The Dragon of Dojima… the title itself sends excitement and/or chills down the spines of those who hear it in the world of the Yakuza. The moniker belonging to Kazuma Kiyru for over 10 years is being tested in one final journey. This journey challenges everything he holds dear, including his own life. For this final journey, will Kiyru be able to show that the Dragon is ready to overcome, or will it burn in all of its former glory? Find out as I take you through this write up of my experiences with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Series/Franchise: Yakuza (Ryū ga Gotoku in Japan)
Platform: Playstation 4
Release Date: Japan – December 8, 2016; Worldwide – April 17, 2018
Genre: Action-Adventure, RPG
Modes: Singleplayer and Multiplayer (multiplayer is only to minigames only via the main menu and requires 2 controllers)
*Thank you to Sega/Atlus for Providing a review key*
*I will be doing something different than my previous writings. I will remove the scoring component from this review and based on feedback I can keep it like this in future writings or revert back to it. *
The official webpage has a good write-up on the story, but it does point some key spoilers in my opinion. Read at your risk here. Below is the Wikipedia plot which hits the main points lacking some details.
While recovering from his injuries from the previous game, a hospitalized Kazuma Kiryu is approached by the police, who plan to arrest him for his past crimes. Kiryu chooses not to resist the arrest and willingly spends three years in prison in order to live peacefully with the children he had fostered. Upon being released, Kiryu discovers that Haruka has seemingly gone missing. Kiryu returns to Kamurocho to search for Haruka, only to find out that she has been left in a coma after a hit and run incident, and that she has a newborn son, Haruto. Unsure whether Haruka will recover from her injuries, Kiryu travels with the baby to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima to uncover the mystery of what happened to Haruka during his three-year absence.
If you are a veteran of the Yakuza games, you are well aware of the quality of the story. The story itself is well written and presented in such an immersive manner that it will pull in any player. I found myself hooked from beginning to end, and at moments I found myself needing to take a break (personal life outside of the game), I had to pull myself away from the game itself. It had me at twists that I did not expect, and the climax itself was masterfully done.
For those who are brand new to the Yakuza franchise, first off welcome to the Yakuza Franchise. Outside of Japan, Yakuza has always been a Niche franchise with a somewhat cult fanbase. Within the last 3-5 years (much similar to Persona oddly enough), the Yakuza Franchise has blown up significantly and has received the attention it always deserved. This game has a recap (Memories) section which gives newcomers and old-comers alike a rundown of Yakuza 1-5.
However, Yakuza 0 is lacking from that recap section for unknown reasons. In addition, while the recap covers Yakuza 1-5, it hits all the main plot points. However… that is all it does. The recap section lacks some other details that can only be experienced through playing through the previous titles. If you have the time, I would suggest plaything through Yakuza 0, Kiwami (remaster of Yakuza 1), and youtube the stories of the previous entries to get all the details of everything the recap plots may forget.
This is the 7th main entry title in the Yakuza franchise (0,1,2,3,4,5,6). The aim of this game is to demonstrate and display how far Kiyru will go for his family in one final journey. The themes of “Life”, “Family”, and the extent of how far someone will go for their family is the central points of this game. As the final game for Kiyru, Yakuza 6 does a fantastic job to wrap up his story. Details of that won’t be shared in this review as this is a game that should be experienced. The delivery of the narrative, as told through the perspective of Kiyru is well done. You will see the connection that Kiyru has made with many people throughout his journey, newcomers to the franchise and old returners alike. You will see it weigh on Kiyru as well as those around him.
Arguably, this is the biggest improvement in Yakuza 6 and marks a new beginning to the Franchise of Yakuza from this point on. Yakuza games have always been open-world in a contained area, namely the cities each game will take the player. However, with the use of the Dragon Engine (created for this game and future Yakuza titles), it pushes the game beyond expectations.
Load times are kept to a minimum in Yakuza 6. The only noticeable load times are loading into a new area, into certain cutscenes, and initial loading into the game. There may be more, but they are minor. This means exploration in the city is no longer interrupted by loading times from entering a building or transitioning into/out of a battle, and much more. Everything is done with no loading and real time. The save system has improved as well.
You can save anywhere at anytime via the settings options in the main menu. In addition, the game autosaves whenever a new event occurs. It is amazing that the development team was able to do this and keep the loading to a minimum unless it is absolutely necessary. One thing I found unique is that if enemies spotted you and you ran into a building, the enemies will actually give chance and run into the building to fight you.
