Yakuza 0 and Kiwami made up the majority of my gaming hours over the last few months, and have made me a loyal fan of the franchise with their humor, stories, characters and settings. I pretty much obsessed over Yakuza for the entire end of 2017, and still think about these wonderful games at least once a day. I’ve had ‘Baka Mitai’ stuck in my head for like three weeks. My early 2018 plan was to make my way through Yakuza 2-5 before diving into 6, but I got a preview code early and could not stay away.
For the uninitiated, the series follows Kiryu Kazuma, a Yakuza turned ex-Yakuza turned Yakuza (and then ex-Yakuza again), from his early 20s all the way through his late 40s, introducing you to his friends and enemies, and then slowly taking away most of the characters you hold dear. It’s impossible to not care for the characters in these games as you witness Kiryu fight for them and for all that’s right. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life comes out April 17th, 2018, and I can’t talk much past chapter four where I’m at right now, but what I can talk about is the fun I had with the things you can do on the side in that game.
Yakuza has always been good at the extras; Sub-stories are worth experiencing, mini-games are rewarding and fun, and karaoke is a MUST-DO. With The Song of Life, finding the fun in these little side missions was even easier because of how intertwined our lives are with technology and social media. Kiryu fumbling around with a cellphone is the person I would like to be as soon as I’m able to get off Twitter and officially become Old.
While walking around town looking for a rare photo of my pseudo-daughter, Haruka, I bumped into a man trying to sell me on a something called Hiji, a mobile AI with a pleasant voice that you have the option of changing to “younger” or “sexier.” Naturally, Hiji ended up being all-too-powerful and I had to remove her from the phone.
Hiji wasn’t the only app based drama Kiryu faced. In Yakuza 6, you’re signed up for a service called Troublr (lol) which gives you notifications anytime something fishy is happening around Kamurocho. You can either help out or ignore the notifications, but be warned, the app will send you another notification to make sure you know how much you fucked up by failing to help or choosing not to help someone in need.
In one Troublr mission, I had to find a bomb in ten minutes, and my gut told me it was on top of Millenium Tower. After being unable to find a way up there I gave up, only to be notified minutes later that the bomb had gone off and one person was in the hospital and might not make it. The requests aren’t all like that, though. Some of them involve doing what Kiryu’s good at, beating up shitty dudes.
My favorite moment with Yakuza 6 (and an early contender for 2018 video game moment of the year), had nothing to do with phones, but everything to do with awkward technology… and porn.
In a sub-story turned mini-game, Kiryu is introduced to a man who has a bit of an obsession with live chatting, which is basically sitting in front of a computer using a keyboard to talk in a chatroom with a woman who’s responding live on camera. Kiryu, being the very good, oblivious, and not-tech-savvy man he is, doesn’t really even know how to type.
After getting a quick typing lesson, you’re able to put him in a chatroom (for a price) where he can join in on the fun. As you quickly press button prompts that appear on screen, he two-finger types out words like “BOOOOOOBS” and “It’s growing” while watching and interacting with the woman on screen. His awkward, but deeply earnest dialogue mixed with the extremely funny and cheesy things said by other members in the chatroom (with names like “BIGPAPA” and “divorced7times”) had me laughing until tears came out.
These are the things Yakuza really excels at; Taking you through a tumultuous, often high-energy and emotional story, and then giving you these one-off lighthearted and hilarious side missions, all while keeping you completely invested in the very good crime boys.
I want Kiryu to learn how to type if for no reason other than slowly typing out “BOOOOOOBS” in a chatroom. I want Kiryu to very endearingly put his trust in a cute-voiced AI that some random guy on the street installed into his smartphone that he barely knows how to use. Hell, I went to the store and got toilet paper for some random guy who ran out.
There’s a fucking CAMERA. WITH SELFIE MODE in this game. YOU CAN TAKE SELFIES IN THIS GAME.
On top of these, Yakuza 6 has a bunch of upgraded gameplay features and mechanics, but the best stuff so far is seeing Kiryu interact with the people (and technology) of 2016. Yeah, it’s cool that you can enter most buildings without hitting X first, and useful that enemies are now marked on the minimap when you’re close enough. But come on. There’s a fucking CAMERA. WITH SELFIE MODE in this game. YOU CAN TAKE SELFIES IN THIS GAME.
I know I’ve been very loud in shouting my praises for the few Yakuza games I’ve played, and I’m glad to know I’ll likely continue doing the same with The Song of Life.