Yakuza 6: A Farewell To Kiryu (That Isn’t Quite Perfect)

Yakuza 6 marks both a new era and a bittersweet closing chapter for the series. It’s the first mainline title built on the powerful Dragon Engine, bringing a much-needed visual and gameplay overhaul. Yet, it also signifies the end of Kazuma Kiryu’s long and turbulent journey, making this a complex, emotional rollercoaster for seasoned fans.

A Next-Gen Yakuza, At Last

Let’s address the elephant in the room: visually, Yakuza 6 is a revelation. Kamurocho’s neon sheen is more dazzling than ever, character models are incredibly expressive, and loading screens are mostly a thing of the past.

The changes aren’t just skin-deep. Combat feels weightier, emphasizing strategic crowd control over lightning-fast combos favored in past titles. While this might be jarring at first, it’s a change I grew to appreciate. This is Kiryu a bit past his prime, but still able to dish out serious punishment.

Yakuza 6 feels like the first truly modern game in the series. For years, the franchise has balanced stunning visuals and thrilling action with archaic holdovers from the PS2 era. Here, that friction largely disappears – a huge relief after countless hours spent in the series.

A New Location, A Mixed Bag of Emotions

Story-wise, Yakuza 6 picks up several years after the events of Yakuza 5. Kiryu has done his time, Haruka is in deep trouble, and a convoluted mystery unfolds involving her child and a hit-and-run. The plot veers between classic Yakuza-style gang intrigue and unexpected soap opera moments focused on family. It’s a risky tonal shift that doesn’t always work.

The new location, Onomichi, is a charming departure from the usual bustling urban setting. The focus on a quieter, more tight-knit crew brings a sense of freshness. However, the lack of returning series favorites like Majima and Saejima is a huge letdown for longtime fans. They’re not completely gone, but their presence is minimal, and that hurts.

Adding to the mixed bag are some genuinely thrilling moments, like an unexpected flashback sequence shedding light on secret events of the past. Beat Takeshi’s surprisingly layered performance as a key character also adds depth. But the overall plot, particularly how it wraps up Kiryu’s arc, falls short. It plays it safe, when this should have been a wild, heart-wrenching send-off.

Business as Usual (In the Best Way)

Don’t worry – beneath the narrative missteps, the core of Yakuza remains gloriously absurd. Side quests and activities abound, from taking adorable baby selfies to running a hostess club. Yakuza 6 piles on the crazy, even throwing in a fleshed-out baseball management game and a quirky clan recruitment/battle system! You could easily sink hours into these without touching the main story.

So, Should You Play It?

Veterans: This is a tough one. The gameplay and visuals are the best the series has seen, but Kiryu’s final chapter is surprisingly tame. If you’re in it purely for the story, you might be disappointed. That said, if you love roaming Yakuza’s world, getting lost in side quests, and want a taste of the series’ future, Yakuza 6 delivers.

Newcomers: While the core gameplay is fantastic, Yakuza is an acquired taste. Start with Yakuza 0 or Kiwami 1 for a stronger introduction before hitting this bittersweet finale.

Bottom Line:

Yakuza 6 dazzles with its technical prowess, a stark contrast to the bittersweet simplicity of Kiryu’s exit. It’s a feast for the eyes, a nostalgic pang in the heart, a reminder of the series’ potential and its reluctance to truly evolve.”

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