Yakuza 6

Kiryu and co get a long-over­due over­haul in the most lav­ish Yakuza game in years

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper Yakuza Stu­dio Pub­lisher Sega For­mat PS4 Ori­gin Ja­pan Re­lease Out now (Ja­pan), 2018 (EU/US)

PS4

Heav­ens above, an au­tosave. Yakuza 6 may be the fourth game in Toshi­hiro Nagoshi’s in­tox­i­cat­ing se­ries to ar­rive on PS4, but it’s the first to truly feel like it’s been built for it. This se­ries has of­ten felt a lit­tle be­hind the times – it’s a vi­tal part of its charm, and en­tirely in keep­ing with a game that plays on, and with, pub­lisher Sega’s rich her­itage. Yet the se­ries’ con­tin­u­ing in­sis­tence that we could only save our progress be­tween chap­ters, or at tele­phones out in the world, has pushed that con­cept to its ex­treme. Well, no longer. Here, ev­ery item we pick up or buy, ev­ery morsel we con­sume, ev­ery pur­chased up­grade or soundly bat­tered group of en­e­mies sees our game saved on the fly. What a world.

If that seems like some­thing of a strange thing to be ex­cited about, we as­sume you’re not a Yakuza fan. As such you’re un­likely to be par­tic­u­larly fussed about the count­less other ways in which Yakuza Stu­dio has brought its decade-old se­ries be­lat­edly up to speed. There are cars – cars! – driv­ing along the streets of Ka­muro­cho. Street fights start within a split­sec­ond of you en­coun­ter­ing a group of ne’erdo-wells. Build­ings are now part of the world – pro­tag­o­nist Kazuma Kiryu sim­ply push­ing open doors and walk­ing through them, with no need for load­ing screens – and Ka­muro­cho is more ver­ti­cal than be­fore: one build­ing might house three or four dif­fer­ent busi­nesses or ways to pass the time.

The re­sult is that Yakuza 6’ s Ka­muro­cho, while still ben­e­fit­ing from the fa­mil­iar­ity of a set­ting that stands the Yakuza se­ries apart from other, itchy-footed open-world games, fre­quently feels like a whole new world. It’s busier, more be­liev­ably de­tailed, and much bet­ter-look­ing, with new light­ing and shader sys­tems com­ple­ment­ing the greatly im­proved char­ac­ter mod­els and an­i­ma­tion. A ro­bust physics en­gine, mean­while, sees scenery re­act to Kiryu’s ac­tions: plas­tic cur­tains part around him as he walks into a res­tau­rant, fur­ni­ture is shunted away when he bumps into it, and a kick to a grounded op­po­nent sends them skid­ding com­i­cally across the floor.

Com­bat, while re­tain­ing many of the se­ries’ hall­marks, has also been over­hauled. It’s a good deal harder, for a start: en­e­mies are more in­tel­li­gent, putting their guard up dur­ing gaps in combo strings, and at­tack­ing from be­hind when you’re whal­ing on one of their al­lies. Char­ac­ter up­grades are now bought us­ing ex­pe­ri­ence points, spread across mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories, that are earned as you win fights, com­plete quests and ex­plore the world.

This is a game of many tech­ni­cal steps for­ward, then – but af­ter the ori­gin story of

Yakuza 0, which shed the se­ries’ nar­ra­tive bag­gage by wind­ing the clock back to the late ’80s, Yakuza 6’ s re­turn to the present day means a re­turn for some of that old bloat. The lan­guage bar­rier pre­sented by our Ja­panese code plays a part, but this is slow to get go­ing, and it doesn’t help that you’re spir­ited away from that beau­ti­ful new Ka­muro­cho to the new sec­ondary city of Hiroshima early on. Even worse, you’ll spend much of it strolling along with an in­fant in your arms; Haruka Sawa­mura, Kiryu’s un­of­fi­cially adopted daugh­ter, dis­ap­pears, comes to term on a preg­nancy she’d kept se­cret, then is put in a coma by a hit-and-run car ac­ci­dent, and Kiryu is left hold­ing the baby. A rip­ping yarn it is not, at least early on. Leg­endary Ja­panese ac­tor Beat Takeshi, per­for­mance-cap­tured in the role of an age­ing Hiroshima yakuza cap­tain, seems a lit­tle wasted in the con­text of a game where you spend 20 min­utes walk­ing the streets of Hiroshima late at night, look­ing for a store that’s still open to sell you milk.

No doubt that will change; Yakuza games have of­ten been slow burn­ers, and much of the charm is lost in the ab­sence of trans­la­tion. In one Ka­muro­cho build­ing we find a cat café with only one fe­line in at­ten­dance, of­fer our as­sis­tance and leave with a se­lec­tion of cat food in our in­ven­tory. We meet a man on the street ar­gu­ing with his girl­friend, and later help him woo a cam girl on his lap­top. Even­tu­ally, when the Deep Sil­ver-pub­lished lo­cal­i­sa­tion ar­rives next year, we’ll get to fill in the blanks. In the mean­time we’re happy bumbling around in the great­est in­car­na­tion yet of one of our favourite videogame lands.

Ev­ery item we pick up or buy, ev­ery morsel we con­sume sees our game saved on the fly

Se­ries stal­wart Kazuma Kiryu sets out on a new ad­ven­ture in the first Yakuza game to take ad­van­tage of PS4’s power. Ja­pan cin­ema leg­end Beat Takeshi (far left) plays a griz­zled Hiroshima yakuza

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