Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4) Review

“All good things must come to an end” – A popular phrase and a fitting one in reference to Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. We have followed Kiryu through blood, sweat and tears as we progressed through the 80’s disco era, his time as a Yakuza, the many times he’s been in prison standing up for whats good, that one time a zombie outbreak occurred, and even in his second life as a taxi driver. However, we are about to embark on Kiryu’s final journey in the Yakuza franchise – a journey of love, discovery, adventure, and acceptance – not only for Kiryu but for everyone he meets and touches along the way. This isn’t an end, it’s a story about a legend and the legacy he leaves behind in everyone he meets, including us, the players.

The Dragon of Dojima will forever be a massive part of my life as whenever I felt down, I knew that if I jumped into a Yakuza game that I’ll be instantly cheered up. If I ever felt emotional, then the adventures we have had allowed me to open up and express my feelings. When I felt weak and like the world was against me, I would don the role of the Dragon and release my anxiety and worries as I strolled around and helped people out while it brought a feeling of great satisfaction to my heart.

Kiryu – I found it so hard to bring myself to play this final journey of yours, but I stayed strong and I saw it through to the end. I’ll never forget our time together and this final adventure was a perfect end to your story in the Yakuza franchise. Whereas previous Yakuza titles have focused on numerous characters, Yakuza 6 focuses purely on Kiryu. This makes this game shorter than the others, yet it allows SEGA to give Kiryu the satisfying conclusion to the end of this chapter in his life. So, come with me as I take a look at the emotional rollercoaster, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

I was thinking the same thing!

I’ll refrain from any major spoilers, but I will be talking about events that happen during chapter one of Yakuza 6 and the ending of Yakuza 5 – Chapter one has been avaliable within the downloadable demo (which carries your progress into the main game) for a while now on PSN. If you don’t want to know any of this, skip to past the next picture as that’s where I’ll start talking about the mechanics and not the story itself.

Yakuza 5 ended on a bombshell, Kiryu had just fought in one of the most intense battles of his life and Haruka (a girl Kiryu has looked after since Yakuza 1 (Kiwami) who spends all of Yakuza 5 training to be a Japanese Idol) has just told the world that her guardian/father is ex Yakuza. This revelation didn’t go down well but Haruka didn’t care as to her, family and being herself was more important than being an Idol. Kiryu was fatally injured during an earlier fight in the events of Yakuza 5 and his final battle causes his wounds to open up and begin to seep blood. Because of this, we are shown Kiryu walking down the street, in the snow, as he collapses and begins to pass out. Suddenly, just before his life draws to an end, we see Haruka appear in front of him – she saves Kiryu by getting him to the hospital just in time.

We are recapped on the above during the opening of Yakuza 6 where we find out that Kiryu had regained his strength. In order to completely leave his Yakuza life behind, he confesses to all the things he did within the last few games and proceeds to go to jail for four years in order to pay for his actions, even though they were all done for the greater good. One year later, in 2013, Haruka – who had been regularly visiting Kiryu in jail – stops seeing him out of the blue. Upon his release in 2016, Kiryu goes back to his orphanage, which is where Haruka was living out her life, to find that in 2013 she had left the premises due to her presence there was causing media interest as the daughter of an ex-Yakuza member. Kiryu, upon hearing this terrible news, returns to Kamurocho in order to find Haruka and bring her home.

Kiryu is successful in his investigation as he eventually catches up with Haruka – unfortunately, she had been involved in a hit and run collision and is currently in a coma within the intensive care unit at the hospital. It’s here where Kiryu also finds out that Haruka wasn’t alone, she had a child with her – Haruto. With Haruka’s health diminishing and time running out, Kiryu takes Haturo and sets out to find the child’s father so that he can be there to step up and look after both Hauka and Haruto in these final days.

Kiryu’s final journey takes us through the seedy, eventful streets of Kamurocho and the peaceful town of Onomichi in Hiroshima as he searches for the father. He will form alliances with new friends and gain support from old familiar ones as he not only finds the father but also the person responsible for Harukas injury. You will laugh, cry, cheer, and celebrate as you uncover various secrets, encounter many twists, and ultimately face off against the monsters behind many things – you will also find time to participate in many fun and enjoyable mini-games in-between the events of the main story as well.

Are we meant to bend like that?

One of the first things which disappointed me about Yakuza 6 was the combat system – bear with me. The game falls into the old ‘you have lost all of your abilities so you must re-learn them’ trap of progression action-adventure games, but that’s fine as I presume being in hospital and prison is the reason he forgot everything. However, at first the combat felt off due to Yakuza 6 stripping out enhancements we have seen in Yakuza Zero, Kiwami and 5. Gone are the multiple fighting styles, stances, and weapons you take into battle with you – all you have is one fighting style and the only weapons you have must be found during the fight itself.

