Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

R 529
8

Story

9.0/10

Performance

8.0/10

Gameplay

7.0/10

Visuals

8.0/10

Pros

  • An amazing story that enthrals and pays off at the end
  • Beautifully rendered visuals and nuanced detail bring life to what should be bland locales
  • Seemingly lived-in cities that offer countless activities

Cons

  • Wonky framerates on the standard PlayStation 4
  • Overly long cutscenes during trivial side missions can get tedious

I have to admit I have never been a fan of the Yakuza games. I have always found fault in the way the games play and how they are structured. Although Yakuza 5 was great, I found it to be quite frustrating to play; more so than I would have liked. So when Yakuza 6: The Song of Life landed at the Vamers office, I was skeptical as to what it would be like. Nevertheless, I gave it a go and found that it is quite a good ride. I was also surprised to learn Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the final instalment in the franchise.

To me, the game is decent because it not only closes off plot points that opened up way back in Yakuza 2, but it also stands on its own as a solid adventure, mostly free from the ties that would typically bind a sequel. I enjoyed it, and I will tell you why in this Vamers Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review.

A wonderful end [Story]

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a direct sequel to Yakuza 5. It follows directly after the events of the previous game. Here, Kazuma Kiryu, one of the series protagonists, is hospitalised. This initial start to the story is told through an hour long cutscene that sets up the plot of the game: Kiryu is arrested by police while in the hospital, only to be released three years later. He returns home and finds that Haruka, a young girl who views him as her father-figure, ran away and hid after she announced that she would no longer be working for or with the Yakuza.

Right out of prison, Kiryu makes it his mission to track her down. However, the journey is not all sunshine and rainbows. Kiryu eventually tracks her down, only to find she was the subject of a hit-and-run, and now lies in the hospital; and that she had a child with a boy who has an absentee father. Kiryu, who wants to make it right with Haruka, leaves in search for the boy’s father. This is essentially where the game comes into itself as a proper Yakuza title: Kiryu, the so-called Dragon of Dojima, still has what it takes to take on anyone who stands in his way. And this time, he has a daughter and grandson to worry about.

Unlike previous Yakuza titles, Yakuza 6 features a meaty plot with multiple twists. One of my biggest gripes with previous games is that they are lacking in substance, more so than was necessary. I think that fans of the franchise would argue the nature of the games is not to have role-playing game levels of storytelling, but that they offer a great story for the action adventure games that they are – those people are correct. I, however, still found them lacking. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, on the other hand, proves to be an engaging game from the start through to the very end.

The game delivers constant drama and action, which could make or break it for many players. There are very few reprieves from the dramatic story (more on that below) that are worthwhile. While this creates an environment where you can pick the story up after being away for any length of time, it is also a cause of some frustration. In essence, the game constantly throws enemies and plot points at you; all whilst expecting you to be ready for the action. There is exploration as well, mind you, and a heck of a lot of it. The beauty of Yakuza 6 is that no matter where you go, the story follows.

I actually liked this method of storytelling. It is reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games in that they offer exploration at no expense of the story. Unless you go out of your way to avoid any and all storylines and narrative subplots, you will constantly have tiny bits and pieces of story and lore exposed to you as you play.

Is this real life? [Gameplay]

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is, for the most part, a third-person action adventure title. Throughout the game, two main locales are showcased: Kamurocho and Onomichi. Both cities are dense, robust, and rife with life. While non-playable characters (NPCs) tend to be a little less in population count than I would like, cities feel lived in and immersive.

Kiryu can go just about anywhere he wishes – with a few limitations. There are multitudes of stores, internet cafes, arcades, and bars that the player, as Kiryu, can visit. All of these have lives of their own, with patrons of their own. While some of the stores and arcades could do with higher head counts, they never feel unwanted or empty. This is a recurring theme throughout Yakuza 6.

Minigames and distractions are a dime a dozen in this game as well. I mention above that the game likes to throw constant drama at the player. This stays true throughout. However, the one reprieve players get is in the copious amounts of small things you can do. These range from karaoke in bars to taking part in cage fights; video games via the Sega Arcade; darts, and even countless food options that you can explore at the various restaurants and cafes throughout both cities. Kiryu can visit adult chat rooms and chat up (and dress down) naughty women via the Internet Cafe, and take part in forums where he can become popular among the participants. Via a “social media” app, Kiryu can even help police hunt down criminals, take part in treasure hunts, and search for collectable keys that lead to locked safes that are scattered about town. Heck, Kiryu can even feed stray cats and help find them homes!

