Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life
One man and a baby
The seventh main entry in the Yakuza series brings to a close the tale of Kazuma Kiryu, a character the franchise and its players have been invested in for over a decade. For the legendary fourth chairman’s swansong, Sega has scaled back many of the series’ expanded features, such as multiple protagonists and sprawling environments, in favour of an adventure that’s more concentrated, and consequently packs a far greater emotional punch. This downsized approach effectively serves two purposes: for long-time fans, it provides a focused and fitting send-off for its popular protagonist, and for newcomers, it’s a manageable sampling that acts as a suitable introduction to the long-running series. And Sega seems more than keen to use The Song of Life to swell the ranks of Yakuza fans; the game bends over backwards to ensure that the initiated aren’t at a loss when it comes to its extensive cast and complex past events. From the menu, players can select ‘Memories’ for a detailed overview of the events of all past Yakuza titles, swiftly getting up to speed on the main players and political intricacies. There’s also a lengthy intro which, apart from a brawl outside a bar with a drunken miscreant, doesn’t require any input from your digits whatsoever in the opening hour, but considering the events at the end of the last game play directly into the opening of this one, it’s somewhat necessary, if a tad long-winded. Like all games in the series, there’s a huge emphasis on story, and lengthy cutscenes are numerous throughout. Adamant to live out his later years as a civilian, Kiryu spends time behind bars to atone for his criminal past, but upon being released finds that his adoptive daughter Haruka is missing. Taking Haruka’s son into his care, his search for her takes him to the streets of Kamurocho and the country town of Onomichi, Hiroshima. This tense and twisting narrative rife with deception and intrigue sees Kiryu establish fragile alliances and fend off dangerous rival organisations. Familiar faces like Date and Akiyama return, while some fascinating newcomers are also introduced. At the core of this complex tale of violence and warring factions, however, is an altogether more touching story that proficiently explores family values, the bonds of friendship and the complexities of fatherhood in this crime-ridden world. When not engaging in lengthy dialogue, the main quests usually involve beating fifty shades of red out of opponents using a mix of fists and fast footwork. Combat has considerable depth, with a variety of combos and context-sensitive attacks. You’re frequently outnumbered by large groups of opponents and so crowd control is necessary if you’re going to come out on top. Grabbing an enemy and hurtling them around and into your opponents is extremely enjoyable, and everyday objects like street cones and bikes can be grabbed and used against enemies for a significant damage boost. Inflicting enough hurt allows you to enter Heat Mode, which culminates in a visually spectacular fist-flying finale. As wonderfully choreographed and executed as the combat
AT THE CORE OF THIS COMPLEX TALE OF WARRING FACTIONS IS AN ALTOGETHER MORE TOUCHING STORY THAT EXPLORES FAMILYVALUES
moves are, the sheer number of opponents can make battles feel quite clumsy. You can only lock on to one enemy at a time, and the dodge mechanic leaves a lot to be desired. A smaller number of more powerful enemies would have been welcome, and lent itself to better battle tactics and more satisfying showdowns. Victory in battle is rewarded with experience points, and there’s commendable freedom to the game’s upgrade system to allow you build Kiryu whatever way you like, whether that’s putting emphasis on basic attributes like attack power and defence, or learning new skills to give you more choice in combat. While it may not be quite as substantial as Yakuza Zero or 5 in terms of length, there’s still a plethora of side missions and extracurricular activities to engage in. Outside of the seriousness of the narrative the series also retains its distinctive flair for the peculiar. There’s a body-swapping duo, a time traveller and an overly intrusive phone app, to name but a few of the colourful characters that Kiryu encounters on his journey. Mini-games also make a comeback; Kiryu can kick back with a game of darts or baseball, or test his superstar quality with some karaoke. There’s a lot of varied content on offer and these prove an entertaining and carefree distraction to the main event. Some can even be beneficial in gaining extra EXP on the side, such as hitting the gym for a quick-time-event-based workout. Eating also rewards you with experience, making very little in the game actually feel like busywork. There are also some less-than-savoury activities that Kiryu can indulge in, such as Cabaret clubs. Although an authentic representation of adult entertainment, the sleazy dialogue options available in these chat-up sections feel at odds with Kiryu’s character, who’s otherwise portrayed as a wholly honourable individual. There’s also a severe lack of any other notable female representation, with women’s only other role outside of an object of desire being that of a babysitter. It’s hardly game ruining, but does make it feel rather outdated when it comes to the fair representation that other developers are pushing for. The Song Of Life may be smaller in scale, but it’s in no way lacking in what makes the series great. Its fluid action and bustling open world full of character will draw you in, while the deeply engrossing narrative will keep you hooked until the emotionally fuelled finale.
a fond and fitting farewell to Kazuma Kiryu 7/10
details Publisher sega Developer in-house PSN Price £49.99 Players 1
Yakuza 6 debuted in Japan two years ago, but it more than holds up visually today. Built from the ground up for PS4, players are able to see every glistening pore and pick up on every subtle facial expression, thanks to the new Dragon engine.