This is both a joyous and sad moment in my gamer life. A brand new entry in the Yakuza series marks the final journey of one Kiryu Kazuma (Westerners flip the name). Due to the ridiculous amount of dialogue in the game, we have had to wait two years. Finally, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life comes to PlayStation 4 consoles outside of Japan. I literally shook with happiness when ATLUS PR sent me the review copy. Read on to find out if it was worth the wait.
The Lyrics to Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
It is, of course, recommended that you have played the first six Yakuza titles. Not only to follow the story but because they are great games. If you have not, do not feel as though you cannot start here. SEGA always gets you up to speed by selecting “Memories” from the main menu.
The tale begins at the end of Yakuza 5. Haruka is living her dream as an idol but gives it all up to be with her family. The public announcement that Kazuma Kiryu is her adoptive father is basically a retirement speech. He spends the next three years in prison to spare the Morning Glory orphans the stigma of being raised by an ex-yakuza. His reunion is bittersweet as the orphans inform him that Haruka has disappeared.
Searching for her takes him all over Japan and brings more questions than answers. A hit and run leaves Haruka barely clinging to life. Kazuma is determined to find the driver but he is preoccupied with someone new: Haruto, Haruka's infant son. This compels him to find the driver and the identity of Haruto's father. Meanwhile, he has to also try and steer clear of a gang war threatening to tear Kamurocho apart. Yakuza, Chinese Triads, and Korean Mafia all threaten to destroy peace in Japan. Kazuma, now eleven years removed from the Tojo Clan, is somehow the center of it all.
Don't Jump the Shark; Punch it in the Face!
If you have ever wanted to slam manhood into a lamp post or microwave faces, this is your game! The Yakuza series has always been known for over the top violence and this installment does not disappoint. Remember that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is, by definition, an action RPG. You will not pull off the coolest moves in chapter one of the initial playthrough. Keeping with the times as best he can, Kiryu manages his abilities and upgrades through his trusty Sony Xperia. Street fights, boss battles minigames, and sub-stories all net you EXP. Build up yourself or your clan members; how you use EXP is entirely up to you.
Kiryu is back in Kamurocho and that means arcades! The year is 2016 (because SEGA takes forever to localize) so we have current and retro games to play. “First” seen in Yakuza 0 are titles like Fantasy Zone, Out Run and Space Harrier. If you want something more current, you can play Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown or Puyo Puyo. These are arcade perfect versions of the games and only a fraction of the distractions available.
Where is Bob Utsunomiya?
Sub-stories are not required to progress through the game, but you do yourself a disservice if you skip over them. I personally enjoy the main plot, but sub-stories provide the true charm of any Yakuza game. Like its predecessors, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has a very serious tone to the main story. Sub-stories make for the bulk of the comedy and extend the gameplay for many hours. Despite Bob Utsunomiya not being present (or is he?), you will have tons of fun going off the beaten path.
If the game's standard beatdowns are not enough, Clan Creator may be your cup of tea. Kiryu will encounter JUSTIS in Kamurocho; this group of alleged protectors are an up and coming street gang. Allies wishing to help you stop them lead to the birth of the Kiryu Clan. Most of your battle with JUSTIS takes place via an RTS minigame. Along with your six-man strike team you have:
- Knife Fighters
Your strike team (named characters) determine what foot soldiers are available. Organization and balance is vital in later stages and especially for online battles. Get codes for special characters from the Yakuza Experience website (or message me).
I could go on about the gameplay, but if you have played a Yakuza game, you get the gist. If this is your first Yakuza game, be warned that it is not a game you play in short bursts. I would set aside minimum two hours for each session. This is a game you start playing and suddenly wonder why the sun is rising.
I Make 50 Look Damn Good!
Yes, I know that Kiryu is only 48, but this game launched in Japan in 2016. Yes SEGA, I will keep rubbing that in your face because I have very impatiently anticipated Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. As this game takes place in 2016, Kazuma Kiryu is 48 years old. They did an excellent job of aging him; it is hard to really tell without looking at earlier games. Starting with this entry, SEGA employed their new Dragon engine for the series. While we are not talking Final Fantasy XV or God of War '18 graphics, this is a huge enhancement. Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami looked good, but sort of like a high-end PS3 game good. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life still has a few of those shortcomings, but it is the first in the series that truly looks like a PS4 title.
Hair, Scares and “How'd You Get Up There?”
Looking at the game from a technical perspective, every positive is met wit ha negative. Fortunately, the negatives carry less weight. The Dragon Engine does a lot of things right: flowing hair, water effects, and lighting look fantastic. Unfortunately, anti-aliasing issues make objects and heads look blocky up close. Combat is mostly fluid but there are times the heat action prompt does not show when it should. This prevents you from performing a heat action despite having a full gauge. There are also some minor annoyances I hope a Day One patch can fix:
- Holding X to sprint causes you to enter a cab, despite being past it.
- Getting stuck on objects you should be able to run and/or knock over.
- Mission overlap; triggering a sub-story while on a trouble mission can cause failure of the trouble mission.
One glitch I hope stays in the game is a hysterical issue with bodies KO'd during combat. They will randomly fly up in the air and land who knows where. Please leave that in.
Verdict – Make ‘Yakuza 6: The Song of Life' Your Next Karaoke Selection?
Let me address a few questions that you may have. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is not as fun as last year's Yakuza 0. That does not mean it is bad, but you will miss elements like Majima and Mr. Shakedown. The game is very nostalgic in its storytelling and has a tone, not unlike the first Yakuza (Kiwami). This is the culmination of twenty-eight years in the life of a now beloved, badass character. Remember that he is basically a tragic hero, so do not expect all sunshine and rainbows. I think that fans of the series will enjoy the plot. Regardless, do not be afraid to make this your jumping on point as the story is standalone.
I mentioned that this game has glitches but there is nothing nearly game-breaking to worry about. For some reason, the internet likes to make comparisons to Grand Theft Auto. I can assure you that GTA V and Online have many more technical issues. As of the publishing of this review, I have put in at least a full day (24 hours) of play time. The biggest complaint I have is the inability to turn off the auto-save. Despite five separate save files I have to wait until my next playthrough to experience certain moments again. This is because the auto-save does not necessarily overwrite the file you are currently using. I hope a patch allows it to be disabled.
As a PlayStation 4 exclusive, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life must be experienced unless you hate the genre. It is literally one of the games that further justifies and enhances your purchase of the console. Not to mention that fan support has shown SEGA that this franchise is just as popular outside of the Asian market. If you want to see Yakuza Kiwami 2 before 2019 (LET'S GET BUSY, SEGA!) pick this game up at launch. I make a big deal about games not being worth their price tags; this is not one of those instances.
Title – Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
(Original Title – Ryū ga Gotoku 6: Inochi no Uta)
Release Date – April 17, 2018 (NA)
Genre – Action RPG
Spoken Language – fully-voiced Japanese (English subtitles are automatic)
ESRB Rating – M (Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol)
MSRP – $59.99 (Essence of Art Launch Edition or Standard), $89.99 (After Hours Premium Edition)
# of Players – 1
Play Time – Minimum 30 hours. 30-50 for Platinum