Following on from the huge success of Yakuza 0 & Kiwami, Sega are wrapping up the tale of everyone’s favourite Dragon of Dojima with Yakuza 6: Song of Life. Penned as the swan song of our favourite purveyor of Japanese justice, is this a worthy end or like previous titles, a blatant fake out?. Read on to find out!.
Yakuza 6 as mentioned follows the story of Kazuma Kiryu, the on again off again 4th chairman of the Tojo Clan, hero to the children and dispenser of badassery. Yakuza 6 follows on directly from the events of Yakuza 5 and in a first for the series, directly effected by it’s ending.
-Warning, spoilers for Yakuza 5 to follow-
After Haruka goes public with the fact her guardian is ex Yakuza, her life as a Idol is thrown into disarray, press are intruding and throwing dirt on the Orphanage Kiryu runs & with Kiryu himself in prison, Haruka is thrown into a downward spiral. Flash forward some years, Kiryu is out of prison and ready to resume life, the problem being Haruka has seemingly disappeared.
-Yakuza 5 Spoilers end here-
The story mainly focuses on the impact being in the Yakuza has had on Kiryu’s life & mainly the strain it puts on Haruka. Without playing previous titles you would miss alot of the nuances of the story in that aspect, alot of care has gone into the writing to show Kiryu slowly being chipped away by the events of the game.
Yakuza 6: Song of Life also throws an extra dynamic into the story in the form of Haruto, Haruka’s 1 year old child & basically Kiryu’s grandchild. Naturally there are events behind the scenes concerning the Tojo Clan, but the focus seems to remain firmly on Kiryu & Haruka’s relationship throughout.
The story is the usual top quality of the series, expertly written and crafted to maximize player emotion and intrigue. I will say that personal investment with the series does help carry it further but there is more than enough Yakuza drama here to keep you salivating till the credits.
It’s worth noting that fans of returning characters will be getting a mixed bag here, without saying too much there aren’t that many returning faces and the ones that do aren’t given too much screen time outside of a few of them.
Yakuza 6: Song of Life runs on the newly developed “Dragon Engine”, with this new engine under the hood the already impressive looking series now looks even better. Kamurocho has never looked crisper, characters are much closer than ever to their cutscene counterparts and the world looks and sounds even more alive than in previous installments.
The visual overhaul does come with some unfortunate drawbacks sadly, the main offender being the frame rate. After playing the buttery smooth Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza 6: Song of Life seems a little laggy, the frame rate jumps around quite alot and the pop in can be quite jarring.
This is the first outing for the new engine so we can chalk this up to teething problems, it’s a shame such a significant title was chosen to guinea pig the engine with these results but they are far from game breaking.
Yakuza 6: Song of Life is once again fully dubbed in Japanese with English Subs, the voice actors for the returning cast all return and the new voice cast fit in quite well, special shout out to Beat Takeshi who manages to be a scene stealer!.
Something that I found jarring at first but should please players is that every character you can interact with is voiced, gone is the text box and type writer sound. As something I was used to with the series it threw me off originally but I grew to love it quickly.
The soundtrack for the game is also first class, the Karaoke songs are once again a mixed bag of insanely catchy ear worms and downright strange, the ambiance set within cutscenes is still unrivaled and I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed the new Battle track.
So Yakuza 6: Song of Life has tells a fantastic tale, looks great and sounds amazing but how does it play? really well but with a few unfortunate drawbacks. First off I’ll tackle the combat, usually one of the high points of the game, here it’s still fun, accessible and looks amazing but has had cuts, mainly to the heat actions and fluidity of it making it seem like a step back from previous titles.
The combat is once again restricted to one style, unlike the last 2 games which had at least 4 styles, when you activate heat mode it does resemble the “Beast” stance from the previous games. The combat does feel nice and looks fantastic but the cuts do hamper it somewhat, especially at the beginning before you’ve put some significant EXP into your stats.
You earn different kinds of EXP in regards to what activity you are doing, focus more on combat you get more to pour into your strength, social activities increase your charm EXP, you get the idea. This style promotes a more “play your own way” style but also rewards you for trying new things.
The activities in the game seem to have had a cut, Pocket Circuit is gone but you do get Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter 5: Showdown with online multiplayer as arcade games. The trade off just mentioned is pretty much the story of Yakuza 6: Song of Life, I’ll go into further detail but keep this fact in mind throughout.
Kamurocho is back and has never looked better, Little Asia has had a massive upgrade, unfortunately you are now unable to access the Hotel District and the Champion District due to “Construction works”. Cars now travel between the roads making it a little more believable as an area & the new area in Hiroshima is a stunningly designed small coastal town.
The substories amount seems to be on the smaller side but with the years of experience, fully voiced cast and fantastic new visuals they have never been better. Throughout the game I found that every substory managed to illicit an emotion from me, I laughed, I got angry & I came close several times to shedding a tear & yes this is just the side quests!.
One of my favourite side activities is the Clan Creator, you choose from various A.I controlled characters made up of original people and famous NJPW wrestlers such as Tetsuya Naito & “The Rainmaker” Okada. It’s a highly addictive mode which finds you upgrading your team to best other clans and be the most dominant around!.
Initially I wasn’t happy with Yakuza 6, the first few hours are rough. The new system is quite jarring to start with and it takes a while to adjust to the frame rate, screen tearing and other “Cuts”, it wasn’t until I was full swing into the narrative, accustomed to the combat and fully absorbed in the mental world of the Yakuza some 5 hours in that I forgave the cuts and loved the game for what it was, another entry in my favourite game series.
If you’re a fan of the series, either from the original, 3 or started with 0 then this game is an easy sell, a little tougher to people who either skipped Kiwami or haven’t played or read up on the relationship with Kiryu & Haruka. The new engine is good but it’s a shame much was cut or just slightly lacking but underneath that it’s still the crazy Yakuza Japanese Dad simulator the world has finally grown to love.
Looks and sounds amazing
Insanely great writing
Substantial arcade games
Framerate and screen tearing
Areas, activates and abilities cut
Feels behind previous titles in terms of overall package