Yakuza 6 Delayed To April 17, Demo Available February 27

Yakuza 6 Delayed To April 17, Demo Available February 27

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Originally set for release on March 20, Yakuza 6 has been delayed until April 27. The news was announced via the Yakuza Game Twitter account. No reason was given for the delay, though the statement says that “This was a tough business decision we didn’t make lightly,” and that the delay “gives us more time to line things up for launch.”

In addition to the delay, Sega announced that a demo for the game would be available for download on February 27. While no details as to what the demo would contain were shared, they did say that it will “allow players to bring their save into the game on release.”

Yakuza 6 originally launched in Japan in December 2016. Sega has taken numerous strides in recent years to expand Yakuza‘s popularity in western markets, including shortening the time that it takes to localize new games in the franchise. The two most recent titles localized, Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, received a 85% and 80% on Metacritic, respectively.

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Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn

Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn

In anticipation for the release of Yakuza 4 back in 2011, I played through all of the earlier entries in the series. I loved the story of the first Yakuza game, but the game itself was a little rough around the edges. After playing Yakuza Kiwami, I’m reminded of just how much I love the Yakuza series. Released last year in Japan, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the first Yakuza game in the style of this year’s Yakuza 0. In addition to an improved framerate and resolution, Yakuza Kiwami brings gameplay elements from Yakuza 0 such as different combat styles.

Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn 5
YAKUZA KIWAMI – game play images via Sega Games Co., Ltd.

The plot of Yakuza Kiwami is one of the game’s driving forces. The game follows Kazuma Kiryu, a member of the Japanese mafia who goes to prison in order to protect his childhood friend. After serving a ten-year sentence, Kazuma returns to find that trouble is brewing within the clan. Yakuza stories are always really fun, evoking the style of a Japanese action film, but the first game is one of the strongest. There’s a level of passion in Yakuza Kiwami’s story that just feels epic. This is helped further by the game’s superb Japanese voice acting and rocking musical score. As expected from the series by now, Yakuza Kiwami features no English voice options. When the first Yakuza game originally released in America back in 2006, the game received an English dub, which added a level of cheesiness to its story—no matter how serious the scene. New cutscenes were also created for Yakuza Kiwami, helping to better flesh out certain characters.

Yakuza Kiwami is an interesting hybrid in terms of gameplay. Most games in the Yakuza series are open world third person brawlers set in a fictional city based on Kabukicho, an entertainment district in Tokyo. A description like that might make you think of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series but Yakuza takes a different approach. Rather than being a huge sandbox, Yakuza’s Kamurocho is more of a small hub world with a ton of minigames all over the place. It’s easy to grow accustomed to the city’s streets, almost as if you’re actually experiencing a fantastical version of Japan. When you’re not brawling in the streets with thugs interrupting you in a random encounter-like style, you can visit a variety of venues based on real Japanese brands. It feels so cool to visit a recreation of Sega’s Japanese arcade and play actual full games there or to browse through an actual Japanese magazine in a convenience store. Kamurocho feels like a real home and it’s great to explore all of it.

Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn 4
YAKUZA KIWAMI – game play images via Sega Games Co., Ltd.

When I played through the original Yakuza, combat slowly became the worst part of it all. Aside from the loading before and after every single fight, everything felt clunky and it was annoying to even hit enemies sometimes. Yakuza Kiwami fixes nearly every issue in this regard. The game transitions into fights seamlessly and the rare loading screens never last more than five seconds or so. Combat is a lot more entertaining than before with Kazuma’s four combat styles—even if I only really needed two of them at most. Enemies also feel a lot smarter than they were in the original, using special moves of their own that can take you down quickly if you’re too reckless. As with previous titles, Yakuza Kiwami features RPG elements like experience points and full skill trees that can be used to learn new combos and abilities. I found it really helpful being able to tailor my skill upgrades to suit my own gameplay style.

Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn 3
YAKUZA KIWAMI – game play images via Sega Games Co., Ltd.

New to Yakuza Kiwami is the “Majima Everywhere” feature. Originally restricted to only being a boss fight, the knife wielding Yakuza boss Majima will randomly appear as you’re wandering the city and force you into increasingly difficult fights. Defeating him is the only way to upgrade what is essentially Kazuma’s most powerful fighting style. Having no idea when or where he’ll show up keeps you on your toes, but the need to always have healing items on hand in for a boss fight that may or may not happen can be a little frustrating.

Yakuza Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review: A Dragon Reborn 6
YAKUZA KIWAMI – game play images via Sega Games Co., Ltd.

