(Featured on GWW)
Release Date: April 17th, 2018 on PS4
In Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, we begin the game with Kiryu spending several years in jail facing charges from his acts in Yakuza 5. He is released only to find out his ward, Haruka, is in a coma after being hit by a car. She also had a kid, Haruto, who is at risk of becoming a ward of the state. Kiryu set out to find the father of Haruto, while investigating the strange mysteries surrounding Haruka’s accident. The stage is set as we initially enter Kamurocho once again, and after he begins his investigation, the trail leads to Onomichi, a seemingly peaceful town that is more than it seems. Kiryu is once again reminded, you can quit the streets but the streets won't quit you.
If you haven't played any of the previous titles, don't worry. You do not need to have played the previous titles to play Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Although Yakuza 6 picks up right where Yakuza 5 left off, the game goes through great lengths to ensure everyone who plays the game is current on the status of characters and the plot by covering the most important details at the beginning through a coma-like flashback sequence and a main menu section called “memories.”
This is the first of the series built entirely from scratch and using the Dragon engine. The environment, as players navigate throughout Kamurocho, is highly immersive. Players will be able to navigate throughout rooftops, businesses and restaurants and includes many interactive objects, especially during street brawls. Fans familiar with the series may have noticed Kamurocho is back, which has been one of the staple locations for the series. Don't worry newcomers, as I mentioned previously, the story does a great job of catching you up on the importance of the city. Players can explore the city in first person mode as well, which can be very visually appealing especially when exploring Kamurocho at night surrounded by neon lights.
Yakuza 6 is Kiyru's most personal story and is a fitting ending for the Dragon of Dojima, Kiyru. This is a much more serious version of Kiyru with a much more grounded story from previous iterations. The game does still manage to provide a great balance of funny and jaw dropping moments as well, keeping fans invested for the long run without feeling burned out. This may be a problem to some, it definitely wasn't a problem during my playthrough, but If this is your entry to the series, this game's voice work is in Japanese but it also provides English subtitles. Honestly, the voice acting from the Japanese actors were so well done and still conveyed each emotion perfectly despite me not speaking a lick of Japanese. I honestly don't think it would have been done as well had it been dubbed in English.
The combat system seems to have taken a hit this time around. The combo's seem much more pretty basic this time, especially compared to the recent Yakuza 0 title as Kiyru only has one fighting style this time around. Not quite sure if this is intentional, with Kiyru being older now and "aging" or if this was just laziness or lack of time from the programmers perspective. The heat moves are powerful and certainly make an impact when fighting hoards of enemies. Since this is a street fighting style game, as I mentioned, you do have accessibility of items around you, from baseball bats to traffic cones to unleash on your opponent. I gotta say nothing felt more satisfying than being the crap out of enemies with a full size bicycle. You can't just go around beating the hell out of folks on an empty stomach though, or well actually you can but when you eat certain foods at certain restaurants until you are full, you'll also gain XP. Combining certain meals together will grant added bonuses.
The game isn't just full of skull bashing. The side games are also a nice addition, and include several full Sega games such as Virtua Fighter 5, Puyo Puyo, Out Run and Fantasy Zone all of which are accessible in arcades around the city. Players can sing karaoke, play darts or even hitting the batting cages. There is also over 50 sidequests, including hunting a giant shark, running your own baseball team and building relationships with regulars at a local bar. The game is so immersize that some of these side quests can be missed the first go around. In fact, after I finished the main story, I had to go back to complete some of the quests I missed. Completing these stories felt at times just as satisfying as completing the main mission. Heads up for the long time fans out there, there is a secret boss after you complete the main mission you'll definitely want to pursue. The best thing about each of these sidequests and mini games is that the player is rewarded XP just for partaking in each activity, so it's not merely a distraction. I would highly advise exploring every crevice of Kamurocho and Onomichi when the opportunity presents itself.
One of the biggest additions is the Clan Creator mini game, where you can recruit fighters to fight along your clan against other clans for dominance over the city. The clan battles are displayed in a top down view as you take on a certain amount number of allies and a final boss by summoning members from your clan. It's actually quite addictive. You can pit your clan against other players in ranked matches as well. The Clan Creator just like many of the other side quests, has it's own story as well. Each mission you complete unlocks a harder mission. After certain Clan battles, you have the opportunity to fight the boss in an actual street brawl to recruit them to join you.
This is a franchise that I have felt has often been overlooked. The series is strange at times, and fortunately doesn't take itself too seriously. This game has so many layers, that I actually found it hard to put the controller down at times. With it's near fully immersive world, intricate backstory and colorful cast of character will keep you entertained for hours on end. I highly recommend picking up Yakuza 6 when it hits shelves next month. Although I do wish there was so added combat mechanics, it doesn't take away from the overall experience. I have to say, there isn't many games that have motivated me to hunt down every single trophy in the game, but this one certainly does.
Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life hits shelves April 17th, 2018.
If you've completed this game and want more Yakuza, Sega recently announced Yakuza Kiwami 2, the enhanced remake of Yakuza 2, and is set for an August 28th, 2018 release date. Stay tuned for more information on that!
Final Score: 8.5