A Grand Finale
One of the longest running franchises in Sony’s large catalog of exclusives, Yakuza has graced every iteration of the PlayStation since its debut on the PS2. The series has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but the saga is close to hearts of many Sony fans. All of it culminated to this: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, a powerful and emotional experience that left me yearning for more. To me, this game was better than God of War. But we’ll take a look at it from a critical standpoint and leave the gushing in the prologue.
Yakuza 6 sees Kiryu imprisoned (again) for the events of Yakuza 5. He wants to retire, taking his sentence and earned an early release. Haruka, the daughter figure Kiryu raised since she was a toddler, had left her idol stardom behind to return home at the same time as Kiryu’s sentencing. In a tragic turn of events, Haruka leaves the orphanage Kiryu runs, only to be missing when he’s finally released. The early stages of Yakuza 6 sees Kiryu hunting for Haruka, only to learn she had been struck by a vehicle and let in a critical coma – with her baby boy. From here, Kiryu sets out to find the boy’s father.
The first thing you’ll notice as you traverse Komorocho and Onomichi (in Tokyo and Hiroshima respectively) is the sheer beauty of the open world. Just about everything you run into can be interacted with, and each restaurant, convenience store, chat shop, gameroom, and more are enterable. Enemies met on the street no longer morph you into a battle screen but engage you if you draw their attention, allowing for much more interactive battles and the ability to navigate around or retreat from them. Every vending machine comes stocked with dozens of drink options, each with different benefits for Kiryu. Truly, the open world of Yakuza 6 shines like few others, and it’s one that fully engulfed me into the game.
As usual, Yakuza 6 is filled brimming with countless hours of gameplay. The main story will run you about 20 hours, but the numerous side quests, Troublr missions (an app that informs Kiryu if trouble is brewing in the neighborhood), and minigames can add at least a dozen extra hours. Let’s not forget the clan mode, too, where Kiryu leads strategic assaults on specified targets in an RTS of sorts. Personally, I spent the most of my free time in the batting cages, clearing all of the home run and runs scored challenges.
Now, most of this game wouldn’t work if it were for shoddy controls. Fortunately, Yakuza 6 features the best controls in the series. Combat is simple to learn but difficult to master, requiring a blend of timing, strategy, and skill to come away with most victories (unlikes Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza 6 relies less on healing your way through combat and more on skill). Controls are similar to Yakuza 5 in terms of combat, with the square and triangle button offering regular and power attacks respectively. The environment felt much more immersible in combat, though, with so many objects wieldable and architecture usable. In other words, you can use pretty much the entire world as your weapon if you have enough of your dragon power charged up.
If I’m being honest, I thoroughly enjoyed this game — so much so that I would recommend it over the likes of God of War, which I rated a perfect 100. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Yakuza 6 is worthy of a perfect score, but it certainly sits high on my list of PS4 games. I happened to play this one right around the time my daughter was born, so the premise of the game really hit home. Still, Yakuza 6 continues to prove why Sony’s exclusives are some of the best games on the markets and are real console sellers.
Should you be a fan of the Yakuza franchise, Yakuza 6 will keep you entertained and leave you satisfied as the credits roll. For me, Yakuza 6 shines above Kiwami, as the entire experience and control schema surpasses its prequel brethren. Its visuals, controls, narrative, and sound all create an immersive and lifelike world, and the game makes its characters both likeable and believable. Should you be in the market for a 30+ hour open world experience, take a spin with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. It’s worth the investment as a fan of the franchise and worth the risk as a newcomer.