For a remastered title, it would be difficult to tell that Yakuza was once a PlayStation 2 game. The original was never the best looking game, but Yakuza Kiwami sits right up there with some of the more recent entries in terms of visuals. You’ll remember that you’re playing an older title when you run into the occasional invisible wall or when models clip through each other, but on a surface level Yakuza Kiwami does well at appearing to be a new game.

To state things simply, Yakuza Kiwami is the best way to experience Yakuza. With Yakuza 6 on the way, those looking to jump into the series would benefit greatly from picking up Yakuza Kiwami. If you’re a fan of Japanese films or gangster movies in general, the plot of Yakuza is a good enough reason to play this game. I can only hope that Yakuza 2 receives the same treatment in the near future.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Comes West with Goodies in Tow

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Comes West with Goodies in Tow

Yakuza 6, the latest in the long running series, was announced for Western markets some time ago. Now we know exactly when the final chapter in Kazuma Kiryu’s epic story will arrive on North American soil, and it’s March 20th, 2018.

Yakuza 6 picks up directly after the events of the fifth game, seeing Kiryu searching for the father of a baby his surrogate daughter Haruka has suddenly given birth to. He must travel to the infamous red light district of Kamurocho and eventually Hiroshima to uncover new truths and butt heads with villainous Yakuza and conniving businessmen, including one played by famed actor Takeshi “Beat” Kitano (who players may recognize from Takeshi’s Challenge).

But not all will be serious and dreary. The beloved distractions from previous Yakuza entries return, including bowling, karaoke, and batting cages. New mini-games, such as spear fishing, cat cafe management, and babysitting are being added to the mix. Other improvements have been added as well, including the ability to actually buy drinks from vending machines in the game, and full voice acting for every piece of dialogue.

Yakuza 6‘s release will come in two forms, a standard $75 CAD edition that comes with a hardcover art book case, and a $113 CAD special edition called the “After Hours Premium Edition” that comes with a separate art book, two bar glasses, two ice stones, two coasters, and a nice box to put in your closet and forget about until you have to move.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Comes West with Goodies in Tow

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Comes West with Goodies in Tow 1

Yakuza 6 has already been out in Japan since December of last year, so be careful of spoilers if you go on YouTube! If you’re interested in the series but don’t know where to start, Yakuza 0 just released earlier this year and was met with positive reviews. There is also Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the original PlayStation 2 game, coming August 29th. Both Kiwami and 6 will be playable at Gamescom from August 22nd to the 26th.

Yakuza Zero Preview: Help A Street Performer Use the Bathroom

Yakuza Zero Preview: Help A Street Performer Use the Bathroom

The Yakuza series is easily one of gaming’s best. Very few franchises manage to take criticisms to heart and consistently ramp up improvements with every new entry. On top of that, very few open-world titles manage to faithfully recreate their settings in a way that feels real, tangible, and immersive. Yet since around 2005 or so, Sega’s mob-based brawler has done all of those things and so much more. They’re not slowing down any time soon, either, if Yakuza Zero is any indication.

Preview: Helping A Street Performer Use the Bathroom in Yakuza Zero 1

My time with Yakuza Zero, which was pretty gracious and open, gave me the choice of two locales. I could either wander Kamurocho as series stalwart Kiryu, or tramp around Sotenbori as fan favourite Majima. Choosing the latter option, I was thrown right into the game. Immediately, something stood out: the framerate. This series has always been graphically astonishing, and this one is no exception. But with the dense population and blistering action associated with Yakuza, one would expect a framerate of around 30 or so. Yet, as the eager Sega attendant gushed, Yakuza Zero runs at a consistent 60 FPS. During my lengthy demo, I didn’t experience any dips in that. From brushing through crowds to taking on whole gangs at once, the game kept up a consistently admirable fast and furious pace.

That was a nice cherry on top of what ended up being a stellar experience across the board. At the start, I wandered around Sotenbori looking for a fight. Boy, did I ever find one. Loitering in front of a building was a gang of street punks who were quick to jump down my throat. The game seamlessly transitioned to a fight, and I was swinging punches and throwing kicks in seconds. With the directional pad, I was able to shift between fighting styles at a moment’s notice. I smashed faces in with the default fighting style, busted kneecaps with a pair of nunchucks, and did my best Bruce Lee impersonation with a mock Jeet Kun Do style. I even grabbed a salt shaker and shook it into a thug’s eyes, causing him to recoil and fall down in pain. Switching between styles mid-combo seemed to dish out some punishing transitional moves as well. Everything about the fighting mechanics in Yakuza Zero felt pitch-perfect, perhaps more than any prior entry.