After playing for a few hours I began to enjoy Yakuza 6 for what it is, without trying to compare it to previous iterations. Sure, there is a lack of variety and no new ways to experiment, but as you unlock new heat actions and use your experience to unlock new combos, you begin to see just how smooth and satisfying the combat is in the new engine. There is literally nothing more satisfying than dragging a thug into a nearby store and shoving his face into a microwave then turning it on. Yakuza 6 only operates at a maximum of 30fps, even on the Pro, but the game runs incredibly smooth so this technical aspect never seems to get in the way of the fluid action.

Another pet peeve of mine was the map of Kamurocho as the whole northeastern sector is cornered off and never unlocked, and various buildings which have always been accessible are either no longer the same business or no longer open. However, just like with the combat – after playing for a few hours I actually appreciated what we do have. Yeah, we have lost the bowling, the park, and the toy car racing, but we now have no loading times when entering buildings, a fitness gym, new minigames, and a cat cafe among many other new sites and experiences. So, at first the game feels like it has less content but it’s expanded in other ways to try and make up for the lack of multiple locations (other than the two on offer) and no UFO crane grabbers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY_vatw0UDY
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If you’ve played a Yakuza game before then you will know that one of the big positives about the game is the sheer amount of side missions, minigames, arcade machines, and bonus events outside of the main storyline. I’m happy to say that Yakuza 6 is practically bursting with these. Let’s take a look at a few of the ones I really enjoyed:

Side Missions (sub-stories):
There are only 51 sub-stories in Yakuza 6 – this may seem like a lot but some of the previous entries have had a few hundred spread across various characters. Thankfully, they are as crazy as they have always been. From dressing up as a mascot in order to cheer people up then engage with thugs, to dealing with a time travelling girl who travelled back in time to stop her father from leaving her mother. Each one has charm and a uniqueness around it that only Yakuza could provide. A lot of the sub-stories also roll into the minigames and bonus events as well.

Minigames:
The minigames in Yakuza 6 are great. Sure, we have lost the UFO grabbers and the sex line chatting games, but we have gained a load more. How would you like to participate in a virtual webchat with FMV of a real Japanese porn star as she undresses based on how well Kiryu replies to her messages in a chat room? This game is so much fun – it’s a case of pressing the buttons that appear on screen so Kiryu types out the messages correctly, but the more you play, the more she takes off! You also have things like the cat cafe which is where you can sit and play with a load of cats as you enjoy a tasty beverage. Another favourite of mine is the deepsea diving game – unlike the fishing game in previous versions, in Yakuza 6 you don a scuba diving suit and go swimming with a harpoon gun as you fish underwater for fish, sharks, and squids.

Arcade Machines:
If you go into one of the many SEGA arcade centres in the game then you can play on a few SEGA classics. We have full versions of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Puyo Puyo, Super Hang-on, Fantasy Zone and more. Each one is faithfully re-created in-game and comes in various difficulty levels based on which SEGA arcade you attend. You can also play darts within these centres as well.

Bonus Events:
I guess these are also minigames but bigger, which is why I’ve labelled them differently. You have the ability to manage a baseball team and participate in random batting rounds – this is really fun as you can recruit people through sub-stories and random strangers then level them up in-game in order to lead your team to victory. Another cool new game is the Clan-battle game. This is like a tower defence game only there are no towers, you just send in wave after wave of your clan members in order to take out the enemy units. I became obsessed with this game and spent about 10 hours playing it! Another big game is the hostess game where you must woo and eventually date all six of the hostesses – this is much easier than previous games as you have many narrative options and all the girls are in one club. Personally, my favourite hostess club game was in Yakuza Zero where it has DinerDash style gameplay.

There are many other games I’ve not mentioned above throughout the game like an agony aunt-style game within a bar, Majong, Karaoke, Casino games and more. I just love how Kiryu is so worried and anxious to do extremely important things, yet you can get distracted and go chat with women online for a few hours in between missions.

Erm yeah, that just happened.

Another new aspect of the game, over previous games in the series, is the way you eat food. You can eat what you want as you aren’t restricted to only eating when you’re hungry (unlike in previous games). You can eat whatever and whenever, but you only gain experience if you are hungry. You know if you are hungry as there is an image of your stomach which fills up as you eat items and in order to make yourself hungry again you must run around. You can also take supplements to make yourself hungry again, but they are expensive. It takes a little while to get used to this, but it isn’t that bad.

The Yakuza series is infamous for its humour among the seriousness and Yakuza 6 doesn’t fail to deliver the same magic here as well. One minute you will be patrolling the streets after dark with Haruto looking for some milk whilst performing motion controlled actions in order to calm him down and stop him crying. Then suddenly, you’re passing the child to a stranger as you beat up a delinquent who is peeing on someone’s property. Its small moments like this that seems so unique to the series as not many other games can mix serious situations and comedy together so perfectly.

I love this outfit!

Because of the streamlined nature of Yakuza 6, if you were to just do the story missions and miss the majority of the sub-stories out, you are looking at around 20-25 hours to complete the main story. I had managed to platinum the game within around 40 hours which is quite short in comparison to games like Yakuza 5 where I’m at 180 hours and still not platinumed that game yet! However, I love what SEGA has done with Yakuza 6 as they have kept the story focused on Kiryu, for obvious reasons. This makes the whole experience mean so much more than it would have if we were swapping between different characters like we have done previously. Don’t be put off by the length of the game though, it has about as much content as previous games, only with one character and their story – the previous titles have 2-5 characters, hence the difference in completion times.

