Yakuza 6

We're all big fans of the Yakuza series here at Push Square Towers, so when SEGA (rather messily) released a demo of Yakuza 6 last week, we began swinging bicycles at each other in delight. Last year's Yakuza 0 was fantastic, telling a compelling origin story for main man Kiryu and series mainstay Majima, as well as offering up some of the finest side content you're likely to find on PS4. However, the upcoming sequel sees some big changes, and we're happy to report this has the potential to be the strongest adventure yet.

Jumping from 0 to 6 is quite a daunting prospect, as so much has happened in between, but included in the demo's main menu is Memories, a section that details the events of all the main entries in the series. Each consists of several pages of text along with some screen grabs, so if you don't mind doing some extra reading, it's a great way to catch up on Kaz's long, eventful journey.

Even if you don't read through each game's synopsis, the staggeringly lengthy prologue will at least get you up to speed with the ending of Yakuza 5 as it begins setting up the latest chapter in the Dragon of Dojima's story. After a brief combat tutorial and a surprising amount of time spent reestablishing characters, the demo eventually relinquishes control and lets you reacquaint yourself with Kamurocho.

Yakuza 6

This fictional district of Tokyo has been at the centre of the Yakuza series since the start, and now, thanks to an all-new game engine, it's never looked better. Kamurocho is largely the same as you remember, but this time around it's had more than just a new coat of paint. The loading screens when you enter or exit a building are gone, and there are more internal locations than ever, making the environment a much more seamless and enjoyable place to explore. It also feels more like a living, breathing place, with lots of civilians roaming the streets and cars driving around, giving Kamurocho a bustling energy.

It's not just the setting that's had a facelift; character models now look better, too. The Yakuza games have never been top of the pile when it comes to visuals, and that remains the case here, but this is still a significant upgrade to a series that's felt a little outdated for quite some time. Unfortunately, we encountered frame rate problems and screen tearing on occasion. Hopefully these performance problems can be ironed out in time for launch, as they're very noticeable when compared to the buttery smooth Yakuza 0. It does stay at 30 frames per second most of the time, but when things get a little too crazy onscreen, there are definitely dips.

Yakuza 6

That doesn't stop the game from being enjoyable, though. Random street fights are included in the demo, providing a perfect chance to sample the combat, and it's every bit as brutal and hard-hitting as you expect. Some of Kiryu's Heat moves are particularly wince-inducing, just as it should be. It all controls very similarly to Yakuza 0, but there were no alternate stances in the demo.

Unfortunately, the majority of side activities were locked away; the Club SEGA arcade, mahjong, darts, and a few more were unavailable. We did get to try karaoke and the batting cage, both of which are very much as you'd expect. We were also able to try out the gym, a new addition that, in true Yakuza style, is needlessly in-depth and wonderfully over the top.

Yakuza 6

Luckily, there were a couple of side stories that unlocked during our time with the demo; Kaz getting roped in to helping out a cat café with no cats was a particular highlight, as well as a man who loved live chatting with ladies so much that he decided to forgo physical relationships altogether. One of our favourite aspects of Yakuza 0 were the myriad hilarious side stories, and judging by the demo, Yakuza 6 is set to follow suit.

The demo doesn't let you progress very far into the story, but you're able to explore Kamurocho to your heart's content. Despite the incredibly long introduction and some performance quibbles, we enjoyed our time with the Yakuza 6 demo, and can't wait to see what happens to Kaz and the crew in the full release. With a few weeks still to go, we hope it'll be worth the wait, but early signs are very encouraging.

Have you had the chance to play the Yakuza 6 demo, or are you waiting for release on 17th April? Are you excited to crack some skulls once again? Sing some karaoke in the comments below.