Yakuza 6 Is Shaping Up To Be A Hard-Brawling, Iron-Pumping Blast

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Yakuza 6
Yakuza 6 Sega

I had the chance to play a brief demo of Yakuza 6 at this year’s E3, and the tasty little nibble of the game’s gorgeous visuals, intricately detailed urban environment and over-the-top, arcade-style combat left me hungry for more. (It also left me hankering for a beef bowl, but more on that later.)

The game’s story picks up after the events of 2012’s Yakuza 5. After a three-year stint in prison, Kiryu discovers his adopted daughter, Haruka, has been rendered comatose after a car accident. As it turns out, she has also become the mother of a young son. Kiryu doesn’t know who the boy’s father is, but it’s someone important/shady enough to warrant a kidnapping attempt. Just when Kiryu thinks he’s out of the mafia life, a threat to his family pulls him back in.

Yakuza 6 is the first title in the franchise designed exclusively for PS4, boasting an entirely new engine. And holy hell, does it it look fantastic. Simply strolling around Kamurocho is an experience to be savored in and of itself; there’s just so much eye candy in this intricately detailed world.

Kamurocho Sega

During my demo, I repeatedly found myself distracted from the objective at hand because I was too busy gawping at the glitzy neon-lit storefronts, investigating enticing vending machines and plowing into innocent bystanders for the joy of watching them scuttle away in terror. The streets of Kamurocho feel more bustling and true to life than in previous Yakuza games; there’s loads of people roaming around, practically begging for you to intimidate them. Players will also explore Hiroshima in Yakuza 6, for a little change of atmospheric pace, though I didn’t get the chance to see that part of the game during my demo.

Previous games in the series have offered a wealth of daily life activities to keep you gleefully distracted from your mafia duties, and it seems Yakuza 6 certainly won’t disappoint in that regard. Case in point: one of my tasks was to hit the Rizap gym (a real-world chain in Japan). Choosing from one of several exercises will lead to a minigame; performance scores are based on timing and number of reps. After doing some squats, my new trainer assigned a meal plan: heavy on the protein, light on the carbs. So I headed to the beef bowl joint for some tasty noms. The Sega reps by my side steered me away from the beer and rice (there go my hopes of joining the yakuza), and I opted for a sensible beef plate. Returning to the gym to do some bench presses, and having successfully followed my regimen, I was treated to a beefcake cutscene of a shirtless Kiryu flexing his muscles, a bittersweet reminder of my slider-centric E3 diet.

Hitting the gym in Yakuza 6
Hitting the gym in Yakuza 6 Sega

Of course, the real beef of any Yakuza game is the fighting, and this game sure doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Combat in Yakuza 6 is a giddy, infectious joy. Imagine Singin’ In The Rain, but with more lead pipes shattering jawbones and glittering fists to the bread basket. How could you not crack a smile while whacking a thug across the face with a bicycle and stomping on his ribcage? Compared to previous Yakuza games, the animation in this area of the game feels much more detailed; Kiryu and his enemies have more varied and nuanced movements when taking hits and dishing them out.

Some brawls will be triggered when you accept sidequests via smartphone and head to a particular location. Other times the trouble finds you, like when you’re innocently heading to the gym to blast your lats. If you’ve played the previous games -- or even if you haven’t -- combat is easy to pick up and hard to put down. After an ungainly scuffle to get reaquainted with the controls and complete my first sidequest, I was skulking through the streets looking for trouble wherever I could find it.

Yakuza 6 came out in Japan last November, where it earned a near-perfect 39/40 from Famitsu. There’s not yet a firm release date, but Sega plans to release the game in the West in early 2018. In the meantime, you can revisit how it all began when Yakuza Kiwami, the HD remake of the 2005 original, hits PS4 Aug. 29.

Check out the trailer for Yakuza 6 below.

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