(The Yakuza 6 demo I played is only available on the Japanese PSN Store).
Beating up thugs and doing karaoke has never looked better.
The end of Kazuma Kiryu’s story is nearly upon us. For over 10 years we have seen Kiryu beat up many thugs and members of the Yakuza. We’ve seen him face seemingly insurmountable odds only for him to conquer them every time. This time around Kiryu faces his greatest challenge yet, can he defy odds once more and go out with a bang? From the two hours that I played of the demo, it looks like Yakuza 6 is going to be tonnes of fun.
The demo starts off with Kiryu having a drink in a bar but is interrupted by a young man who is itching for a fight. The ensuing fight serves as a tutorial and once that is done with, it’s back to more story of which I won’t ruin for you. There is a flashback scene that shows the ending of Yakuza 5 which is good for those who haven’t played the game (If you have a PS3, do get it. It is brilliant). There’s little more in terms of story but enough to get you intrigued.
As soon as all the story cutscenes and so on are done with, you appear in Kamurocho and after talking with a few people, most of the city is opened up to you. This was where I spent most of my time, getting used to the new fight system, beating up thugs and doing some of the various activities that were on offer. Some of the activities I tried out are series mainstays such as, karaoke and baseball. There was a new activity available and that was the Rizap gym which is based on an actual fitness brand in Japan.
Let’s talk about the activities that I tried out. Batting Cages have been in the Yakuza series for as long as I can remember and it has always been a fun time killer. In Yakuza 6 the Batting Cages still remain a good way to take time off beating up thugs but something has changed, the controls. There is now a squared grid and a circle, where the circle moves to, you have to move your red dot/ cursor inside the circle then hit the ball. These changes make the Batting Cages a bit more interesting and I fluffed a few shots whilst getting used to them.
Karaoke is back, to the surprise of no one and I can assure it is still as addictive as ever, I must have spent 30 minutes just doing karaoke (I couldn’t help myself). The controls are the same for karaoke so if you were a “Karaoke God” in the previous Yakuza games then you’ll maintain that esteemed status in Yakuza 6. There were a number of songs to choose from (unfortunately the one where Kiryu plays a ukulele was not in the demo) and they range from fast paced songs to slower paced songs, so all in all it is the usual affair when it comes to the karaoke in the Yakuza series.
A new activity introduced in Yakuza 6 is the Rizap gym and oh boy, is it surprisingly fun. Picture a gym mini-game in a video game and the result will probably be that it isn’t fun. So how on Earth have the Yakuza team made going to the gym hilariously fun? I’m still trying figure out how but they have somehow done it, kudos. The gym takes the place of the bowling alley in Yakuza 6 (I hope the bowling is in the other city, Onomichi Jingaicho, as I like the bowling. The new city was not available in the demo I played).
Location of the gym aside, enter Rizap and you’ll approach a young man who clearly loves his job and he will tell Kiryu all about the gym and the benefits of going to it. The gym consists of a number of mini-games such as “Bench Presses” and “Squat Jumps” and they each play differently to each other. After a number of exercises you’ll then be told to eat a certain food, yes even dieting plays a part here. Once you have eaten, head on back to Rizap for an evaluation. If you did good then Kiryu will do his best Superman pose, it’s quite funny.
The combat has changed from previous entries, gone is the four different fighting styles that we had in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami as Yakuza 6 goes back to the one fight style. Fighting animations look and flow more naturally and realistically. Now don’t worry if you think that because of the more natural animations, that the combat isn’t as fun as in previous entries. Beating up thugs is still really satisfying and using weapons such as a bike or a traffic cone is still a wondrous sight to behold.
Heat moves return and they are still devastating, if you’ve played a Yakuza game, then you know what they are like. For the uninitiated, Heat moves are effectively special moves that Kiryu can use when the Heat meter is filled up and these moves, do big damage to the unfortunate enemy. Yakuza 6 adds something to the Heat mechanic called “Extreme Heat Mode”. When Extreme Heat Mode is used Kiryu becomes stronger, he is more durable and instead of hitting like a truck, he now hits like a freight train. In this more powerful mode, Kiryu can also pick up heavy objects that he could normally not carry. Kiryu also has “Special Heat Moves” which are only available to use when in Extreme Heat Mode. I think it’s safe to say that even though Kiryu is older, he can still kick your ass.
Yakuza 6 is running on a brand new engine dubbed the “Dragon Engine”. A new engine means graphical improvements and my, oh my have the graphics improved. Character models look better than ever and the same goes for the pedestrians that walk around Kamurocho. Speaking of Kamurocho, it looks brilliant in Yakuza 6, it looks more vibrant and lifelike than ever before. It’s the cutscenes however that look the best. The Yakuza series has always had nice looking cutscenes but in Yakuza 6, nice is taken to a whole new level. The graphical quality of the character models is mind-blowing, individual hairs and pores are visible, even the reflection in the eyes.
Yakuza 6 is easily the best looking entry in the series, so what better way to compliment it than to give us a photo mode. The photo mode is accessible on Kiryu’s phone, you can take pictures of the scenery, civilians and you can even take a selfie. In selfie mode you can change Kiryu’s facial expressions by pressing the one of the buttons on the d-pad, the results are hilarious. The photo mode has a number of filters to customise your photos with, there were only three available but maybe there will be more in the full game, who knows.
Here are some of the pictures that I took with the photo mode.
There was one thing that I wanted to do during the demo and that was to go to the Sega Arcade and play Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. Unfortunately the Sega Arcades were inaccessible so I’ll have to wait a bit longer to play Virtua Fighter on PlayStation 4.
After playing the Yakuza 6 demo, it has left me wanting more thus making the wait for the sixth instalment even more agonizing. Will Yakuza 6: The Song of Life be a fitting swan song for the beloved Kiryu? Time will tell but from what I’ve played of Yakuza 6, it looks like Kiryu’s last outing will be a fun and emotional experience.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will be available in Europe and North America on March 20 2018 for PlayStation 4.
Do you like my impressions/ preview of Yakuza 6? Leave a comment down below.
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