Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is Kazuma Kiryu’s last adventure, and it may be his best. Every system in the game is improved, and the series has never looked better. All of these improvements are wrapped in an action-packed story with more twists and turns than a den of snakes. If you have been waiting to go back to Kamurocho one more time, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will give you an amazing ride.
There’s a lot to like in a Yakuza game, but my favorite part is the story. This one doesn’t disappoint. After spending a few years in prison, Kazuma Kiryu goes back to his civilian life. He wants to quietly run his orphanage, and leave the big city troubles forever. However, Haruka is in a coma from a hit and run, and it’s up to Kiryu to discover the truth behind the accident, while taking care of the baby he didn’t know she had.
Beyond Kamurocho, the story takes you into the quiet town of Onimichi. It seems like a sweet little village on the water. I cannot spoil anything here, but some of the most awesome scenes in the game take place in Onimichi. The locals are not as simple as they may seem, and make sure to say yes if someone asks you to be a mascot.
Outside telling you the story is very good, I won’t spoil any of the big details. It really kept me guessing until the end with one mystery being resolved only to have another take its place. The action ramps up with each new chapter, and I could not wait to get to the next chunk of story.
I have not played every Yakuza game, but the developers try to remove barriers for new players in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. There is a Memories selection on the main menu that will give you a brief description of the events and characters from previous games. There is also a recap of the end of Yakuza 5 and an introduction to some of the characters. Some things will have a greater impact on you if you have played the other games, but it’s possible to enjoy this one as it is.
When you are not diving into the intrigue and characters, there is more than enough non-story things to do. There is karaoke, darts, hanging out at the bar, and improving your swing at the batting cages. You can also spend time with the ladies at cabaret clubs and brush up on your conversational skills. Are you more of an athlete? Why not manage a baseball team or engage in some spearfishing?
The arcades make a comeback, and they have a few new games. You can play Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown from the PS3, and Puyo Puyo which is a variation on Tetris. Both of the games can also be played with a local friend from the main menu. It’s a nice touch in a game filled with nice touches.
Sub stories are scattered across the world, and they feel much more organic than previous games. You don’t have to seek them out. I would stumble across these optional stories as I explored. In one, my phone had become a self-aware AI. In another, I met a time traveler and a girl hoping to be an idol. I even fought pirate ghosts. They are not long, but they offer some of the more quirky and fun parts of the game.
Yakuza are always looking for a fight, and the fighting system has been revamped. You still have the series’ great brawler combat, but the multiple fighting styles from Yakuza 0 and Kiwami have been replaced with one all-purpose, butt-kicking style.
You can still perform combos and devastating heat actions. By filling your heat orbs, you can become the Japanese Incredible Hulk with stronger attacks and automatically picking up weapons. Heat attacks seem to be less frequent and more situational, but the heat attacks while burning your heat gauge can demolish a tougher enemy.
As usual, Kiryu’s time in the joint has not helped him to stay fit, so you will not be as stylish or powerful in the beginning. The upgrade system is split between raising your raw stats like attack, defense, and evasion, unlocking specific abilities, or making yourself powerful in other ways. Completing missions and chapters will increase your five different resources and using them will bring the Dragon of Dojima back his former glory.
The Clan Creator is a way for him to step back into leading a family, and it plays a little like a simplified RTS. Kiryu has been challenged by a corrupt gang, and he leads a group to oppose them. He can recruit new fighters, assign them to different spots, and deploy them on the battlefield. The leaders have special abilities that can heal your troops or blast enemies with a rocket.
Winning provides experience to improve health and stats, and each victory brings you closer to facing a boss. It’s not as deep as the main story, but it’s one more way the game gives you something to play or not play.
This is one of the interesting parts of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. There is so much to do in the game, and, outside of the main story, a lot of it is optional. There is a gym where you can work out for experience, and try to find the right dish to increase the benefits of your exercise.
There are a few places and restaurants in the game that I didn’t visit, and the game never tried to force me to do something arbitrarily to show me that a cool thing existed. It just put something around each corner that I would accidentally find or want to explore. I have even missed some content just because I wanted to pursue the story, but it was always my choice.
The new Dragon Engine is a big step forward in the presentation. The visuals look very impressive. Everything you see is more detailed, sharper, and feels alive. If you are in a store or restaurant, you can see the crowd passing outside, and there is no loading screen when entering or exiting many of the locations.
Textures have been vastly improved, and they fixed my biggest problem with some of the earlier games. The faces of the main characters are much more defined, and they look better outside the cutscenes as well. A random person may have a doughy face, but they are not the faces that will capture your gaze for hours as you play.
The new visuals are not just skin deep. Your ability to interact with the environment has increased. When I was fighting a group of punks in the city, the glass on a business was shattered, and I could have taken that fight inside. When you hit someone with a bicycle (they’re everywhere, and they’re not just for riding anymore), pieces fall off and it breaks up. You can even run into a bike as you are jogging through the city, and it will fall onto the ground.
It’s not completely perfect. There are some weird collision problems that caused me to break stools at a restaurant just by walking into them. There are a few other places with some general problems related to the physics, but these are rare. I never had a crash or a bug that caused me more than a second’s trouble. For an open world game, that’s pretty good.
For me, the sound was almost a bigger improvement than the visuals. The Japanese voice over sounded exceptional, and the sound effects, such as opening doors to the tinkling of ice in my whisky, sounded much more natural. Whether you were on the streets or in a bar, the environmental noise helped to round out every scene.
There is a broad musical selection as well. There is nothing I will be humming, but I enjoyed many of the selections in the soundtrack. A hard rocking tune accompanies your fights. There are jazzy melodies, and the emotional scenes are given a quiet punch.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a wonderful game, and the technical improvements are going to make it difficult to go back to some of the older games. With a tight story told over thirteen chapters (twelve plus the finale), I pushed forward to see every new bit of it, interact with the complex characters, and just squeeze every last bit of sweet gameplay, while also managing to still somehow miss a few side activities.
This is the last adventure for Kazuma Kiryu. If you are fan, I cannot recommend this game enough.
Yakuza 6 PS4 Review
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a solid entry in a series that manages to perfectly balance between its goofy, intense, and sometimes sad scenes. The battle system is revamped, and punching someone's face has never felt better. The visual and sound improvements are fantastic, and the game is stuffed with fun things to do at every turn. If you are a fan of the series, this is an incredible experience.
This is also the last journey of one of the gaming's toughest characters, and he could not ask for a better farewell.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.