Some franchises are just so long-running that it can be a little difficult to hop in and get started. The Walking Dead, for instance, is a graphic novel with a hit TV show, multiple games, probably a movie or two…where would you even begin? I never got on the LOST train for much the same reason. Still, when I had to start reviewing Yakuza games, I found the extensive series of Japanese mobster brawlers to be surprisingly welcoming. With Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, we’ve finally reached the end of series hero Kazuma Kiryu’s story. It’s a doozy.
We return yet again to the story of Kazuma Kiryu, this time for its final chapters. Kiryu’s been in and out of prison yet again. Without the Dragon of Dojima around to keep the streets clean, things have gone downhill, with thugs, yakuza and Triads alike clogging up Kamurocho. What’s more, Kiryu’s adoptive daughter Haruka has gone missing. In true Yakuza fashion, it’s up to Kiryu to solve pretty much everyone’s problems the same way he always does: with equal measures honor, compassion and brutality. Time might pass and Kiryu might try to leave that life behind, but some things never change.
That means you’re going to be spending no small amount of time beating the crap out of people. Unlike the most recent entries in the series, which incorporated a Devil May Cry 3-esque style switching system, in this game Kiryu’s got access to pretty much all of his abilities at once. Things work pretty much the same way they usually have – beat dudes up to build up Heat, dump Heat to brutally finish enemies or enter a super mode to…brutally finish enemies. Battles are satisfying, of course, but I found that Yakuza 6 tones the bone-crunching impacts just a bit in favor of a somewhat more simplified style that may or may not be an improvement over the rest of the series.
Yakuza 6 doesn’t skimp on the bonus goodies that characterize the series, of course. You’ve got baseball management, fishing, karaoke, mahjong and perhaps the most solid set of arcade games yet, including a fully-fledged version of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown that includes online play. If someone told me they weren’t interested in the series’ overarching and twisting plotline, choosing instead to play Kiryu as an arcade-loving video game fanatic, I’d only be a tiny bit weirded out.
Between side quests (just wait until you see the cat cafe) and bonus activities, it’s guaranteed that if you take the time to relax and really enjoy everything Yakuza 6 has to offer, you’ll get a lot more out of the game.
While the action runs at a noticeably downgraded 30FPS in this entry, it still manages to look great. There’s few complaints with regards to models or animation. Soundwise it’s a Yakuza game and all that entails – rock-and-roll battle themes, traditional Japanese motifs throughout, great voice acting and so on. The Song of Life doesn’t really take the series to new heights in terms of presentation quality, but at least the framerate doesn’t drag things down either.
Yakuza aficionados should definitely make time for Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – it’s the last of the Kiryu games, after all! Newcomers might be better served looking at Yakuza Kiwami or Zero, on the other hand, especially since they’re almost less expensive than they were at launch. Once you’re done with those adventures, however, settle in for the long haul. There’s plenty of Yakuza action to take in and only more to come.