Another thing I would like to mention is the trophies themselves. In previous titles, you had to complete the whole ‘completion list’ (this is a list of things like getting certain scores on various minigames, eating in all food places, talking to a lot of people, etc…) but in Yakuza 6 you only have to complete 100 items off the list. This makes it incredibly easy to platinum with only a few grindy trophies regarding levelling up and playing the Clan-battle game. So in that aspect, if you want to play a Yakuza game and easily obtain a platinum then this is the one to play – however, I do recommend playing all the games in order, from Zero to 6, but if that’s not an option then the game does have a handy ‘catch up’ option where you can see what happened in each game from Yakuza 1 to 5 (no Zero surprisingly, even though it’s canon).

I have no idea what that face is – it wasn’t there when taking the picture, but take any photos in this room and it appears on there!

Graphically, Yakuza 6 is one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the PS4 so far. With the help of the new engine, the game pushes everything to the max on both the PS4 and the Pro. From the moving wrinkles on Kiryu’s face to the neon lights of night-time Kamurocho, everything has been detailed perfectly to represent real-life Japan with amazing texture work and a great attention to detail. The game also comes with a photo mode, albeit in the form of a mobile phone camera which Kiryu uses to take pictures of strangers and even selfies of himself. I love this feature as when you pull out the camera and catch people in the frame, some of them will get shy and hide their face or walk off yet others will embrace it and strike a pose for you. There is a strange occurrence though – there is a seedy room in Kamurocho where some guys are groping some female staff members and I decided to take some pictures like you do. Upon looking at the images later on, there is a guys face in the corner of the picture (see above) which clearly wasn’t there in-game so I have no idea where it came from!

The audio in Yakuza 6 is equally as awesome, the music is perfect and pure Yakuza bliss along with the sound effects being flawless. The voices are all in Japanese but everything, other than inner monologue, is fully voice acted and delivered perfectly. On top of that, the karaoke songs are truly a highlight with different songs being available depending on which hostess you take there to sing or if you go there solo. Just like previous iterations, you are treated to a music video of sorts while you either sing or provide encouragement along to some of the best songs in the series in my opinion. Some of these songs can get quite emotional as well as they touch on events from previous games which bring back fond memories.

So, where do we go from here? We know there is a Yakuza Online coming to Mobiles and PC soon which stars a new protagonist and the team have just finished Fists of the North Star and are most likely working on translating that, as well as the release of Yakuza Kiwami 2 which is out later this year. Personally, now that Kiryu’s story is over, I would love to see a few other 20 hour games based on the other protagonists which only had a small cameo in Yakuza 6, such as Majima, Saejima, Dojima, and Akiyama. I would love to know their stories after the events of Yakuza 6, Akiyama has a lot to rebuild following the events in this story and the other three seem like they are just about to begin the next chapter in their life as well. Maybe even let us play as Haruka in the new Persona Dancing game that’s due out this year as a cameo and a nod back to Yakuza 5?

Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait to take another adventure with Kiryu in August in Yakuza Kiwami 2 – now we just need 3-5 remade/remastered for PS4 – if Shenmue can get a remaster then I’m sure those three can…

Unboxing of the Premium After Hours Edition:

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Yakuza 6 may not be the most feature-rich title in the series, but it delivers the perfect final chapter to one of the most memorable protagonists on Sony’s console. Despite my initial reservations regarding the lack of abilities, weapons, locations and minigames, Yakuza 6 proved to me that quality beats quantity any day and I soon forgot about the absent content. Be sure to have a box of tissues near you as you approach the conclusion to the Dragon of Dojima’s story as it’s a rollercoaster of emotions coming at you from all angles. It seriously had me very emotional more times than one within the final few chapters. Experience fun minigames, serious action sequences, and crazy sub-stories as you wrap up the series and bring the curtain down on this beloved franchise.

I would highly recommend that you play the previous titles in order, but there is no harm in playing this as your first Yakuza game due to it being very user-friendly. Just be aware, simply reading about what happens in the previous games is an option, but I would urge you to play them all for yourself and experience the twists and turns this amazing series delivers with each and every title. This is a no-brainer for me, if you like games (any games, doesn’t matter what they are), buy this game on Tuesday! You won’t regret it.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

9.8

Final Score

9.8/10

The Good:

  • Amazing story and a perfect final chapter for Kiryu
  • The voice acting and soundtrack are both perfect in every way and amazing to listen too
  • Loads of new innovative mini-games like the chatroom
  • The whole game looks amazing and incredibly detailed
  • Easy Platinum

The Bad:

  • Lacks things we had in previous games like multiple combat stances and weapons
  • Only 20 hours for the main story - not technically a negative, but not as long as previous games
  • The food aspect is a little strange

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