Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Someone should do a sociological study on why the street toughs of Kamurocho never seem to learn their lesson. After years of brutal beatings by the “Guy With The Dragon Tattoo” covering his entire back, one would think they would stop trying to challenge, impede, mug or otherwise aggravate him as he saunters his way down various alleyways in his mud-impervious alligator shoes. Fortunately for gamers, however, they remain as pig-headed as ever! As Yakuza 6: The Song of Life hits North American shores, it becomes abundantly clear that some people just enjoy the rubbery smell of bicycle tires as they smash into their faces, or the chewy, candy-like texture of an orange road cone as its rammed down their throats. Yes, dear friends, it is time for one last adventure in the life of Kazuma Kiryu, and this Song of Life is a sweet swan song!
Kazuma Kiryu is the only playable character this time around, and as the storyline develops one begins to understand that decision. After convalescing in the hospital for a while, Kiryu is visited by the authorities who wish to place him under arrest for his life of crime. He willingly agrees to spend time in prison in order to secure a future life with his foster children. Upon his release from prison, he learns that Haruka has gone missing. The events that unfold as Kiryu heads back to Kamurocho to investigate just what the hell has been going on during his three year absence is where both players and the adventure begin!
The Yakuza series has always been known for its brutality, insanity and extremely immersive environments and Yakuza 6 excels in all these areas! As expected, the graphical presentation of Kamurocho and Hiroshima have been upgraded to impressively realistic levels (the game uses an entirely new engine built from the ground up). The cities are literally teeming with citizens going about their daily lives, and the visual fidelity makes the whole thing feel like a virtual tourism trip through the area. At one point in the game Kiryu asks, “How do I always end up back in this damn city?” and the answer is simple: He comes for vengeance, he stays for the sights. Just like the rest of us.
Speaking of the “sights,” there are still plenty of diversions available during your quest for truth and vengeance. It wouldn’t be a Yakuza game without the scores of mini-games and side quests that Kiryu can enjoy at a moment’s notice. Who put Haruka in the hospital? Who is the baby’s father? Never mind! What he really needs is three nights in a Karaoke bar plus some quality time with feline friends at the cat-petting bar. If that isn’t enough, Kiryu can indulge himself with online chatting, hostess clubs, batting cages, mahjong and many other activities. Priorities, right? Kiryu gets the job done in his own time.
On the gameplay side, things have also been improved and yet, in some areas, have taken a step back. There are virtually no load times as our hero moves in and out of buildings and down city streets, and when he gets involved in one of his classic scrapes with some street toughs, there is no longer an arbitrary “ring” area in which to do battle. This was one minor annoyance in past games, but now Kiryu can back away or shuffle over to a more advantageous area and continue the fight. Kiryu only utilizes one fighting style through the entire game (a step back from previous titles) and the only weapons you can use are what you find during the fight itself. A large part of these brawls has always been swarm control, and it seems that picking up a fallen opponent by the legs or grabbing a parked bicycle and swinging it around like a looney gets the job done. If you want to take the brawls to a whole new level, there is the new “Clan Creator” feature that lets players indulge in some RTS mini-game brawls with a gang of thugs that you recruit yourself.
Yakuza 6 is a strong entry in the series (although it takes a back seat to Yakuza 0), and a very fitting wrap up to Kazuma Kiryu’s storyline. All in all, this is a smaller, more refined game than we are used to with a few missing pieces (likely a result of the new game engine that is still being perfected). It manages to deliver almost as much fun and insanity as its predecessors in a smaller amount of real estate. If Kazuma Kiryu and his family have become near and dear to your heart, you owe it to yourself to live the coda.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
This review is based on a digital copy of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sega.