Preview: Helping A Street Performer Use the Bathroom in Yakuza Zero 2

One thing in Yakuza Zero that stood out to me was how much money each thug dropped. The representative told me that has to do with a new mechanic that replaces the traditional levelling system. Instead of gaining experience, players have to earn money and use it build up both Kiryu and Majima. It’s quite the radical departure, but I kind of love it. After all, this being a prequel set in 1988, we’re supposed to see how both characters build up their Mob Empire and status. By shifting the focus to cash, players get to feel a sense of urgency to earn as much as possible in order to build up both characters.

Wandering around Sotenbori even further, I happened upon a statue leaning against a bridge. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was just a random dude, painted gray and posing like a statue. When I came back to him later, this street performer had started to build a crowd, and he gestured for me to come closer. He really had to hit the nearest commode, but didn’t want kids to see him become mobile and shatter their dreams. No, really, he has a whole monologue about not wanting to let kids down, with the dialogue an oddball mix of po-faced melodrama and tongue-in-cheek humour.

Preview: Helping A Street Performer Use the Bathroom in Yakuza Zero 3

What followed next was nothing short of sheer lunacy. Majima decides to help out the performer by distracting them. The player can accomplish this through a variety of increasingly absurd ways, and I went down both lists of activities. I burst into song. I insulted them. I did my best Michael Jackson impersonation. Eventually, pretending to see a UFO and getting into a fight was the ticket, and the street performer was free to run away and relieve himself.

That’s Yakuza Zero in a nutshell. As absurd yet deeply dramatic as ever, and with the most polished gameplay to date. The Sega representative assured me that no content would be cut from the Japanese release, referring to the truncated release of Yakuza 3 as “a dark time for us all.” With a deep, immersive story practically a given, I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into Kiryu and Majima’s latest misadventure next January.

Videogame Globetrotting

Videogame Globetrotting

International travel is expensive and tiring, but it’s (usually) well worth doing. Aside from the obvious benefits of expanding our point of view by interacting with other cultures, spending time in a different country also allows us to see and experience things—landscapes and architecture—that we don’t have at home. A large part of what makes travel worthwhile is inhabiting places that we usually see only through photos and film—walking the narrow streets of an old European city or exploring the natural environment of a completely different climate. And while they by no means replace the real thing, videogames are capable of replicating travel to a greater degree than any other media.

In many well-made games, players get the chance to feel as if they’re actually in the environments created by the developer. Though we can never go to places like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule or Metal Gear Solid’s Shadow Moses complex, the time we spend exploring these fictional environments makes them feel as if they really exist. Because the interactivity of games like these allows players to move around and manipulate virtual spaces, a greater sense of physical space is created in them than would be if rendered in other media. Spending hours learning the layout of a videogame world often makes it feel as if we’ve actually visited these places.

Assassin’s Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed Unity

Taking advantage of this effect by recreating real-world locations can result in something that approximates the experience of travelling to them. I may not have been to Paris, but running across a digital version of its 18


century rooftops in Assassin’s Creed Unity has helped me learn the general layout of the city and its landmarks. Likewise, while I’ve never visited Tokyo, games from the Yakuza series provide a sense of the atmosphere and urban architecture of the Japanese districts  it models. Videogames that recreate real-world locations are a bit like travel shows or movies filmed in beautiful, international locales. Only, the ability to interact with these digital facsimiles can make them even more involving—and memorable—than simply watching film or TV.

When an array of settings is featured in a single game—as entries to series like Call of Duty and Uncharted so often do—the thrill is even greater. While the way these games go about their virtual globetrotting—blowing up historic architecture and shooting at the locals—isn’t exactly the best way to soak in the details of a foreign environment, the enjoyment that comes from simply experiencing them is undeniable. How else are we supposed to visit England, France, Germany, the United States, Czech Republic, India, and Russia in a single afternoon if not through a game like Modern Warfare 3? This kind of whirlwind tour across the world forms the same kind of attraction as what viewers find in spy movies, where we get to watch a jet-setting character like James Bond or Jason Bourne fly across the globe and hang out in a number of different cities within the length of a single film.

 Uncharted 2
Uncharted 2

Videogames willing to fully lean into this approach to settings—ones that are excited about taking players on a tour of a given part of the world—are appealing because they (at least partially) translate the inherent excitement of travel into entertainment. It only makes sense for game creators to do this when appropriate. Aside from the inherent advantages of keeping an experience engaging through ever-changing scenery, developers aren’t hamstrung by the limitations of obtaining shooting permits for notoriously expensive cities. While modelling and detailing the streets of, say, an abandoned New York City may still require a tremendous amount of work, there’s no need to deal with the type of issues that come with blocking off inhabited streets for a film production. If significant development effort is already being funneled into crafting a variety of real-world environments, it only makes sense to give the player a chance to see more of the world while doing so.

