Yakuza 6 is a game of violent delights. You can clobber groups of thugs with a bicycle in broad daylight, slice someone across the torso with a sword, hurl a Triad henchman through the window of a convenience store, then dust off your impeccably tailored suit and go on about your day.
These violent delights bring violent appetites. The game’s main character, Kazuma Kiryu, needs to eat constantly and in abundance. Running around town dispatching hordes of stab-happy tuffs will steadily ratchet up your hunger levels, and if you’re starving, your ability to fight will suffer. Thankfully, as you explore Tokyo’s Kamurocho and the small coastal town of Onomichi in Hiroshima, there are plenty of places to grab a li’l snack, something sweet or an epic beltbuster.
Since the dawn of the medium, games have made food and eating a focus— look at arcade classics like Pac-Man and Burger Time. And Yakuza 6 isn’t even the first game in recent memory to place such a focus on food. Final Fantasy XV has an extensive collection of recipes and lavishly rendered culinary creations, which has inspired a fan community and a cookbook all its own. While Sega’s latest underworld adventure doesn’t have the Insta-worthy close-ups of “lovingly rendered fantasy soup” FFXV does, it does offer far greater depth in terms of menu options and atmosphere.
Each eatery in Yakuza 6 has its own distinct decor and price point, along with a selection of anywhere between five and 20 items (some including cocktails and desserts). Want to sit on a shady hillside terrace with a nice glass of red wine, or grab a quick coffee and croissant in the center of town? Perhaps you’d prefer to just pound six cocktails and eat all the takoyakis before chatting up your best girl at the cabaret club? You can do all of that in Yakuza 6.
Being a smaller town, Onomichi has fewer dining options and none of the fast-food chains, like Smile Burger and Wild Jackson, that you’ll find back in Tokyo. But there’s plenty of local delicacies to enjoy, like fresh seafood and the regional take on ramen. Most of the food is cheaper outside the big city, too. At the one-man-band Oyster Shack, you’ll sit on a yellow plastic crate to enjoy the fruits of the ocean cooked over a barrel grill. If you cozy up to the owner at the nearby bar, he’ll even throw you the occasional discount.
As Kiryu, you can also snap selfies and pics of your food, or even bring a brawl into an eatery, clobbering foes with tables and chairs as shrieking patrons scatter. You’ll likely find yourself tempted to approach Kiryu’s mealtimes with almost the same deliberation as you would your own, looking up the menus on your smartphone to see what you’ve tried already, or taking a cab across town to try a new spot instead of settling for whatever’s nearby.
There’s a strategic aspect to all of this indulgence, too. Knocking back a few drinks will increase your Heat Gauge, allowing you to pull off stronger attacks, but if you have too many fingers of Hibiki, you won’t be able to walk in a straight line until you sober up. For every morsel you consume, you’ll earn a variety of the game’s five types of experience points (used to level up base stats, gain new abilities, or improve performance in minigames) in addition to filling up your hunger gauge.
When you’re strapped for cash during the early game in Karumocho, you’ll probably be ducking into unpretentious noodle shops to snag some rib-sticking tonkotsu ramen and curry rice, or a quick convenience store bento box. Fatten your wallet and you can splurge on more refined fare that yields more of the rarer types of experience, like artfully composed sashimi and white-tablecloth Korean barbeque. You’ll gain additional experience bonuses for trying everything on the menu, or for ordering a particular combination of items. Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time playing games will be familiar with the concept of leveling up, but Yakuza 6 handles this old-hat mechanic in a way that’s engaging and fun.
Among the many minigames in Yakuza 6 are sessions with a personal trainer, who will give you advice for what to eat directly after your workout. Just like in real life, it can feel like a noble sacrifice to order that sensible scallion salad when you know there’s a pineapple cocktail and spicy pork explosion just around the corner. Thankfully, Kiryu will probably need to eat again in about 10 minutes, and you’ve been meaning to try the Sesame Dumplings at Osaka King for a while now.
It’s hard to imagine spending any time with Yakuza 6 without craving some tasty Japanese food, and many of the game’s eateries are based on real-world chains, a couple of which have locations stateside. If you’re near Silicon Valley or O’ahu, you can sample Ringer Hut’s famous champon and saraudon, along with curries and bento offerings. The Nagasaki-based fast-casual chain has been around since 1974, and operates more than 550 restaurants worldwide. Carnivorous Gothamites can try Ikinari Steak, a fast-casual meat temple that lets you order a variety of beefy cuts by weight, at one of its five Manhattan locations.
Yakuza 6 comes to PS4 April 17. What will you be eating in the meantime? Let us know in the comments.
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