Alright, Yakuza 6 is in the bag, baby! I wrapped it up after about 40 hours, dipping a toe into everything the game had to offer but not getting anywhere near 100% completion. These games can be massive timesinks if you really want to tick off every checkbox, but I just ain't about that life these days. Besides, I still have two more Yakuza games to play this year alone, and then there's the Fist of the Northstar crossover game next year, and then there are still two more Japan-only samurai-era games in the series I still have to play that are apparently full of archaic Japanese that might as well be Greek to me at my current level of Japanese proficiency
OK, so let's back up a bit. When we last left Yakuza 6, we were on the trail of the guy who knocked up our daughter and left her to get hit by a car and embroiled in a massive turf war between the Tokyo Yakuza, the Chinese Mafia, the opportunistic remains of a ruthless Korean crime syndicate, a small but mysteriously powerful Hiroshima Yakuza family, and, weirdly enough, a shipbuilding corporation that seemed to own half the property in the small town we'd settled down in. I absolutely adore these games, but one thing I would recommend is that you not come on board looking for a simple story. Yakuza games are long, complex affairs, with large casts of characters all with their own murky motivations. You don't quite need a flowchart to keep up but, well, it wouldn't hurt. Actually, you probably do need a flowchart for Yakuza 5. And... you might need one for Yakuza 6, too. Honestly, by the time they pulled in the hundred-year-old politician who'd been pulling strings from his deathbed I think I might have gone a little bit cross-eyed.
I should probably have seen it coming that the fellow I thought might have been my daughter's baby daddy wasn't actually the guy, because that little story thread popped up much too early in the proceedings. Shortly after I arrived back in Tokyo on his trail, I ended up a captive audience to an excruciatingly long monologue introducing the concept of 'Heihaizi', children born in China outside the One Child Policy, who can't be entered on the country's population registration system and as such can't go to school or get any kind of healthcare or... y'know, live like normal people. Because the world is terrible. Anyway, the aforementioned Chinese Mafia have struck a deal with the also aforementioned Hiroshima Yakuza to smuggle these kids over into Japan, set them up with Japanese families and forge citizenship papers for them. The head of the Hiroshima Yakuza is also the head of a huge Japanese shipbuilding conglomerate, and it's on his ships that the Chinese kiddos come over to Japan. The catch is, of course, that the Chinese kiddos are raise as sleeper agents, ready to do a cheeky bit of espionage on the Japanese when the need arises.
And, needless to say, this leads to a lovely period of our story during which some of our friends are revealed to have been SECRET CHINESE AGENTS THE WHOLE TIME, OH NOOOOO! I enjoyed this part a lot, because I love a good shocking plot reveal in my Yakuza games.
Unfortunately, the plot twists kept coming and coming for hours and hours afterwards, and even my voracious appetite had been sated well before the end. I was a little bit exhausted by the time the credits rolled, and I'm not a huge fan of the way the game ended. I won't spoil it, because this game is still almost six months away from being released in English and I don't want anyone accidentally ruining it for themselves, but what I will spoil is the most ridiculous of all the plot twists, because I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
OK, are you with me? This is maybe the most preposterous thing I've ever seen in a video game. A plot twist so far out of left field you'd think the fielder had thrown it from the next baseball field over. IT IS 100% BONKS and you guys need to know all about it. So, if you plan to play Yakuza 6 one day, maybe don't read this, but if your only interest in Yakuza games is reading me waffle about them then DEFINITELY READ THIS BECAUSE IT'S SO GOOD!
There are still a few plot twists to come before that one and the ending, but honestly the game never outdoes that moment. And, the ending... isn't all that strong. I likes me some Yakuza, but every now and then it feels like the writers just let the story get away from them towards the ending. You know you're always going to finish the game by fighting a muscular dude with a big tattoo on his back, but Yakuza 6 keeps you guessing until the last couple of hours and when it's finally revealed who's going to be doing the punching it's a real anticlimax. The best Yakuzas (i.e. 2 and 0) set up really strong antagonists in the early hours of the game, and while I don't think you have to have a perfect foil for the protagonist to write a good story, it does really help. Particularly in a story where you're trying to say goodbye to a longtime fan favourite character. Yakuza 6's story isn't one of the better ones in the series.
But, hey, these Yakuza games all have a few problems, and I still loved 6 overall. It has amazingly strong characters and writing, probably the best cast of bros in the series to date, and I was more invested in the early chapters of the story than I think I'd ever been before. The side stuff is wonderful, too, with the best sidequests in the series and some really fun minigames. It's such a pretty game, too, and while the drop back to 30FPS puts a big ol' damper on the combat, it's still plenty of fun to punch thousands of dudes into submission and there were some absolutely fantastic bossfights. Were I the sort of feller who ranked things, I'd be tempted to declare my official Yakuza rankings to be:
2 > 0 > 4 > 6 > 3 > 5 > 1 > Dead Souls
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