Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review- A Fitting Farewell

Posted March 21, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developers: SEGA, Ryu ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher: SEGA

Release date: December 8, 2016 (Japan), April 17, 2018 (worldwide)

Available on: PS4

It may have taken the West nearly an additional two years, but finally Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has arrived for fans of SEGA’s Japanese crime series. The seventh main entry in the franchise wraps up the tale of the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu, with a satisfying and fitting farewell that is both thrilling and emotional. The story that unfolds over the game’s fourteen chapters is complex and very well written, filled with plenty of twists and turns, some of which you don’t see coming. The story takes us from the familiar environs of Kamarucho in Tokyo to the smaller town of Onomichi in Hiroshima, a place still touched by yakuza violence and harboring a major secret.

Yakuza 6 picks up with Kiryu going to jail for three years. When he gets out, he finds out his charge, Haruka, has been involved in a hit and run accident, and is now in a coma. Adding to that, Kiryu finds that Haruka has a son, named Haruto. Naturally, this is no simple accident, and to seek answers Kiryu takes the baby and goes to Onomichi, where he meets the members of the Hirose family. Plenty of fisticuffs ensue, and we are introduced to plenty of new characters along with some familiar faces from previous entries. The Yakuza series has always been story heavy, with plenty of lengthy cut scenes, and The Song of Life is no exception. Despite this being the seventh entry in the series, newcomers can still jump on board, thanks to the Memories option in the main menu, which recounts the main story up to this point (the only game not summarized in Yakuza 0, which was a prequel). Memories will take you about twenty minutes to go through, but it serves as both a nice way to catch newcomers up as well as refresh the memories of series veterans.

As with the other entries, gameplay is divided between combat and exploration. While the combat is never overly challenging, it’s still a lot of fun. Leveling up increases Kiryu’s health, attack, and defense, and new moves open up as you gain experience, both for regular combat and those triggered by the heat meter, which gives Kiryu a brief burst of very powerful attacks. Pummeling thugs, yakuza soldiers, and members of the Saio triad never got old over the 25 hours or so that it took me to complete the main story line. Experience points are divided into different categories, such as strength, dexterity, and knowledge, and you can choose how to apply those points through the Stats menu on your cell phone in the game.

Yep, Kiryu has come into the 21st century, and now carries a smart phone. Your phone now enables you to save (no more searching for phone booths), level up, use items, and even take photos of your surroundings. The phone is brought up with the Options button, and you can use it even during combat to level up and use healing items. Your phone also allows you to access emails, which offer game tips and other handy bits of information, as well as the use of an app called Troublr, which clues you in to nefarious goings on and people in need of help about town. You don’t need to respond to every Troublr notification, as they don’t really impact the main story, but they can be fun little diversions. I ended up ignoring them the farther I got into the game (they do occur often), but completed enough of them to be sidetracked off my main goal at times.

The game, as with previous entries, offers plenty of content to distract you from the main story. You’ll encounter plenty of sub-stories, some of which tie into the main tale. These side quests range from the emotional to the downright silly. One can have you chasing a drone through the streets of Kamarucho, while another can put you in pursuit of a bomber. One very cute sub-story involves finding cats to populate a cat cafe. This particular quest has you making friends with stray cats by feeding them various flavors of cat food (purchased at any local Poppo store) and making friends with the felines. It can get a bit addicting, chasing down every meow to find a new cat to send to the cafe. You can visit your new furry friends at the cafe at any point. It may not be important as far as the main story, but it’s adorable and fun, and let’s you indulge a lighter side to Kiryu.

In addition to Troublr missions and sub-stories, you can divert yourself with battling roving gangs of various ne’er-do-wells and activities. Activities include playing darts, retro video games, using the batting cage, or playing Mahjong. There’s also the RIZAP gym, where you can train on various equipment and enter into a fitness regimen that combines both workouts and diet. Eating plays an important role, with different foods and drinks offering various perks to help you level up. The perks can go towards leveling your stamina or level of alcohol tolerance, among others, that help you to become a well balanced fighter. You can also find keys that unlock safes that are scattered about both Kamarucho and Onomichi. The safes hold items that can be equipped to give you additional buffs to health, attacks, and defense. Some items can also be purchased from local merchants, including some neat little whimsical surprises. While you can choose to ignore most of the side stuff, it does provide a deep level of content to immerse yourself into.

For those who don’t want to side track themselves from the main story, you can also opt to wait until the post game to explore the two cities. Upon the clearing the main story, the Continue option gives you the choice of New Game +, which carries over all of your abilities and starts the story from the beginning, or Premium Adventure, which allows you to explore and play the side stories and Troublr missions without interfering with the main story. Another nice addition is by pressing R3 you can enter first person mode. Combat is always in 3rd person, but the first person view is good for seeking out items and just generally taking in the sights around you. Controls in general are tight and responsive, and easy to use.

While the game is overall fantastic, it does have some minor flaws which can provide a little irritation. Prompts can sometimes be hard to read or even hard to get to the proper angle to activate. The camera will on occasion present you with a poor angle during combat, where you can end up being behind scenery. Neither flaw detracted from my enjoyment of the game, but they are there, so they need to be mentioned. Visually, the game looks very good, with the character models being the strongest and very well done. The game is in Japanese with English subtitles, and the voice acting is solid. The script offers moments of humor to go along with the emotional drama, and these moments can be laugh out loud funny. Characters are well developed, with most having defined arcs. The whole game feels like an interactive crime movie, and provides and nice balance between both sitting and watching for a bit and giving you ample gameplay.

In all, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is another excellent entry into a solid franchise, and provides us a fitting conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu’s story. While this is a fond and satisfying farewell to Kiryu, it by no means signals the end of the franchise, as there are other characters that can carry things forward. It’s a game that will please veterans and is friendly to newcomers (newbies will no doubt be inspired to go back and play the earlier games). Combat is fun as always, and the content deep enough to easily warrant a purchase. It may not be the most challenging game out there, but its story telling and richness of characters make this well worth your time. Now I need to go back and find more kitties. And pummel some bad guys along the way.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus