Overall - 90%
The Yakuza franchise is a much-beloved series of games that explore the darker sides of the Yakuza, whilst simultaneously introducing players to the lively and colorful culture of the East. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life builds on every asset of the franchise, and improves it without sacrificing the games character and individuality. Whether you're a first-time player or a long-time veteran, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is arguably the greatest Yakuza game to date.
The streets of Kamurocho are once again thrown into chaos, and everyone’s favorite bad-ass Kazuma Kiryu is once again unwillingly thrown into the mix. SEGA’s legendary combination of tongue-in-cheek and the ultra violent seriousness of the Yakuza has never looked better, but is there more to this next generation leap for Kiryu and friends?
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the seventh game in the franchise. It begins with the stories hero, Kazuma Kiryu, who is recovering from injuries sustained from his last venture with the Yakuza. After his recovery, in an attempt to protect the ones he holds dear, Kiryu decides to comply with police demands and subsequently spends several years in prison to pay for his crimes. After his release, Kiryu returns to the Sunshine Orphanage in the hopes of living out his day with Haruka and the other children there.
If only life was that simple. It doesn’t take too long for Kiryu’s past to catch up with him. Haruka disappeared from the Sunshine Orphanage during Kiryu’s incarceration, sending him on a search for her whereabouts in Kamurocho – a city that has played a vital part throughout the Yakuza franchise. With more questions than answers, Kiryu discovers that Haruka is in a coma following a mysterious hit and run attack. Further adding to the mystery is the addition of Haruto, Haruka’s only child from a mystery man believed to reside in Onomichi. These events set the tone for a story filled with twists and turns as Kiryu literally tears up the city in search for her. Longtime fans of the franchise are sure to welcome further depth to an already established cast of characters, while new players are given more than enough detail to get caught up and experience its wacky universe.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the first version of the game launching exclusively on current generation consoles. Past iterations have launched on both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, which has somewhat limited its technical capabilities. The decision to stick exclusively with the PlayStation 4 this time around has an immediate payoff, with improvements across the board. Exploring Kamurocho and Onomichi has never been more fluid, with the open-world setting removing the traditional loading scenes, instead allowing players to seamlessly explore the interior and exterior parts of the city without a single second of loading. This is something that often takes priority thanks to a vibrant and bustling makeover for Kamurocho and an entirely new town in Onomichi.
Yakuza has never looked better. The animations are smoother and character details, combat animations, and environmental aesthetics are all years ahead of past versions of the game. But you know what they say: Never judge a book by its cover, even if that cover is Kazuma Kiryu throwing thugs over a railing onto a passing train.
Outside of the obvious technical and visual improvements, SEGA took to the games iconic combat system and provided it with a more modern approach. The restrictive combat styles of yesteryear have been removed in favor of a less limited approach to character development and enemy interaction. Utilizing a single fighting style for the majority of the game, players are free to train and evolve Kiryu through various abilities and movesets without being restricted in combat. Additional weapon styles, brutal finishers, and deadly environmental interactions all return with a bigger and bolder arsenal than ever before.
While Yakuza’s gritty world and violent, twisting story has long been a staple of the franchise, there’s a far less serious part that is just as important to the games critically acclaimed past: mini-games. Year after year, release after release, the team at SEGA deliver a huge variety of mini-games from the casual darts and pool to the incredibly in-depth Cabaret Clubs and UFC-style girl combat. The mini-games of the Yakuza franchise have long been a guilty pleasure of mine, but after seven main releases, surely SEGA is running out of ideas?
Nope. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has arguably the most exciting and rewarding lineup of mini-games in the series to date. SEGA’s iconic arcade titles return in Club SEGA stops scattered throughout the city, while a more casual version of the Cabaret Club pays homage to past games and the activities of the era. With the release of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life new mini-games take to the main stage, most notably fishing, clan creator, and baseball.
Fishing is an on-rails style first-person mode that has Kiryu, in his traditional tongue-in-cheek macho style, searching under the waves for the perfect catch. Multiple fishing areas, additional equipment, and underwater boss battles come together to make one of the most exciting fishing mini-games of the modern era. The clan creator sees Kiryu recruiting members to the Kiryu Clan (creative, right?). This clan spends the majority of its time fighting a new and upcoming gang of thugs, JUSTIS. This is a strategic game where Kiryu acts as the commanding unit of a squad of fighters. Enemy units are scattered across the battlefield and you must decide which units you will launch to take them down. Each unit has different attack styles and purposes in combat, offering a strategy-driven combat system that’s a very welcome break from the typically high-octane combat of Yakuza. Slight spoiler: keep a look out for the legendary figure of Pocket Circuit Fighter. Rounding up this releases primary mini-games is baseball. This is a management simulation where Kiryu recruits players, makes substitutes, and occasionally takes to the plate in the hopes of hitting that perfect Grand Slam.
The Yakuza franchise is a much-beloved series of games that explore the darker sides of the Yakuza, whilst simultaneously introducing players to the lively and colorful culture of the East. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life builds on every asset of the franchise, and improves it without sacrificing the games character and individuality. Whether you’re a first-time player or a long-time veteran, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is arguably the greatest Yakuza game to date.