Sega's long-running open world organized crime series finally has a new sequel. Kazuma Kiryu is back but this time around, he's more interested in protecting his actual family instead of his crime family. However, that doesn't mean that he forgot how to kick ass!
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life follows the story of Kiryu right after the events of Yakuza 5. Upon awaking in the hospital, police confront him and he decides to surrender and be arrested. After being released three years later, he finds out that Haruka (his adopted daughter) is missing so he journeys back to Kamurocho in the hopes of discovering what happened to her. The story that follows is full of interesting scenarios as Kiryu slowly uncovers what happened when he was in jail. For starters, Haruka had a baby son named Haruto that Kiryu spends a small chunk of the campaign looking after.
Throughout the story, you'll explore the bustling city of Kamurocho as well as the more laidback city of Onomichi. Wherever you find yourself, it's easy to get lost in the gorgeously detailed environmental visuals. Although the city feels far less busy than in previous games, the fact that it's packed with things to see and do is as impressive as it's always been. The superb graphics really pop in the over-the-top action sequences whether they're story cutscenes or interactive fights. However, it's not all action because there are plenty of humorous moments that provide a great deal of levity to the experience. Watching Kiryu's cohorts interact with Haruto and playing through the ridiculous side-quests make for some memorable moments. Thankfully, the Japanese voice cast does a phenomenal job of fleshing out the characters. Even though I don't speak the language, I can easily say that each actor portrays their character spot-on.
Unfortunately, Yakuza 6's combat doesn't feel either as refined or as intricate as previous games. Firstly, there are no unique mechanics and I found myself mostly button mashing while occasionally evading and entering Extreme Heat Mode in order to do more damage. Additionally, although the visuals look fantastic, I didn't find that the fights were all that visceral compared to the ones in other Yakuza titles. Don't get me wrong; the combat is satisfying and great fun to watch but it feels like a bit of a step back for the series.
Along the same lines, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life lacks some features that fans have come to expect. For example, there are no weapons to purchase and no arena or casino which can be addictive distractions. You also can't change fighting styles and Extreme Heat Mode is easy to spam which makes otherwise tricky battles quite mindless. Like I say, it's still fun but not nearly as immersive as 0 or Kiwami.
My final significant criticism of Yakuza 6 is that its story missions are fairly cookie cutter for the most part. The majority of the campaign merely involves moving from point A to point B then beating up a horde of dudes. One of the most exciting sequences involves raiding a hotel. Kicking down the doors and not knowing who or what lurks on the other side was thrilling stuff. That being said, even the bosses aren't very enjoyable and some of them are repeated far too often. In short, I wish there was more variety in the core missions.
On the plus side, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is brimming with oodles of enjoyable content and extras. My favourite inclusion is the fact that you can enjoy arcade versions of Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. These are somewhat recent games so being able to enjoy them with a friend in the world of Yakuza adds a ton of value to the overall package. You'll also find yourself singing karaoke, training at the gym, and much more. A substantial addition is the clan battle mini-game that acts like a real-time strategy game. Recruiting people to join your clan and levelling up is rather rewarding so if that sounds appealing, you can easily spend hours with clan battles.
Even though it's a bit of a disappointment, there's no denying that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a solid entry in Sega's epic series. Both fans and newcomers alike will find a lot to love about Kiryu's latest (and possibly final) kick ass adventure.
- + Engaging story with plenty of crazy humour and over-the-top action
- + Fantastic visuals and voice acting
- + Loads of content and extras
- - Lacks some features that you'd expect to have in a Yakuza game
- - Flat combat compared to previous entries
- - Story missions could use more variety