Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review

By Mike Sousa on April 18, 2018

It’s been twelve years since the Yakuza series made its debut on PS2. Despite the series’ success in Japan, it was only in recent years that its popularity began to increase in the West, largely in part thanks to the recent releases of Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami bringing in new fans. Following the story of Yakuza legend Kiryu Kazuma, the action RPG series has become known for its amazing storytelling filled with emotion and humor, great cast of characters, and brawler-style combat. With Yakuza 6: The Song of Life being the final chapter in Kiryu Kazuma’s adventure, Sega went all-out to make sure he would go out with a bang, and I can definitely say that the game does give the iconic character the fond farewell he deserves.

Yakuza 6 picks up immediately after the ending of Yakuza 5, where Kiryu was severely injured after his fight with Masato Aizawa, and Haruka Sawamura, Kiryu’s adoptive daughter, announced that she was quitting her idol career. While recovering at the hospital, the police comes to arrest Kiryu, who offers no resistance in order to atone for his criminal past and live a peaceful life with the children he had fostered once he leaves prison. However, shortly after, social media start to link Haruka and Kiryu to the orphanage, and to avoid further repercussions, Haruka decides to leave the orphanage and her friends behind.

Three years later, Kiryu returns to the orphanage only to find that Haruka left several years before, and decides to go search for her. His search didn’t take long, however, as he finds out that Haruka was not only in a coma after a hit and run incident, but also had a child of her own. With so many questions in his mind, Kiryu sets out to find out what Haruka had been doing during these past three years, who is the child’s father, and who was responsible for the car incident.

Like past Yakuza games, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life delivers a superb narrative supported with a great and likeable cast of characters, and filled with plot twists and turns that will keep players entertained throughout the whole experience. It’s certainly a compelling narrative, one that’s focused on the themes of family, friendship, and honor. While it’s true that the first few hours of the game are slow, once the story starts to get interesting, it becomes hard to let go. It’s just a shame that considering that this is the last chapter in Kiryu’s adventure, that series regulars such as Majima barely get any screen time.

Beyond the engaging narrative and its great cast of characters, Yakuza 6 allows players to explore two different locations: Kamurocho and the small seaside town of Onomichi. From the brawler-style combats, to the side stories and optional activities, Yakuza 6 offers a lot for players to experience. In addition, thanks to the new Dragon Engine, SEGA was able to improve the quality of Yakuza 6 in comparison to previous titles from both a visual and gameplay perspective.

Yakuza fans will be feel right at home with the game’s brawler-style combat system. However, thanks to the new engine, whether I was delivering punches and kicks, or using random objects or weapons, I can definitely say that combat feels smoother and more satisfying than ever before in the series. While it’s true that the multiple combat styles from previous games are missing, I think that a more smoother and balanced combat system makes up for it.

The leveling system has also seen some changes that give players more freedom in terms of how they want to power up Kiryu. You get experience from pretty much any activity you do in the game, whether it is completing story missions and side stories, combat sequences, eating, or playing any of Yakuza 6’s mini-games. These experience points can then be used to increase your stats, unlock new battle skills, new heat actions, among other skills. Another welcomed change is the fact that random encounters are no longer a thing in Yakuza 6. Instead, enemies will appear on the map and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you to engage them.

Like past Yakuza games, Yakuza 6 offers a ton of optional content, such as side-stories. Instead of following a serious tone like the main story, side-stories are usually more silly and humorous. These offer a lot of interesting and funny moments, such as Kiryu’s first exposure to new technology like online chat rooms, wearing mascot costumes and interacting with kids, and witnessing supernatural events. These moments are unique as they bring out a side of Kiryu that you never get to see in the main story, and at the end of the day, it’s moments like these that make side-stories memorable and rewarding.

Yakuza 6 doesn’t disappoint in another series’ trademark, which are the mini-games. Fans can expect a ton of side-activities, including many classic Sega arcade games, baseball, spear-fishing, darts, and lots more. In terms of mini-games, Clan Creator takes the spotlight. This mode is a real-time strategy game in which players assemble and command their own clan, and lead it in battle against other clans in order to control the territory of Kamurocho. It’s a simple and fun mini-game, one which even has its own storyline for players that are willing to put in the time.

Like I said before, thanks to the new Dragon Engine, Yakuza 6 is visually without a doubt the most stunning Yakuza game in the series. Everything from the city environments to the characters models is very polished and detailed, and is even more impressive during cutscenes. The new engine also allowed Yakuza 6 to offer seamless exploration, allowing players to enter shops and other establishments without any loading screens. All this came at a cost, however, as Yakuza 6 runs at 30 frames per second unlike its predecessors, but considering the benefits, I would say the trade was worth it. The soundtrack also does a great job, and the voice acting as expected is simply superb.

Final Thoughts

As the final chapter in Kiryu’s story, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life does a fantastic job at giving a great send off for on the most iconic characters in gaming. The game delivers a superb story with a great cast of characters, and while important side-characters in the series don’t get much screen time, the compelling narrative makes up for it. The new engine allowed the game to ascend to new level never seen before in the series, both in terms of visuals and gameplay, while keeping the charm the series is known for. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a fitting final chapter for Kiryu Kazuma, bringing down the curtains to his story in a way which will surely delight fans.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Sega. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Gripping story, which added to a great cast of characters, delivers a fantastic conclusion to Kiryu’s story.
Improved combat system that feels a lot smoother and engaging.
Substantial amount of side-activities.
Stunning presentation and great voice acting.
Important series characters such Goro Majima and Daigo Dojima are almost completely absent.
Improved combat system came at the cost of combat styles.
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