Review: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4)

Review: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (36.54 GB)
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The audio review for this game is available on Episode 567 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
I was hesitant to jump into Yakuza 6: The Song of Life without having played any of the previous installments. Now that I’ve done it, I am angry at myself for not playing this series before.

The latest game in the franchise is surprisingly not a bad starting point for newcomers. Ideally I would have preferred to start at the beginning, but I don’t regret my first Yakuza game being this one.

The game picks up soon after the events of Yakuza 5, Kiryu is severely injured and finds himself incarcerated for three years. Shortly after being released, he heads to the orphanage he runs only to find out the girl he had raised, Haruka has runaway.

Kiryu begins to search for her and things get terribly dark. Haruka was in a car accident and is in coma and she also has a one year old child. The accident seems suspicious so Kiryu is determined to find out the truth.

I know this sounds like a lot of potential spoilers, but this is all from the first chapter, most of which you spend watching cutscenes.

The story quickly expands as Kiryu learns that while he was gone, Japan has been in the middle of a gang war, with factions and subfactions in all out war. Everyone is trying to take turf and the cities are suffering for it.

The main thread revolving around Haruka is interesting, despite its soap opera tendencies, but the gang stories and sub stories are what hooked me. Filled with dramatic reveals and intriguing characters that I know little about, I found myself fascinated, which has fueled my interest in playing the previous games. The world that’s been built up and the characters that fill it all feel important while the hints at possible references to their past sound amazing.

Enough about the story, I have a lot to say and because I don’t want to spoil anything, I will stop here and talk about the gameplay.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is an open world game and while it doesn’t compare to the size and scope of other open world games like Grand Theft Auto, it makes up for it with worthwhile content.

The side stories are fantastic, often going to strange and fascinating places. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously outside of the main story and will often put the stone faced Kiryu in bizarre situations, be it infiltrating a cult, or interacting with a girl who claims she can time travel. Kiryu is a patient man who puts up with a crazy world, often listening to people’s tales and finding ways to help them.

Sure, most main missions and side quests just lead to punching and kicking dudes, but the stories that get you to that point are so appealing that the lack of ways of solving them is easily overlooked. Often times in open world games side quests are nothing, just filler with little to no payoff in terms of plot, but in Yakuza all the side missions have something to motivate you in terms of story.

For those looking for minigames, just as in the previous games in the franchise there is plenty to do here. There world is filled with activities and you’ll find everything from romancing hostesses to playing arcade games. There are even two-player games of Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter, both of which can be found in the game and separately in the main menu. I could go on about the retro arcade games and singing karaoke though I would rather leave some of the minigames for you to find organically.

Instead of pumping the world with filler, Yakuza 6 instead goes for quality. I didn’t find pointless unrewarding side quests and the minigames are actually fun and not some sort of afterthought created to take up space. Everything feels curated and with purpose.

I mentioned before that most missions are resolved with fighting and I will not spend too much time laying out the mechanics simply because I found it to be simple.

Combat is rather straightforward, you have a light and heavy attack along with a dodge and other moves you’d find in an action brawler. Kiryu also has button combinations that you can unlock that feature more powerful/stylish moves.

Overall I found the combat to be easy though there are definitely some challenging moments when it comes to boss fights that make leveling up essential. I never grew tired of the fighting. I felt like a badass because Kiryu is a badass and anytime someone called him “grandpa” I was more than happy to unleash the fury and put them in their place.

Visuals:
The world is gorgeous, just flat out gorgeous, from the vibrant neon lights of Kamurocho to the beautiful sunsets of Hiroshima. Each location is vastly different and shows off the graphics in different ways. The condensed nature of the big city is impressive with crowds of people filling the streets and plenty of buildings to go into with little to no loading.

Transitions from cutscenes to gameplay can be seamless though it isn’t a consistent element. My only complaint is while the character models themselves look fantastic their facial animations are stiff. Sometimes it was hard to take a scene seriously when the voice acting was doing its best to express deeper emotions and the facial animations could barely reflect it.

You can even tell when more animation work was put into one character over another which can sometimes hurt the overall impact of scene when you see one character being less expressive than another. Kiryu looks good though with his stoic looks that say so much with so little.

Audio:
The game retains its Japanese voice acting with the only translation being done in subtitles. I think it was a great choice to only do subtitles as I found the Japanese voice acting to be well done and compelling. Each of the performances from the main characters are well acted and despite my reliance on the subtitles, I found myself drawn in by their acting.

As for the music, it’s on par with the voice acting. Combat music is intense and the dramatic story elements are accompanied by a score that compliments them well. Plus there’s the karaoke that lets you hear the serious Kiryu sing pop songs with an unexpected passion.

Online/Multiplayer:
Now while this is primarily a single player game there is some two player action to be found in the arcades with Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown playable locally for two players and as a nice touch, you can access them directly through the main menu.

Conclusion:
I got a lot out of Yakuza 6 as a newcomer and I can only imagine how satisfying the story will be for longtime fans of the series. It was compelling from start to finish and I don’t even know about any of the deep cuts or easter eggs that are likely scattered throughout the story. The game does a good job conveying some backstory at the beginning for those hesitant to jump into the franchise with this one.

The open world aspect is filled to the brim with worthwhile content and while its size and scope may seem small in comparison to other games, even previous games in the series, it’s a refined experience that trims the fat.

I cannot recommend this game enough, it’s got the right combination of heart and silliness that makes it feel special. Kiryu is one of the best leading men in gaming and I am ashamed it took me this long to learn this.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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