|PLATFORM:||Playstation 4 (Reviewed)|
|DEVELOPER:||Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios|
This hands-on is based on the standard PS4 version of the free prologue demo that was recently made available again in the west on PSN.
Yakuza 6 picks up almost directly after the events of Yakuza 5. Spoilers follow for Y5, so skip this bit if you don’t want the end of that game revealed.
Still here? Alright.
Haruka has announced on live television that she will be ending her Idol career, as well as revealing to the world that her semi-adoptive father is none other than Kazuma Kiryu – The Dragon of Dojima.
At the same time, Kiryu was involved in a massive battle that involved the “5 great cities of Japan”. After which, Kiryu was clinging to life in a snowy alley when Haruka finally reunites with him. Some time passes while Kiryu recovers in a hospital. Haruka and Akiyama find out that Kiryu will be arrested and sent to prison after the events that transpired.
3 years pass, and things aren’t going well at the Sunshine Orphanage. The kids there are now dealing with the pressure of being associated with an infamous yakuza chairman, and it’s weighing heavily on Haruka.
It’s at this point that Haruka decides she can’t put her family through this and takes off on her own, without telling anyone where she’s actually going.
This is what sets the events of Yakuza 6 into motion. Kiryu has returned and learned of Haruka’s disappearance and decides to set off to try and find her.
There is also a bit of story revealed for the main game – but not too much. There’s apparently a baby that Kiryu is taking care of – but the reasons why are never revealed in the demo. Nor is the origin of said baby.
All in all, this feels exactly like a Yakuza story – complete with ridiculous sideplots and wacky antics mixed into the melodramatic, hyper-serious main plot.
It’s a Yakuza game alright. That means ridiculously high-quality models with ridiculously textured clothing in which you can almost see the fibers of a suit jacket.
The game looks great, and runs well from what I saw in the demo. Though there were a few spots where the framerate struggled a bit.
The only real gripe that I have, is that it runs at 30 – even in things like karaoke and the batting cage, minigames that, on the PS3, would run at 60 – even though the main game was 30.
This is a bit disappointing – especially coming off of Yakuza 0 and Kiwami which ran at 60, even on the standard PS4.
The city of Kamurocho once again looks amazing – the amount of detail and life that the Yakuza team manages to pack into this map is always breathtaking. Tons of random NPCs that roam around, tending to their daily lives and holding conversations with each other. Some of which you can talk to to get little details about the world around you – or your current missions.
They also react to Kiryu physically. You can bump into them and make them stagger or fall.
In fact, almost anything that isn’t nailed or cemented to the ground reacts to Kiryu – bicycles, traffic cones, trash cans – if it’s a loose object, Kiryu can bumble his way through it and knock it over.
Or use it as a weapon – but more on that later.
Once again – this is a Yakuza game.
Now some unfortunately think that the Yakuza series is analogous to something like Grand Theft Auot.
It’s not. Not really.
The Yakuza games are more like open-world RPGs with beat ’em up gameplay as your main battle mechanic.
You aren’t stealing cars, robbing stores or holding up random pedestrians with an ever expanding arsenal of illegal firearms. You’re walking the streets of Japan, dealing with random battles and beating people with various blunt objects like pipes, bats and street signs like in Final Fight or Streets of Rage, just in a 3D, third-person perspective.
You gain experience for different things – using certain kinds of weapons, eating in restauraunts, consuming vending machine beverages, etc.
In Y6, your experience points are broken up into various categories, rather than having one single XP bar like before. All of your skills and upgrades require various amounts of these different XP types. Muscles, Agility, Guts, Technique and Charm. Different upgrades will require different XP types to obtain – so an attack upgrade might need a bit of XP from the Muscles category, while a flashy new Heat ability could reuire both muscles and charm XP.
Unfortunately, you don’t get much of an oppurtunity to explore this new upgrade system, as most things are locked other than Kiryu’s core stats.
There have also been some changes to how XP is actually earned. Specifically when it comes to food. Every meal has different XP offerings – and they can even vary by menu, so you might have to go to a specific restauraunt to get the XP that you need from the meal that you want.
You also have to contend with a new “Fullness” mechanic, which will limit how much you can eat at any one time – so you need to plan out your meals to get the most XP you can.
There is also a gym you can go to and work out through various minigames and gain XP, but I didn’t get a chance to do that.
Combat hasn’t really changed much – it just feels a bit more fluid and responsive. And there are a few new mechanics that have been added that help make things feel a little more dynamic. Heat moves that auto trigger while in Ultimate Heat Mode, having UHM allow Kiryu to automatically pick up weapons and attack with them while comboing.
Things that aren’t massive changes – but different enough to help the game feel fresh.
Lastly, we have the minigames, and unfortunately, that’s the most limited part of the demo.
The batting cages and karaoke bar are available to you, and I think the Rizap gym is as well (As I said, I didn’t get a chance to check it out), but the big stuff is locked out. Club SEGA and the like can’t be accessed here, which sucks because I really wanted to see how Virtua Fighter 5 ran.
The batting cages are a bit more diffcult this time around – I think I made 1 Home Run out of 20 balls. It plays more like Shinada’s batting cages in Yakuza 5 than the regular ones. Rather than aiming at a target and then swinging, you now have to move a cursor around in the strike zone, and swing when the icon turns yellow.
It takes some getting used to.
As for the karaoke – it’s mostly the same, but easier to deal with as you no longer have to deal with a massive wall of text with small button prompts under each syllable of the words.
Now, it acts more like the vocal track of a game like Rock Band – though you are still just tapping buttons in rhythm to the music. It’s easier to tell when to hit a button – and they’ve made it clearer to see how close you were to hitting it perfectly.
Other than UI changes, though – it’s still the same minigame – and it’s still my favorite to actually play just to see the ridiculous music videos featuring the current character you’re using to sing the song. I’ve also always loved that the voice actors for the characters are the ones who actually do the singing for these songs. It’s a nice little touch.
Well, it’s a demo, so this isn’t really relevant, but there is plenty of content here to last a good few hours.
The bigger draw, though, is that your progress will carry over into the main game once it releases (April 17th) – so the XP and money you earn, levels you’ve gained and songs you’ve karaoke’d will still be there when you pick the game up so long as you don’t delete your save data!.
From what I’ve managed to experience with this demo, and as a long time fan of the series – The Song of Life is feeling like the fitting farewell it is being marketed as. This feels like a culmination of everything so far – and it feels great.
I’m definitely looking forward to the release and can’t wait to have yet another fistfight on top of the Millenium Tower for what could be the last time.
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