Screenshot: Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life (Sega)

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: 


What Are You Playing This Weekend?


Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life

So yeah, that new God Of War about Kratos and his kid stomping through Scandinavia is pretty swell—at least, according to a certain website’s review—but it’s not the only game launching next week that’s about a dad trying to spare the children in his care from the consequences of his violent past. In a strange coincidence that’s made even stranger when you consider Sega delayed the game into a slot just days before Sony’s big-budget juggernaut, next week is also bringing us Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life, the next installment in its cult-favorite crime drama series. And now that I’m finally out of God Of War reviewing mode, I’m going to spend this weekend getting as deep into its sprawling, multi-faceted depths as I possibly can.

A big part of that is going to be getting caught up on everything that’s happened in this series so far. Like a lot of people, I didn’t get on board with it until last year’s Yakuza 0, which was a fantastic entry point for newbies thanks to its stellar localization, neon-lit ’80s Tokyo aesthetic, and prequel story requiring no prior knowledge. Yakuza 6, however, is the culmination of 13 years of story development, the final chapter in the tale of Kazuma Kiryu, the yakuza/cab driver/real estate mogul/orphanage owner who’s starred in the series since the beginning. These are dense, operatic games with tons of recurring characters. I’d at least like to be a little familiar with their events before I catch up with Kiryu again. But rather than spending a couple hundred hours powering through games 1 through 5, I’ve been rooting around on YouTube trying to piece the story together.

GameSpot produced a lengthy video (embedded above) that does a good job of running through the basics while also laying out the series’ production history and some of its more important emotional threads, like Kiryu’s childhood as an orphan and relationship with Haruka, the orphan girl he raises like an adopted daughter. Filling in the finer details for me is Yakuza 6 itself, which includes some dramatic text summaries of the five prior games (you’re out of luck if you want a rundown of Yakuza 0) and a dream-like introduction to a few of the important returning faces during its prologue. Admittedly, the deluge of proper nouns and plot twists is way too much for me to handle, but I’m settling into the fact that I’m just going to have to go into this with a perilously weak grasp on the plot and players. I have no doubt I’ll still be able to enjoy its mobster melodrama and wacky slice-of-life side stories just as well, and for moments when I’m too confused, well, that’s what fan Wikis are for. And if you’re looking to get a head start on the game’s April 16 launch, a demo is currently available on PlayStation 4 that lets you play through the opening hours and carry your progress over to the full release.

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