Has Onomichi (尾道) been featured in a video game? If not, that’s yet another reason to check out its appearance in Ryū ga Gotoku 6.
Like I’ve mentioned in several post, Sega’s Ryū ga Gotoku series is renowned for its realistic and meticulous virtual renderings of Japanese cities. It is perhaps because of this that for the series’ epilogue, Sega decided to attempt something markedly different for the secondary location.
Rather than showcase Osaka again, or Fukuoka, or Nagoya or Sapporo. Rather than “do” yet another nightlife district, Sega picked the idyllic sea town of Onomichi as the alternate play site. How did they fare? Is Sega as competent with countryside ambience as they are with neon-lit faux paradises? Let’s take a look!
I could go on forever here, given there were five episodes and one prequel before R6. But to keep the story short, Ryū ga Gotoku 6 – The Song of Life features veteran yakuza Kiryu Kazuma at the sunset of his (illustrious) career. While still venerated by both the authorities and the underworld, he’s mostly considered a has-been by everyone. Respected, but nonetheless also disregarded.
Kiryu himself is happy to keep it this way. Players familiar with the series would know he has long dreamed of leaving the underworld.
Unfortunately, as expected, things do not go as Kiryu hopes. Three years after being imprisoned for the events of episode 5, Kiryu returns to Okinawa to discover Haruka has gone missing. Worse, he then suffers the worst shock any father or foster father could possibly have. Haruka has given birth to a boy but no one has a clue as to who the father is.
It is for the purpose of unearthing the identity of the irresponsible rascal that Kiryu heads to the seaside town of Onomichi. There, Kiryu once again becomes embroiled in the conflicts of the underworld. This time, there’s possibly no survivable end for him too.
How Great is Ryū ga Gotoku 6 – The Song of Life for Video Game Tourists?
Real-Life Japan Photo References
Before all else, real-life references. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Onomichi is a seaside temple town in Hiroshima Prefecture. Not exactly a backwater as it enjoys Shinkansen service, it is nonetheless largely overlooked by foreign tourists no thanks to neighbouring Hiroshima City and Miyajima Island. Tourist who pass through it are mostly those attempting the Shimanami Kaido cycling route.
The situation could be different within Japanese domestic tourism, though, I confess I’m not completely sure here. In 2016, Onomichi was featured as an “escape-to” destination of sorts in the rom-com A Girl and Three Sweethearts. Any Japanese guide on the Chugoku region would definitely have a major section on the town too. On this, my guess is that Onomichi is one of those “undiscovered” Japanese towns that have yet to hit international radars big time. My other guess is that given its splendid location, atmospheric narrow alleys, and superb historical temples, it would soon be a regular feature on many top-10 travel lists.
All screenshots belong to Sega.
I don’t know about you, but small towns seldom impress me immediately. Almost always, their charm takes a while to hit. This usually happens not while I’m working my way through their tourist attractions, but when I’m strolling down their streets.
Which was the case with Sega’s Onomichi. The whole of it felt sleepy, especially in comparison to dazzling Kamurocho. Once I worked my way through the game chapters, though, I started to appreciate the sedated alleyways and quiet slopes. (They felt peaceful, to risk a cliché)
As for authenticity, Sega designed its Onomichi very much the same way as it did so for Kamurocho i.e. Kabukicho. There are certain areas which are remarkably similar to their real-life counterparts. On the other hand, the entire area is also condensed to facilitate gameplay. A quick comparison with Google Maps immediately reveals the latter.
Onomichi’s main gift to the Japanese travel industry are its many hillside temples, which in real-life could be visited on an extended temple walk. Within the game, only one is featured, though. The large Senkoji Complex.
I would have personally prefer more temples in the game. But when it comes to what was done for Senkoji, I can only say it’s superb.
This is truly one area of Ryū ga Gotoku 6 that was conceptualised with virtual tourism in mind. Not only are there no annoying enemy encounters, there are several scenic spots perfect for experimentation with the in-game selfie function. These areas even come with random pedestrians and moving cable cars to complete that touristy feel.
That Small Japanese Town Feel
As expected, Sega included various mini-games and side quests within Onomichi to sustain open-world gaming feel. All of these are also appropriately designed to suit a small town. In other words, no sexy things or big city adventures here.
Which, then, is the main problem I have with this virtual version of Onomichi.
I’m a city guy, you see. And so I love bright lights and tall buildings and loud things. The mini-games Sega threw into its Onomichi are just too … serene for me? Apart from the fishing adventure, I found the others much too slow moving.
Being utterly clueless about baseball, I was also completely baffled by the complex baseball manager game. You might find the experience different, though, if you prefer to take things slow, or happen to be a huge baseball fan. What I’m saying is, Sega’s Onomichi is one of those picturesque small towns I wouldn’t mind spending an actual day sightseeing in. But I certainly wouldn’t be staying the night.
Read my other Video Game Tourist posts.