The industry’s mainstream will likely continue to focus on impressive graphics and action-laden spectacle. And if that’s the case, players can at least hope that these games will take advantage of a few of the medium’s innate advantages to take us to places we may not otherwise get a chance to visit.

Sony Pleases Fans At PlayStation Experience Las Vegas

Sony Pleases Fans At PlayStation Experience Las Vegas

Over the weekend, in Sin City, of all places, Sony held the PlayStation Experience, which was their own public, for-the-fans event to showcase all things PlayStation for the next year. This is just one more addition to an increasing trend with both software and hardware companies to hold their own functions where they give their own products the spotlight. The PlayStation Experience, or PSX, gave the Sony staff and a few partner developers and publishers a chance to prove that the drought was over for games, but mostly if you were a fan of non-AAA games that weren’t necessarily first person shooters.

Of course, Sony DID show off the “big guns,” with more demos of The Order: 1886, and some actual gameplay of the latest Uncharted game for the PS4. The big news however, was more for the “traditional” hardcore gamer that plays a lot of different genres and doesn’t necessarily only buy three big games per year. Older Sony fans in particular got some much needed good news. Probably the biggest bombshell for JRPG fans was the announcement that Suikoden II was FINALLY going to be available digitally on the PSN store. Similarly, although everyone knew it was coming, it was confirmed that Persona 5 was going to receive a localized, English version at some point after the Japanese release. Square-Enix also trolled the entire Final Fantasy fanbase when they announced that Final Fantasy VII was coming to the PS4… the older, PC version, that is.

The Order: 1886
The Order: 1886

For fighting fans, Sony and Capcom announced two exclusives, one being Ultra Street Fighter IV and the other being Street Fighter V. It looks like the PS4 is going to become the console to own for fighting game fans this generation. It was also a pretty good event for adventure games. For fans of the Yakuza series, it was revealed that Sony had negotiated with Sega to release Yakuza 5 on the PS3 sometime in 2015. Tim Schaefer’s classic, Grim Fandango was given a January 27 release date, while the classic King’s Quest was announced as getting a remake. Bastion, the first big hit from SuperGiant Games, who made Transistor, will also be coming to the PS4 and Vita.

Indies in particular got quite a bit of love at PSX, continuing Sony’s courtship of the little guys. Former Microsoft exclusive Super Time Force got an “Ultra” edition of its own, complete with a new character, none other than Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida. Giant Sparrow, who previously released Unfinished Swan showed off a trailer for a new game called What Remains of Edith Finch. Meanwhile, Keita Takahashi, the deranged mind behind Katamari Damacy showed off a bizarre trailer for a new game called Wattam that is his execution on the idea “What if toys had lives of their own and were connected to each other?”

On the whole, Sony’s event was aimed at the hardcore gamer with interests in a lot of different genres. While there wasn’t anything there that would really grab at the Call of Duty-only crowd, anyone with more broad tastes could see that Sony was doing things to placate its old fans, while bringing in new and unusual titles to try and entice new ones. For anyone who’s gaming life comprises more than just November’s COD release, it was quite a substantial event.

Can Yakuza Make A Comeback In The West?

Can Yakuza Make A Comeback In The West?

Culture is more than just a difference in language or traditional outfits, it’s also about taste and perception. In gaming, that cultural divide is best exemplified by the division in the East and West when it comes to what defines a blockbuster game. In Western countries, the uncontested king, every year, is Call of Duty. In Japan, however, it’s the Yakuza series that proves to be one of the biggest draws for console gamers. But here’s where we run into a curious barrier. Call of Duty still manages respectable sales in Japan with some COD games selling as much as 200,000 copies, while titles like Yakuza 3, for example sold over 500,000. The same cultural ambassadorship doesn’t happen in the West. Yakuza 4, managed to sell about 120,000 copies in the West, compared to the 26+ million copies that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold in the same year.
yakuzarantinsert1So clearly, while the Japanese are willing to embrace some COD shooting with respectable sales given the population of country, Yakuza is not as warmly received over here. Games with a heavy Western bent can be accepted in Japan, but apparently some games are “too Japanese” for the West. Sales of the Yakuza series are so poor in the West that Yakuza 5 still hasn’t been brought over, despite its 2012 release in Japan, and despite all the hype for it at the Tokyo Game Show, there’s no word—for English speakers about—about Yakuza Zero, the 80s nostalgia trip prequel Sega has recently announced for the franchise.

The reason for this is simple. The games, while monumentally popular in Japan—the closest thing Japan has to an “event game”—just don’t sell as well outside of its borders. The most recent game, Yakuza: Dead Souls, a bizarre, non-canon, zombie spin-off game, barely made a dent in the West with abysmal sales of 41,000+ in North America, and only 30K more in sales in the years since. For a PS3 HD game with voice acting, motion capture and extensive cut scenes, less than 100,000 is a strong argument to debate whether the cost of localization is really worth it or not. Sega already cut corners by not providing an English voice over, but that doesn’t mean that turning all those reams of Japanese text into English is cheap.

Yakuza is a fantastic series, with a compelling, addictive story, satisfying, brutal combat, and a quirky sense of open world exploration that lets you do everything from play UFO Catcher to singing soppy Japanese ballads in karaoke joints. Despite all this, not many people in the West are enjoying the game, which brings us to a scary question; have we seen the last of the series for people outside of Japan?

In the end, Sega is a business, they need to make money in order to continue producing games and paying salaries. Yakuza is a great money maker in its native Japan, but, as much at Yakuza is regarded by critics and a niche group of fans, there’s no arguing with sales numbers, and in the West, those numbers are low. Too low, perhaps to consider bringing the series back.
yakuzarantinsert2The only hope fans have—and it’s a small one—is that Sega hand the duties of localization over to Atlus, one of their more recent acquisitions, and perhaps limit the next game to a digital only release to save on the cost of packaging and shipping. Atlus has a history of producing low budget games, as well as localizing more obscure Japanese titles for Western consumption. They have the experience to bring a quality but relatively low budget localization process to titles, ensuring that even with more modest sales, those games can still produce a profit. Sega’s own internal expenses make it difficult to justify the time and cost of localizing a Yakuza game when they’ve got other things to worry about (notably making sure the upcoming Alien: Isolation doesn’t blow up in their faces the way Colonial Marines did).

It’s always sad when quality games from abroad don’t make it over, but it’s understandable. These games need to make a profit and in order to do that, they need to sell. Yakuza is not a game that has sold well in the West, but if Sega can find a way to localize it at minimal cost, there’s still a chance it might yet continue Kiryu Kazuma’s saga for English speakers.


CGM Sound Off – Yakuza 0

CGM Sound Off - Yakuza 0

This week Wayne sounds off about the newly announced Yakuza 0 which is set to release in Japan only. Wayne questions if it will ever see the sun set as the other games in the Yakuza franchise don’t seem to sell well in the west.


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Sega buys Atlus

Sega buys Atlus

Sega officially announced today that they are now the proud owners of Atlus, the niche Japanese publisher and developer most recognized for their Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series. Atlus’ parent company, Index Holdings, first acquired the small company in 2006, but in July of this year, Index Holdings filed for bankruptcy, and it was announced that their various assets would be auctioned off. It looks like Sega came out the winner in the bidding wars.

Sega Dream Corporation is a new subsidiary of the company that will be handling all of its Index Holdings assets (i.e., Atlus), so now the big question becomes, “What’s going to happen to Atlus?”

During the merger with Index Holdings and even its decline, Atlus CEO Shinichi Suzuki assured the public that game development wouldn’t be affected by all the changes. Now that Atlus is officially part of the Sega family, that statement is no longer so certain. There are many unknowns that play into the Sega acquisition, the most pressing—for fans of Atlus—is the unpredictability of Sega itself. On one hand, Sega has shown a certain amount of respect for its Western developers, giving studios like Creative Assembly free reign to create RTS games like the Total War series despite the niche audience. On the other hand, Sega backed the disappointing Aliens: Colonial Marines game while axing the much more interesting Aliens RPG that had been in the works over at Obsidian. They’ve taken the time to bring over big Japanese hits like the Yakuza series, but then left their Strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles to languish, without a proper console sequel since the critically acclaimed first game released in 2008.

This puts a big fat question mark over Atlus as their games are never commercial hits by the standards of Western sales, and Sega is very much interested in AAA sales numbers. With the JRPG market shrinking year by year, will Sega respect Atlus’ position in the industry as a popular, cult JRPG developer? Or will they turn the studio into yet another attempt to garner more of the Western market with projects that essentially the gut Atlus and turn it into something else entirely? Unfortunately, with Sega’s seemingly random decision making over which projects to back, this is a question with no easy answer. If we’re really lucky, all this will mean is timelier releases of Persona and other SMT games, but that’s the best-case scenario.