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Yakuza 6 Hands On impressions: Kiryu Kazuma is back and better than ever

Earlier this year I reviewed Yakuza 0 and adored it, and afterwards, I was frothing at the mouth for more. Thankfully Sega is bringing over the latest installment in the series Yakuza 6, and I had the pleasure of going hands-on with it at E3 2017.

The demo I played for Yakuza 6 focused less on story bits and more on exploring the world and partaking in side activities. About a minute or so in I got a phone call about a potential money laundering scam, and I had to deduce who might be behind it through some dialog choices. Eventually, I was able to track down the culprit and beat the snot out of him to put an end to his misdeeds. Side quests can just naturally pop up at any time through your phone, this particular quest was one even the SEGA rep I was talking to hadn't seen before.  

As for side activities, there appears to be a lot more to choose from than in previous games. I only really had time to try the karaoke but the map was littered with various restaurants, hostess clubs, and arcades complete with classic Sega hits like Space Harrier. Safe to say there will be no shortage of activities to burn away your time within the final game.

One thing that is immediately apparent about Yakuza 6 is that it's a game built for the current generation of consoles. While Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami while fine looking games in their own right, both began life on the PS3 and were just given slight visual touch ups on once ported to the PS4. It's a night and day difference when going from Yakuza 0 to Yakuza 6 in terms of visuals. Kamurocho is now densely packed with more NPCs making the streets more full of life. Furthermore, there's a nice depth of field effect that blends well with the various neon lights of the seedy red light district.

The only real downside to the demo was perhaps maybe the lack of antialiasing in the environments and a lower framerate than what I've accustomed to with Yakuza 0. The game is capped at 30 frames per second as opposed to 60 probably because of the much more impressive textures, lighting, and added effects over previous entries in the series. It's maybe not quite as crisp as previous titles, but the increased visual fidelity overall adds a lot to the presentation to make up for any shortcomings; it's a gorgeous game.

What would a Yakuza impressions piece be without mentioning the meat and potatoes of this series: the combat. There's a distinct knuckle-on-jaw crunchy feel to Yakuza's combat, and thankfully Yakuza 6 delivers on this front in spades. I noticed right away that the game has a lot more frames of animation, characters react more when taking blows. At one point I was struck by an attack and Kiryu stumbled backward and reacted realistically. Fluid motions like that add a lot to combat in that it's just so satisfying to see it all play out. Furthermore, there is some added particle effect to your various auras you get while in certain combat stances. Tagging someone with an uppercut and having an explosion of blood and flashy blues burst outwards never felt better.

The demo I got to play for Yakuza 6 was only about 15 minutes but it left a hell of an impression. Everything fans love about this series is back and better than ever. Not only that but there are enough new ideas to help it feel fresh. It's going to be quite a lot wait for the game's western release in early 2018.

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