Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the final chapter of Kazuma Kiryu’s story, a deeply personal tale of family and fatherhood. He’s a quiet ex-yakuza who reminds people not to kinkshame and helps manage cat cafes. Which is why it’s so strange to watch him stab and shoot dudes in random fights.
Murder is a big deal in the Yakuza series. At the start of Yakuza 0, Kiryu falsely takes the blame for the murder of a civilian in a back alley and spends the entire game trying to exonerate himself. Yakuza 4’s massive gang war is kicked off when a single yakuza lieutenant is killed. In a revised scene added to Yakuza Kiwami, Kiryu prevents Goro Majima from grievously injuring a bystander.
“I’m going to do things my way,” he says. “It’ll be the right way.”
Throughout the games, Kiryu lives up to the statement. He is honorable to a fault, taking the fall for his friend’s errors and always siding against nefarious mafiosos using cruelty to get their way. He leaves the yakuza and lives live as a civilian, pulled back into criminal plots before going back to a normal life. In Yakuza 3, he runs an orphanage. In Yakuza 5, he is a taxi driver. Sure, he’s beaten up a ton of dude throughout the series but he’s not the type of guy to wander the streets and leave behind a ton of corpses.
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In Yakuza’s combat system, you have access to powerful attacks called Heat Actions. When your Heat meter is full, Kiryu can perform devastating attacks that range from crippling roundhouse kicks to slamming the opponent into a wall. If Kiyru is holding an item, he uses the item to finish the enemy. Sometimes, this is silly such bonking someone with a traffic cone or smashing them with a bike. In the case of guns and knives, it’s violent as all heck. In Yakuza 6, a Heat Action with a sword ends with Kiyru jamming it into the enemy’s belly. If you have a gun, he unloads the clip at point blank range. It’s a brutal display of video game action that feels counter to Kiryu’s character. The game never says that Kiryu’s killed them but look at this clip below. This man should be dead. Even if there’s some groaning afterwards, his body goes limp on the ground. He’s been shot a ton and does not get up. Goddamn, Kiryu.
This is especially true in Yakuza 6 where Kiryu spends most of his time traveling with a baby named Haruto. He’s the son of Haruka Sawamura, a young girl who becomes something of an adopted niece to Kiryu. After a hit and run knocks Haruka into a coma, Kiryu travels with Haruto in order to find his father. The game has just as much diaper changing and baby soothing mini-games as it does criminal conspiracy and brawling. This dissonance isn’t going to stop me from enjoying Yakuza 6 but now more than ever it feels strange to watch Big Papa Kiryu straight up stab a guy.