Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – Review

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  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: SegaRelease
  • Date: April 17, 2018
  • Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the latest entry in Sega’s epic crime series that first saw life on the PS2. Several sequels and HD remasters after the first game, Yakuza 6 breaks new ground across the board. It is the first game in the series built from the ground up to take advantage of the PlayStation 4 with an all new engine to boot. The combat has been streamlined over Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami which were both released on the PS4 last year. Yakuza 6 also serves as the last game to feature Kazuma Kiryu as series’ protagonist.

The Story

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If you have never played a Yakuza game before you need to know that this is more than a simple beat em up or GTA clone. The Yakuza series is very story driven with cutscenes that very in length from not too long to Kojima-esque. It may seem like a bit much at first, but these moments will truly give you insight into each character you deal with throughout your adventure. I found myself caring about the characters without even realizing that I was that hooked on the narrative. Now I have only fully played Yakuza 0, Kiwami, 5 and 6 so I only have a few games as reference, but Yakuza 6 has the most fleshed out and emotional story out of the ones I have had a chance to play. The best part is that the narrative is so detailed that you can play this game without having played any of the others. There are moments that directly reference past entries, but the developers made sure that you fully understand what is happening and why it’s important.

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The quest takes Kiryu through a more modern version of his stomping ground Kamurocho, and an entirely new location in Hiroshima. The story begins with our hero Kiryu doing some hard time. Upon his release, he discovers that Haruka, someone he cares about deeply is in a coma after an apparent hit and run. Haruka is like a daughter to him so it is even more of a shock when Kiryu discovers that she also has an infant son that was with her at the time of the accident. Kiryu must look after Haruka’s son named Haruto while investigating not only the events leading to the accident but also the identity of the child’s father. As with any game in the series, Yakuza 6 is filled with a colorful, quirky cast of characters for you to either befriend or beatdown or both.

Gameplay

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If you have played a previous Yakuza game, then you know the formula. After a healthy dose of story, you are sent out on a variety of story and sub missions around the city. There are collectibles to find, mini-games to play and plenty of combat just about everywhere you go. The most notable difference here is the combat. The one issue I had with combat in previous games like Yakuza 0 was that Kiryu had too many options in terms of fighting. I know that sounds crazy, but the game gave you several fighting styles to learn and level up. Each had different abilities and you could swap between them easily. The issue is that once you played the game for a few hours, you had most likely found a favorite style and never really needed to change to the others.

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With Yakuza 6, your abilities are all available in just one style and are unlocked with XP. By accessing a menu, you can see descriptions of what each ability is, and you can choose to unlock what you want based on how you want to play. If you decide to unlock everything you will find that you can access certain things like environmental finishing moves through context sensitive actions rather than changing to a completely different fighting style. While combat is primarily melee based, you can still pick up weapons and items such as guns, knives and even bicycles or use one of your abilities to disarm a foe and use their weapon against them.

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Combat also seems easier this time around as I found I would never lose an encounter or boss fight if I had enough healing items in my inventory. There is also a super combo attack that is achieved by filling up your Heat Gauge (think super meter) that can reduce even bosses to a quivering mess in moments. Kiryu seems to be a near invincible warrior in the eyes of his enemies that are still dumb enough to take him on.

Plenty to See and Do

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The all new Dragon Engine will wow long time fans of the series with the level of detail in every aspect of the game’s visuals. Characters, especially some of the ones that Kiryu meets in the story, look more lifelike than has ever been possible in previous games. The environments as well are gorgeous enough to just walk around in for a while to soak it all in. While exploring the world there are plenty of activities to try out in addition to missions and sub-missions. Kiryu can always try his hand at mahjong or karaoke as in previous games, but with further exploration you can engage in other new and returning activities such as:

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  • Funny things like the Cat Café side story and management
  • There are also full arcade games like Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter 5 and Outrun
  • Classic games like Darts, Batting Cages, Hostess Club
  • Working out to boost stats at the RIZAP Gym

There is even an Adult Live Chat mini-game because even a veteran Yakuza has needs right?

The Finale

Yakuza 6 was one of my most anticipated games of 2018 and Sega did not disappoint. Everything from the storytelling, localization, update visuals and streamlined combat makes for a worthy sequel that fans would be crazy to miss. Newcomers can jump in easily and enjoy themselves and with the 50+ hours I put into it just soaking it all in I can honestly say that Yakuza 6 has me looking forward to what’s next in store for the franchise.

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