Speaking of the open world, the game introduces you to Hiroshima in your quest. The city you are located in is fully explorable. In addition, Kamurocho is now nearly fully explorable. There are some areas of the game blocked off due to in-game construction. However, the areas open are fully explorable. You can go into several buildings (marked by a different color via minimap), access rooftops, sewers, and investigate Kamurocho/Hiroshima to your heart’s content. I found myself running into an internet cafe, doing the live chat minigame, exit the nearest open window, and found myself in another building where I found a safe to open. It is impressive that while some areas are blocked, the areas open are explorable to that degree.
As any Yakuza fan knows, the franchise is known for some of the silliest minigames and sidequests in any game. It is always hilarious to see a character such as Kiyru (with his very serious and intimidating demeanor) doing silly quests as finding cats for a cat cafe, interacting with live streamers, or running your own gang. The sidequests in previous Yakuza games were just as immersive as the main story. In Yakuza 6, the tradition lives on. I found myself very engaged in all the sidequests I could find. Even now, 30+ hours in, I am still wanting to explore and find all the sidequests as I have not found them all.
The improvements are not only in the loading times, exploration, and transitions. They are also apparent in the battles as well. The engine allows for more freedom and interactions with the environment. Just be careful where the interactions may occur. You may find yourself fighting a gang of thugs, throwing one into a window of the nearest fast food joint, only to be denied access and told to leave if you attempt to eat there post-battle. Battle itself is largely intact and the game itself gives in-game tutorials to pick up battling (and every other game mechanic). The key difference is that high amount of ecological interactions.
Some cons I did experience is that not all buildings can be interactive. During exploration, you would try to go into every building or throw enemies into it. However, it does not occur and it is unfortunate. The silver lining I see in this is that Yakuza 6 essentially lays out a blueprint for what is to come for future entries in the game. Whether it be a remaster/remake (Yakuza Kiwami 2 or anything else that may come) or a new entry (such as the newly announced series), this laid out that foundation and will only improve with time.
Visually, Yakuza has always been a fantastic looking game. Yakuza 6 is no exception. The game built from the ground up utilizing the Dragon Engine in Yakuza 6 and it visually shows. It is impressive. I did experience some jittery in some areas, it could be playing it on a PS4 Pro. What I was provided has no day 1 patch and I am not entirely sure if it will get one. However, it is still is very visually appealing.
Audio-wise, Yakuza 6 is still fantastic as day one of Yakuza 1. The game is fully voiced in Japanese with English subtitles. The localization of the script is on point. It is well written and delivered well. You also get the return of the Karaoke songs and I am always impressed by Kiryu’s voice actor singing as he does.
As the previous Yakuza, there is a plethora of content. You have a good amount of minigames, side quests, battles, and much more. In addition, Yakuza 6 has a new game plus where you can carry you’re saving over and restart the journey of Kiyru. Everything carries over except the sidequest content. That can be seen as a negative for some players, however, I saw it as an opportunity to redo everything.
I may be biased here, but I have had fun and been a fan of the Yakuza franchise since the 1st entry over 10 years ago. This game is considered a spiritual successor to the Shenmue franchise. However, I have not played any Shenmue entry. Each entry of the Yakuza franchise always exceeds my expectations and with each exceeding, a new set of fun is introduced. Taking the role of Kiyru and experiencing it first hand is something special. Every aspect of the game is fun. Some can be frustrating as you may find yourself replaying some parts, but it is still fun regardless.
^IRL footage of me writing this review.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a great sendoff to one of the most well-written characters in gaming history. The game was fantastic from beginning to end. The game does well to encapsulate Kiryu as a character, showing him as following his beliefs, as well as developing his character for one more adventure. Outside of Kiyru, you realize the evolution of time and the changes that go in in the year 2016. Kiryu is a relic of the old times adjusting. The cities explored in the game are full of life with tons to do, each with their own story to tell.
From beginning to end, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life makes sure to emphasize on its themes of “life”, “family”, and doing everything you can to protect both. The game is well-written and delivered well. If this is truly the final game of Kazuma Kiryu, farewell old friend. I have enjoyed your adventures and journey for 10+ years.
As an entry point for newcomers, Yakuza 6 is easily accessible. I strongly recommend as catching up on the previous mainstream entries. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life lays a foundation for things to come and I look forward to seeing what comes next in the newest entries of the series. It is well deserved that the game, and franchise as a whole, is getting the attention it finally deserved for so many years. Everyone that plays this game will find something to enjoy and will be immersed in something how things unfold.
Hats off to Sega for bringing this game to the west and to the localization team. They did an amazing job with it all and I am thankful for it. Here is to hoping Yakuza Kiwami 2 getting this kind of love too (hopefully… please?).
Until next time, Mgs2master2 out!