By David Fernandes / January 9th, 2017
Another thing I noticed was the lack of Long battles which acts as the “levels” between the exploration/story side and the boss battles. These sections to me were always some of the best moments in a Yakuza game, just fighting dozens upon dozens of enemies which allow you to experiment and have a good ole time with the copious amount of moves you’ve been adding to your repertoire as the game progresses. A few that were in the game did stand out like the run down building section in Kamurocho, but not by much, which I can say the same about the bosses–not in quantity mind you but most were either too short and easy or an opponent you fought multiple times with little changes and thus not interesting. Honestly it stems from the reworked combat system and it feels like a downgrade. If you want a challenge I suggest not using any of the strengthening beverages from the vendors as they overpower Kiryu to such a degree that it becomes laughable.
With every new entry comes a new way of enhancing Kiryu and this one is no exception, even the menus have changed along with it. Instead of the static menus of predecessors, you now go through them all with your phone whether to check the map, objectives, achievements or the leveling system. Taking inspiration from multiple titles, you obtain points for five categories, with three of the five being easily obtainable through random battles. The other two, along with getting a surplus of the aforementioned three, can be obtained through story missions, sub stories, completing achievements, eating food etc. You spend the points on the usual: obtaining heat moves, special combat abilities, miscellaneous buffs like obtaining more heat orbs, and now improving attributes like strength, health and strengthening defense. I find this new approach serviceable enough as like most entries, doing the story, occasional random encounters, eating food, training, and side content will get you by with plenty of room to spare and you will see a maxed out Kiryu in no time. My only little gripe is that a new combat style being brought forth means older moves and heat moves are dropped in favor of the new ones, but they decided to give Kiryu old ones like the Komaki Tiger Drop but none of the other counter moves provided by Komaki, and it makes very little sense to me.
One of the most noticeable new additions to the series seen in the first reveal trailer is the idea that Kiryu would be able to explore more areas seamlessly. In a way they were right, but it’s not all that is cracked up to be, unfortunately. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, hoping over barricades, sliding through tight corners and exploring in-depth sounds good, but it’s very limited in scope, as I found most of these cases to be marginalized or just very few opportunities to actually witness it. I found myself only doing half of these things like once or twice in both cities while exploring. Even worse is all of this came at a price, with areas previously accessible now closed off: like the Champion’s District, most of the Hotel District, no underground areas besides the one manhole that now doesn’t go to Purgatory so no casino or arena, no Kamurocho Hills and Hiroshima is extremely small and compact with very little to explore.
The mini-games are all there, well, at least most of them, as some have been replaced or just plain removed due to the area being blocked off, like the aforementioned gambling area in Purgatory and in the Hotel District. Bowling has been removed and replaced with a gym that has a workout regimen for Kiryu to train and gain more points in all five categories through an assortment of mini-games. Billiards is another old favorite that was removed, but Darts, Karaoke, Hostess Clubs and the Batting Cages remain, and other gambling oriented mini-games like Mahjong are here. It’s a little strange to see a few missing and others not make a return but they at the very least introduced a while new assortment, including ones found at the Sega arcades like a fully playable version of Virtual Fighter 5 FS–very nice. A Baseball Management side quest, Snack Bars, Online Chatting (which will not be for everyone I can assure you), Clan Creator, which is just a simple RTS-like side quest which got dull very quickly, and underwater fishing that reminds me of Ocean Hunter, an old Sega classic arcade gem that is one of my old time favorites.
Because of this entry being a PlayStation 4 exclusive and the first one to not be released on both older and newer hardware since 5, the developers decided to go all out on a new engine only possible on updated hardware and it really shows. While the art style is questionable for some characters like Kiryu and Haruka as they look like they haven’t aged a day, the character models are rendering extremely well; right down to the clothes and facial hair. The lighting, for instance, has also been improved drastically, with Kamurucho, a fictional red light district being based on the real life Kabukicho, having its nightlife captured perfectly and it was breathtaking coming back to the city at night and Hiroshima, particularly in the late afternoon has that pleasant comfy atmospheric tone to it with the setting sun. Ragdoll physics has made its return, which hasn’t been used since Kenzan, along with destructible environments and with the particle effects getting a surge in quality, the combat does look stunning to watch as things go straight to hell on the streets to even in the department stores.
It does, however, get annoying when it comes to physics as I’ve found myself time and time again knocking weapons away while trying to grab them or even running over them and sometimes breaking, so maybe it’s a little too chaotic. To achieve this graphical fidelity the developers made a conscious decision to return yhr franchise to 30 fps and it’s very disappointing after playing Ishin and Yakuza 0 with their combat having the motion like pure filtered water. Worse, the game suffers framerate dips in combat, exploration, and even in some cutscenes, it staggers at times which is a shame since the animations are quite good. There is noticeable screen tearing during the exploration side, more so at night like in Kamurucho. I suppose the lights and activities become too much to handle for even the PS4, though apparently, the game does suffer less technical issues on the Pro, but since I don’t have the PS4 Pro I couldn’t tell you. The game’s soundtrack was also a letdown as I always put the games in high standards in many fields and music is no exception. Not to say it didn’t have any keepers: Ed’s, Someya’s and Koshimizu’s were the hands down best boss tracks and the few Long Battles themes were at least memorable. I can’t say the same with the battle themes in either city and even the Last Boss track felt uninspired, and those are usually some of the best tracks in the Yakuza titles.
As you can tell, I walked away from Yakuza 6 disappointed in many aspects especially in the gameplay department. I won’t fully judge the plot until I get my hands on the localization copy; as they say, its the journey that matters and not the destination. I will say that I came out from this game feeling like this title was made more as a technical project and less of them making the best possible last title for Kiryu. I’m not saying its a bad game, far from it, it’s still enjoyable even on its worst days and I still got about 50 to 60 hours worth of content. Much less than what I normally got from the series, but padding out the game with bloat certainly wouldn’t have helped matters and the story was long enough as is. I wouldn’t recommend importing this unless you are a huge fan of the series that has been following it for years and even then the game will be available in 2018 in the West. I say to both new and older fans to possibly wait for a price drop if you don’t mind waiting.
Review copy was provided by Play-Asia. If you want a copy of this for yourself, please use our affiliate link below.
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