It’s beginning to look a lot like Festivus, or Christmas if you prefer your holiday season to be a little bit more mainstream. As we’re approaching Christmas, the Discourse™ has once again reared its ugly head regarding a certain classic film, Die Hard, and its status as a Christmas movie.
On the one hand, many deride Die Hard’s status as a Christmas film, simply because they feel it’s an action movie that happens to take place at Christmas. Others, myself included, argue that Die Hard is a Christmas movie because, at its core, it’s a movie about reconnecting with family, which is a hallmark of pretty much any great Christmas movie. I’d argue that Die Hard is more of a Christmas movie than Home Alone, considering that the only reason the McCallister family needs to reconnect is because they pissed off without Kevin. It’s also just as, if not more, violent, but that’s another article entirely.
In fairness, anything could be a Christmas movie, if you have the tradition to watch it at Christmas at least. I’m sure there are people out there who consider The Human Centipede to be a Christmas film, but my point is, Die Hard is very much a Christmas movie, and if we look at it through the same lense, Yakuza Kiwami is just as much of a Christmas game.
Throughout the series, Yakuza has been synonymous with the winter period, with plenty of games in the franchise taking place in December, but Yakuza Kiwami is perhaps the most overtly Christmas game in the series. That’s not just because of the classic carols playing on the radio or the decorations adorning the streets and doors of Kamurocho. Although those aspects do help, it’s all about the themes.
Aside from the wacky substories, weird characters and the mountain of distractions that get in the way (but you love them all the same), Yakuza Kiwami is a story about family, in about as many senses of the word as possible. Even more than that, a large majority of those family themes revolve around reconnection in some form or another.
In a familial sense, you’ve got Kiryu’s paternal instinct to look after Haruka, who he finds at the scene of an awful crime. Haruka is out in Kamurocho searching for her mother, looking to reconnect after being left at an orphanage. Her mother is related to Yumi, one of Kiryu’s oldest friends who Kiryu is also trying to reconnect with after a lengthy prison sentence.
Fraternally, Kiryu and the misguided Nishiki once considered each other brothers who would take on the entire Japanese criminal underworld together, but after Kiryu takes the fall for a crime Nishiki commits, a series of events leads Nishiki down a dark path that turns him bitter, cruel and determined to reach the Tojo Clan’s mountaintop. While Kiryu would like to reconnect with Nishiki, the former brother is determined to take Kiryu down, leading the two into conflict. You might think that isn’t very Christmassy, but tell me you haven’t seen your family fight over the dinner table at Christmas.
The Yakuza itself is also considered a family, one undergoing its own conflict due to the small issue of 10 billion yen going missing, because of course the issue of money would lead to some arguing at Christmas. While the entire Tojo Clan is out there pointing fingers as to who is responsible, our man Kiryu is out there hoisting the entire clan on his back, even after they’ve turned their backs on him, trying to hold everything together.
Perhaps the one aspect holding Yakuza Kiwami back from becoming a Christmas game is the fact that its ending is rather sombre overall. I don’t want to get too much into spoilers considering it’s on Game Pass and you should play it over Christmas, so look away if you’re planning on playing it, but the climax of the story leaves series protagonist Kiryu and Haruka left alive, with Kiryu becoming Haruka’s surrogate father figure/cool crime uncle.
While the route they take to get there is tragic, and rife with devastating losses, the ending cutscene ends on a hopeful note, with Kiryu starting a new family by treating Haruka like his own daughter. For a game that features a lot of cracking skulls on concrete, those last moments show that family is the most important part of life, whether blood related or not, and that’s about as Christmas as it gets. If you want to celebrate the festive period with an appropriate game, Yakuza Kiwami is a fantastic choice.
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