojima released from prison. In exchange, he promises to keep politically-damaging secrets uncovered during Yakuza 6 to himself. It’s absolutely ridiculous but also completely expected by now. After all, Kiryu “died” at the end of Yakuza 3, and also appeared to die at Yakuza 5‘s conclusion. However, you never quite bought it. And so Yakuza 6‘s post-credits scenes were not that shocking, though I must admit that I did briefly believe in Kiryu’s apparent death this time as I already knew that this was to the end of the character’s story.
That said, this about-turn does spoil the end of Yakuza 6 to a degree. There is another scene that shows Haruka, Yuta, and Haruto back at Kiryu’s orphanage, with the rest of the kids. Finally free, everybody is cheering Haruto on as he takes his first steps. Kiryu is seen watching from a distance – out of their sight – before walking away for good, to let them live in peace. Really, we could have had this scene sans Kiryu and none of the faked death nonsense. Kiryu ACTUALLY dying would have lent this final scene greater poignancy in my opinion. As it is, I really wanted to see him reunited with his family but, instead, he walks away to protect them. Is it REALLY over THIS time? Yakuza 7‘s new protagonist and gameplay style would suggest so but I never say never.
So, am I done then? Not at all. I still have the PS4 remasters of 3, 4 and 5 to dig into (hundreds of hours right there), plus Yakuza 7, and the Judgment spin-off to play. I’ve also wanted to play the Kenzan games for the longest time but my constant hope that they would be localised in English for the West seems to be a vain one. Surely it would make for a nice remastered package, and with Ryu Ga Gotoku‘s popularity at an all-time high in the West, it makes more commercial sense than ever.
This is an incredible series of games however, and I hope to explain why in an upcoming post that I’ve been trying to build for a long time now.