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Review: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

The Last Ride of Kazuma is One You'll Never Forget

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EXCELLENT

EXCELLENT

No words can describe the amount of emotions that I experienced during my playthrough. It is definitely a game you'll enjoy, if you followed the Yakuza series to date.

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User Rating: 4.39 ( 6 votes)

Where do I even begin?

My experience with the Yakuza series has been very brief. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, but I’ve never heard about the series until a year ago. One of SEGA’s IP that I found is, in my eyes, a hidden gem, but it finally started getting the attention it deserves with the releases of Yakuza 0 and Yakuza: Kiwami.

Those were the first two games of the series that I played. Even though I played them within two months, there is a lot of fun to be had in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. Either from beating up baddies as Kazuma or managing a cabaret club as Majima, the fun I had in between the main story is the highlight of the Yakuza series. There are numerous things to do when you’re not focused on completing tasks towards the main story. From playing pool, to retro arcade games, to winning poker in an underground ramen shop, this series manages to turn a lot of what is normal and bump it up a notch.

Having said that, these game’s story was the main thing that got me hooked on the series. There were many times during the amazing cinematic cutscenes that I had to set my controller down and just watch as the events unfolded. Sometimes, it felt like I was watching a TV drama rather than playing a video game. The way SEGA managed to tell an amazing story to help balance the gameplay is simply wonderful, and Majima’s story still resonates with me today.

So, after investing so much time developing these characters, SEGA has finally decided it’s time to bring Kazuma’s story to a peaceful end with Yakuza 6.

Knowing that this is Kazuma’s final game, it felt right that SEGA would put him back right where it all began – in Kamurocho. The city that has been in every single Yakuza game to date has received its fine, updated look. It felt very different returning to the city. The modern feel did finally catch up to me and made me say, “Hey, this isn’t 2005!” As always, the city is full of challenges with minigames and perps at every corner; you always have to be on your heels whenever you roam the streets.

“Whether it’s slamming thugs on cars or slamming their back on the railings, the fighting in the game entertained me fully.”

A Punch to the Gut

As stated, the main focus of the game is the combat. Being the beat-em-up/RPG hybrid that it is, one of the major changes to the fighting style is that it there is only one definitive combat mechanism to work around. Where in previous games, you could switch fighting styles on the fly, Yakuza 6 simplifies everything, and you just  have the ‘Brawler’ style from Yakuza 0. Of course, you can “buff up” the style with different experience points that you earn.

Now, gaining the experience points is the fun part. Like before, you earn it by beating up the same sort of street scum whose faces are just as punchable as ever before. It’s the simplest way to earn experience points, but there are many different ways to do it. Playing different minigames can help boost certain experience parameters, as well as eating certain foods and working out at the gym. All of which have their benefits to help earn experience a lot faster.

It’s always fun to see what sort of items and combos you can create with Kazuma. Whether it’s slamming thugs on cars or slamming their back on the railings, the fighting in the game entertained me fully and kept me wanting to learn more moves to pour the hurtin’ on Kamurocho’s thugs.

A Masterful Story

The main thing that drove this game was the story, and, oh boy, you better be prepared for a real tearjerker.

The game picks up almost three years after the events of Yakuza 5. If you didn’t play that one (shame on you … and me!), the game provides  flashbacks of the final moments to make sure you’re caught up. Going further, if you’re entirely a newcomer to the series there’s a ‘Memories’ option on the start screen that highlights key points from each of the games.

The synopsis is very simple. Haruka has gone missing and turns victim to a hit-and-run accident. What would you say if I told you that was only scratching the surface? New mysteries were unfolding whenever Kazuma had an answer. A huge arc involves the identity of the mysterious baby. There are plot twists at almost every turn and even a large conspiracy that has been taken to the grave in Hiroshima.

The ending to this game is something that I felt pleased with. It felt right knowing that Kazuma’s story was finally at an end. From losing his best friend, his lover, or fellow colleagues he made during his adventures, Kazuma can begin a new life and finally throw his yakuza one away.

