Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review

Posted on Mar 15 2018

2018 has been a pretty rough year on my wallet so far with at least one game coming out almost every week since the start of the year that I’ve been interested in playing. With explosive new indie titles and AAA installations coming out what seems like everyday it can be hard to figure out what titles to invest my hard earned cash and limited time into. There are some exceptions though and, for me at least, one game I knew I was going to pick up from the very beginning was Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.

If you haven’t had the chance to play a Yakuza game, the series is somewhat of an 3D adaptation of 90s era beat ‘em ups with quite a bit more story, great characters, and a plethora mini-games. The tone is also worth noting since its veering from incredibly serious high drama to melodramatic surrealism helps to make each of the games particularly memorable. There aren’t many other games out there where one moment your curb stomping someone who attempted to kill your friend and the next you’re helping a kid win a stuffed mascot from a crane machine.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life begins pretty much right after Yakuza 5. The beginning of the game gives you a rundown of the resolution of 5 before giving something of an epilogue that places our protagonist Kiryu back in prison for a few years and with his adopted daughter, Haruka Sawamura, heading back to Okinawa to run the orphanage that Kiryu established. After getting out of prison Kiryu goes back to Okinawa himself only to find that Haruka has gone missing, which leads him off on a search where he once again, unwillingly, is drawn into Yakuza affairs.

An example of one of a character description to help you navigate the world of Yakuza

Don’t let that synopsis turn you away from the game if you haven’t played 5 or any of the other previous installations! The game and also the promotional site have summaries of everything you need to know about past events in the series and does a great job of explaining concepts and terminology. That said, if you play 6 and like it, I would strongly recommend trying out at least Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami as one of the great things about the games are the recurring characters that you get to know over time. My personal favorite side character is Pocket Circuit Fighter who awesomely returns in 6, albeit in a slightly different form.

The best of memories with Pocket Circuit Fighter.

Gameplay-wise everything you’d expect from a Yakuza game makes an appearance in 6: brawling, character growth and progression, timing-based mini-games, weird sub-stories, and collectables. In addition to everything you’d expect there are also new mini-games that are almost complete games in and of themselves. The two big ones I’ve gotten to so far are an on-rails type shooter in the form of spear fishing and a tactical battle mini-game called clan battles. The clan battles and corresponding clan creator are probably my favorite additions to the game so far. You go around kinda collecting gang members a bit like pokemon and once you have your team together you have top down battles where you deploy your team one member at a time to beat down the opposing team who are laid out in a defensive format. Like almost all mini-games in Yakuza clan battles also have an online format so you can fight against your friends or random other folks to see who has put together the strongest team. Honestly I like the clan creator enough to where I’m hoping they release a full blown spin-off at some point.

Here’s my squad of scrubs.

Another addition to the game that isn’t talked up all that much is that they’ve made the different towns you can wander around much more open-world-y. What I mean by that is that loading screens in Kamurocho are almost gone. In addition to the whole city feeling bigger and more populated you can now wander into the occasional office building, restaurant, or arcade without a loading screen and in some case you can even crawl out windows and climb around or between buildings. Battles also are seamless to the rest of the world. When engaged by a group of Yakzua you are no longer loaded into a separate smaller area that’s boxed in by invisible walls, you can actually run away or move to a better position if you’re engaged in something like a tight alleyway. I love it and it makes the game feel a lot faster than 0 and Kiwami.

Speaking of combat, character growth and combat skills have changed a bit. Gone are the skill grids and multiple fighting styles, in 6 you unlock skills by spending combinations of 5 types of experience points, which you can gain through completing sub-stories, battles, eating food in the various shops, really you get experience from just about anything you do in the game. At the very beginning combat can feel a little rough since you don’t have separate styles that have combos unlocked from the get go, but once you start unlocking things the combat is probably the best in the series so far. The camera in 6 behaves a lot nicer than in other installations too, making the lock-on, block, and evade skills much easier to use and as a result it’s actually possible to take on some of the harder fights with mechanical skill as opposed to trying to maximize the amount of heat moves (special attacks) you can use. Knives and guns also don’t instantly lay you out, which for me at least, means there are significantly fewer situations where I want to throw my controller across the room (looking at you, final boss gauntlet in Kiwami).

Overall, I love this game. Every iteration of the Yakuza series seems to improve a bit over those that came before it and that holds true for 6. I always look forward to seeing how the characters have grown and the interesting stories that come up around them and hopefully you’ll feel the same if you pick up it too. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will be released April 17th in the US on PS4.

You Might Also Like...

  • You must be logged in to comment. Log in