Title: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Available On: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sega, Ryu ga Gotoku Studio
Official Site: http://yakuza.sega.com/yakuza6/
Release Date: April 17th, 2018
Where To Buy: PlayStation Store
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life comes kicking and punching its way onto the PlayStation 4 this month. Bringing with it the finale to the story of the series primary protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu. The Yakuza franchise has some very passionate fans and wrapping up such a long-running story in a way that would both satisfy them and also be welcoming to newcomers is definitely a challenge. I can’t necessarily speak for the die-hard fans, this is only the second game in the series I have played, the first being the original. But I can definitely give my opinion as someone who has kept a constant eye on the series, always attracted by its unique appeal.
The game picks up directly where Yakuza 5 ended. Kiryu is victorious over his adversaries and everything looks like it might be wrapped up in a happy ending for him and his adopted daughter Haruka Sawamura. It was not to be, however, as the police arrest Kiryu for past crimes and he spends the next three years in jail. Yakuza 6 opens when this period of confinement ends. With Kiyru returning to find that Haruka has gone missing. Of course, he doesn’t take this well and immediately sets off to find out what has happened to her. This leads him first to Kamurocho, which fans will recognize from previous entries in the series. It’s here that the game first exposes you to many of its elements.
Now as a relative newcomer to the series, I expected to be overwhelmed or confused by Yakuza 6. This wasn’t the case though. The game takes great pains to explain itself to you. Giving you flashbacks and summaries of past events early on. At no point did I feel like I didn’t know what was happening. Even in the last chapter of Kiryu’s story I quickly became emotionally attached to him and the supporting cast. This is attributed not only to how well the game welcomes first-time players but also to the exceptional quality of the game’s narrative.
This is a game that leans heavily on you being invested in its story and characters, and it definitely delivers plenty of reason to do so. Kazuma Kiryu is one of the most well-rounded and likable protagonists I have come across in a long time. It wasn’t long at all until I found myself genuinely caring about his fate, and rooting for him to find what he was looking for. The supporting cast is just a well defined. From returning characters from previous games to new faces, you will find it hard not to enjoy your time spent in this world.
But it’s not just characters that make a setting, you always have to consider the environment and in this regard Yakuza 6 does a fine job. From the city streets of Kamurocho to the game’s other location Onomichi, the game maintains a high level of detail and I often found myself taking in-game pictures or just staring at the various buildings around me. The world in Yakuza 6 is stunning and exceptionally beautiful. I could have stayed lost in it for days.
But no matter how good a game looks it is only as good as its gameplay, and in that area, I am happy to say that Yakuza 6 is no slouch. The game’s fighting mechanics are fluid, and very responsive. Which is a good thing as Kiryu manages to solve almost every problem with his fists. I have heard that previous entries did offer more in the way of fighting style variety, but ignorance is bliss. I was completely satisfied with the system Yakuza 6 provides. And as you engage in random street battles and the story and side mission-related fights you earn points that can be spent to learn new skills and strengthen your basic abilities. Which made the many scuffles Kiryu gets into less tedious.
Aside from the fighting, there is actually a lot to do and see in the world of Yakuza 6. Like previous games in the series, there are tons of mini-games and side missions to be found. I spent a lot of time in the arcade playing classic Sega titles like Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier. You can also chat with “Live Chat Girls” go meet real girls at the hostess bar, pet cats (Yeah that’s a mini-game), and various other activities. The side missions were a lot of fun and had you doing everything from helping a little girl find Idol merchandise to chasing down drones. Although they had no effect real effect on the world or the main story they still brought a lot to the table.
Ultimately the game does have some shortcomings, such as its open world occasionally feeling small or empty, or some fights and side missions feeling tedious. But the narrative stands among the best I have experience in a video game in some time. The game is exploding at the seams with content, and the presentation is top notch. I can more than readily recommend Yakuza 6 to fans of the series, newcomers, and anyone in between.
Verdict: Yakuza 6 goes out of its way to be welcoming to newcomers, and does it’s best to satisfy series fans. Its open world is beautiful and fun to explore, although it can at times feel contain and artificial. The core narrative of the game is amazingly well written and produced. Join this with the enjoyable combat and variety of activities you can engage in and Yakuza 6 will keep you busy for many hours.
- Fantastic narrative that keeps you engaged
- Likable characters
- Fluid and enjoyable combat system
- Lots of mini games
- World can sometimes feel small or empty
- mission and random combat can become tedious.