Out For JUSTIS

One of the main features added to the game is Clan Creator. To put it bluntly, it’s very similar to that of a strategy game. You can build your clan, appropriately named ‘Kiryu Clan’, and recruit members as you battle your rival clan known as JUSTIS for control of Kamurocho and Hiroshima.

It has very simple controls. You can deploy up to 100 men to fight the many enemies that are in your way to the big boss at the very end.

In the beginning, you basically have a fighter and a heavy hitter. You recruit fighters that have many different abilities to help to turn the battle in your favor. Some abilities include one that heals while another has a deadly dropkick. However and whenever you want to use them is totally up to you, but be sure to strategize before so you know how many enemies you have to defeat and how many fighters are at your disposal.

At first, this mode really didn’t pique my interest as I’ve historically not been a fan of strategy games. But after playing it a few times, I was surprised at how simple and easy to understand it was. It’s fun to just let your fighters loose and cause havoc to gain an edge in the fight. It’s also an easy way to farm money and experience points, so if you’re running low on cash, give Clan Creator a shot.

“Flirting with the girls in the cabaret club felt more natural than getting a cam star to strip for you in the online chat, which felt kinda awkward.”

Wanna stop at the cabaret or arcade?

If you want to kill time between missions and have fun, the mini-games are here for you. Kamurocho and Hiroshima are literally filled with different games to help pass the time. There’s so much to do in such a big area; you can hit up Club SEGA for some arcade action or even sing along in karaoke. How about a friendly game of Mahjong or practice your batting skills?

Whatever it is, this game probably has it for you. The feeling of running around and playing in the arcade (do those still exist?) was amazing. There are some classic SEGA titles that are available such as Virtua Fighter 5, Fantasy Zone and Puyopuyo, just to name a few.

Besides arcade games, there is so much more, like visiting the local cabaret club or doing an online chat. Flirting with the girls in the cabaret club felt more natural than getting a cam star to strip for you in the online chat, which felt kinda awkward. Nevertheless, it’s one of the crazy things you’ll encounter in the game.

Another interesting tool is ‘Troublr’. It’s an app that notifies you if there are people in danger or are in need of assistance. Accepting these missions puts you in dangerous and weird scenarios. From saving a woman from falling off a building, beating up thugs from mugging people, to even buying toilet paper in a “stinky” situation, your kind acts will not go unnoticed.

Not to mention numerous amount of sub-stories there are for you to complete, some of which happen spontaneously. From buying collectibles and fighting ghosts, helping two people in an identity crisis, or meeting an old friend from almost 30 years ago, these stories can be hilarious, serious or sometimes both. It’s just another way to pass the time during gameplay.

Summary

When I offered to review this game, I knew going into it that it was going to be one hell of a finale, and sure enough, it was. The hours ticked by as I progressed deeper, trying to absorb every minute of the story, and I did my best to make sure I didn’t leave any details unnoticed.

Yakuza 6 is a spectacular experience, with a compelling story, immensely satisfying gameplay, amazing graphics and scenery that left me in awe. Now that I’ve reached the end of Kazuma’s story, I’m sad that I know we won’t see him star in another Yakuza title, and I’m sure many others will feel the same. Even though SEGA is continuing the franchise without our stoic hero, they wrapped up his story in the most dramatic way possible.

I highly recommend this game for those who are still unsure about the series. Again, you don’t need to know anything going into it as the game does a proficient job getting you up to speed. Kazuma Kiryu will forever be known as the Dragon of Dojima throughout the legends of the Yakuza series and will forever be the yakuza with the heart of gold,  standing for those who cannot fight.

PROS

  • A story that keeps you on your heels.
  • Excellent combat and responsive controls.
  • Minigames that are littered all over the map.
  • A big ship and Kiryu-aniki!

CONS

  • Short list of 2-player minigames
  • Very little Majima
  • Kazuma’s final game

Diego Agado Jr.

Currently a student at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Huge Sonic and SEGA fan. Location: Probably in bed.

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