Progression in Yakuza 6 is also somewhat different from what I can remember in previous titles. This time around, Kiryu is “built” in much the same way that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ Carl Johnson was: Kiryu gains muscle, agility, guts, technique, and charm, through the activities that he partakes in. Muscle, for instance, is gained by eating lots of food, and taking part in cage battles; while technique and charm can be raised by flirting with pretty vixens on internet chat rooms. Similarly, each mission, side mission, and street brawl Kiryu partakes in will net the player points that can be spent on flashier skills and additional moves.

Once you are done gallivanting about town and finally hit the plot again, one of my biggest gripes with the game comes to light: cutscenes.

As a huge fan of just Japanese games, especially of the Visual Novel and Role-playing Game variety, I have come to expect drawn-out cutscenes and long and lengthy lore dumps. However, I cannot say I have ever experienced huge cutscenes during side missions! The charm of Yakuza 6 is that just about every facet of the game has voice overs. The problem, however, is that doing a simple side mission that should not take longer than 30 minutes, would usually stretch to 45, or even 60 minutes!

Besides that, the game really stands on its own as a well-balanced, well-oiled machine that kept me busy for the better part of 25 hours. To top it all off, the game also looks incredible.

Intricate and beautiful [Performance & Visuals]

Past Yakuza titles have never been pretty, in my opinion. They used to be rife with aesthetic compromises that stood out like sore thumbs, all in the name of smooth gameplay. This is by no means a bad thing. However, it did result in games that age badly. This is largely why both Yakuza, and its sequel Yakuza 2, were remade, from the ground up, and released at around the same time as Yakuza 6: The Song of Life first released in Japan.

That problem does not persist to the last instalment. Yakuza 6 is built on a brand-new game engine that not only improves the visuals tenfold, but also allows for outstanding, never-before-seen in this franchise, gameplay improvements.

The new engine, which is called the “Dragon engine”, manages to shine a light on detail I would have only expected to see in a very good first-person title – the kind of game where details matter. However, Yakuza 6 manages to look incredible, regardless of location, mission type, or NPC mood. There is a certain, intricate attention to detail that I see showcased in this game that not even Final Fantasy XV managed to pull off, and that is a hell of a feat.

You can find that same attention to detail in characters as well. Facial animations are beyond anything I would have ever imagined. Of course, there is the case of lipsynching, and the fact that character mouths never really hit the mark, but that is a minor quibble in what is otherwise an incredible game to experience. Even hair moves naturally and beautifully in the ways that you would expect hair to move.

As for how the game performs, I can safely say the game is a star. It is confirmed that the game runs at a capped 900p resolution for anyone who plays on a regular PlayStation 4 (like myself); while it renders at full-high-definition 1,080p on a PlayStation 4 Pro. The game seems to be locked at 30 frames per second (FPS), regardless of the platform, and it causes some odd issues.

The 30fps lock not only results in strange screen-tearing during quieter scenes in small locations, but also results in an unnecessarily jittery experience. I feel like this is a huge bummer, given that an unlocked framerate or even smooth-framerate adjustment system would have had surmountable leverage over an otherwise standard method of merely locking frames. With that said, I have read that the same problems are nonexistent on PlayStation 4 Pro models.

Regardless of frames, the game always loaded fast and never made me feel like it wasted my time with unnecessary waiting.

Unforgettable masterpiece [Conclusion]

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a great game. At first, I was very hesitant to play the game and actually enjoy it. However, as time passed and I had the opportunity to think about it, I found myself actually returning to the game, which is a rare thing for me nowadays.

Despite my lack of glee when I first received the game and my unwillingness to actually play it. and despite my criticisms of things such as unwanted cutscenes during side missions or bad handling of framerates on the standard PlayStation 4, the game really managed to have a positive and unforgettable impact on me.

Not only does Yakuza 6 look incredible, compared to all of the main instalments that came before it; but it also serves to tell a compelling story. I spoke to a friend about the game, and they mentioned that it plays like a proper television drama, which is the most pertinent description I have ever come across for a Yakuza title. That also explains why the game was so hard to like, only to realise I had become a huge fan of it after just a few hours.

When asked about the game, I would constantly tell people that it is an “okay” game. The big reason for this is that it has no special “wow” moment, or fancy, flashing lights and explosive scenes. However, since then, I have been enthralled by the game for two reasons: story and detail. Sure, Yakuza 6 is an “okay” game… but if you like narrative stories, that look great, include intricate character interactions that you would only see in soapies and television dramas, and the kind of stories that love to throw plot twists at you, this is definitely the game for you.


Hours to Complete 20+ Hours
Difficulty Normal
Platform PlayStation 4
Acquisition Review copy courtesy of Gamefinity

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About Edward Swardt

From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.

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