By Steve Baltimore / March 28th, 2018
|Title||Yakuza 6: The Song of Life|
|Release Date||April 17th, 2018|
I’ve always been interested in trying out the Yakuza series. I loved Sleeping Dogs and since these game looked similar in style, I thought I would really enjoy this series as well. When the time came to review Yakuza 6: The Song of Life I jumped at the chance to take it on. I know starting at the end of something isn’t the best idea, but I figured I had to start somewhere. Let’s see how this first foray into the Japanese underworld turned out!
Once again you assume the role of Kazuma Kiryu, who was sentenced to 3 years in prison for events that took place during the yakuza’s war of five cities. Haruka had quit being an idol and returned to her life at Morning Glory Orphanage. When Kiryu’s time was up he was supposed to reunite with Haruka and a much simpler life would begin, but things don’t go according to plan. Haruka’s retirement from the public eye didn’t come without strings attached. She was branded as girl with ties to the yakuza. She leaves the orphanage so the other children there can live a peaceful life.
After Kiryu’s release he returns home to find that Haruka’s not only been gone for a couple years but hasn’t contacted any member of the house in quite some time. He sets out to find her only to discover she has been in a hit and run accident. She’s in serious condition and to make matters worse it appears she has had a child during her time away from the orphanage. Kiryu begins a journey to find out who did this to Haruka and to find out the identity of the father of her child. This adventure will lead him to uncovering secrets no one was ever meant to know.
Even not playing any other game in the series I was immediately sucked into this story. This is in part due to the great writing and the fact that I loved every character in this story. There are so many plot twists and turns in this one it will make your head spin, but they all make sense. This story keeps you guessing the entire game, trying to figure out exactly what is going on. This was the conclusion of Kiryu’s storyline in the series, and I honestly can’t wait to go back and pick up the other games and see how he got here.
Graphically Yakuza 6 looks amazing. The city environments are very detailed and there are always a fair number of NPCs moving around to make the city feel alive. The character models are all nicely detailed, but some of the NPCs do look the same, though this is expected. The animation during the fight scenes is great. Pulling off Heat Moves and seeing your foes faces being mashed in and contorted in pain is just satisfying. The game runs at a great framerate all the time, but you will notice some screen tearing in Kamarucho since there are a ton of buildings and structures on screen at the same time.
I loved the soundtrack in this game. Lots of awesome metal and electronica tunes to kick ass to. The ambient sounds in this game add a lot to the overall experience. You will hear lots of different advertising jingles, people chattering and other background noise while exploring the city. These little details really seemed to make these environments come to life. The Japanese voice cast here did a fantastic job as well. You could tell they really got into these characters reading these lines, and it made the whole story more immersive.
The main storyline plays out as you might expect, through a large series of missions. These missions are all really straightforward. Get from point A to point B and beat up everyone that stands in your path along the way. If this was all there was to Yakuza 6 this would be a really boring game, but since this game is open world there are tons of other activities and sub stories to explore. You can play some classic SEGA titles in an arcade, play baseball, darts, Mahjong, visit the hostess club, and tons more. One of the more interesting of these side attractions is the Clan Creator. This is a strategy mini game that will have you recruiting members in order to take the down the rival JUSTIS clan. Each member you recruit has different skills to help your clan reach victory. These range from powerful attacks to healing abilities. Clan Creator is a great way to earn some cash and EXP for Kiryu to level up his various abilities.
The sub stories were for the most part very interesting and kinda crazy in some cases. These stories will have you hunting down scammers, chasing a robot that is trying to help his master propose to his gal, fighting ghosts, and lots more. I think the story about the AI app that was trying to take over world was probably my favorite. I mean, I can’t wait till Cortana has taken over every Windows PC in the world! These stories are not only entertaining but they provide lots of good EXP and even some items you can equip to boost your various stats. In addition to sub stories there are also some side missions you obtain through the Troublr app. These are basically very short side quests where you help people out with their problems. These include catching purse snatchers, fetch quests, and saving people from falling off buildings. While not really interesting story wise, they do provide some some extra EXP.
You can use all this earned EXP to level up Kiryu’s various stats and abilities. These range from your basic attack power and defense to giving him more moves in Heat Mode. Not all of these perks are related to combat. Some abilities will allow you to sprint further, have better luck with ladies at the hostess club, and even digest food faster. Digesting food faster will let you eat more for extra healing and you gain EXP when eat certain foods as well.
The game map is divided between two locations, Kamarucho red light district and Onomichi Jingaicho town. Kamarucho is the big city, lots of hustle and bustle here. There are tons of buildings and alleyways to explore. Onomichi is a more laid back rural area and while its not as be big as Kamarucho, there are still plenty of great things to check out here such as the shrines and docks for a fun diving mini game. Both locations have collectibles hidden for the player too, which I thought was a nice touch. The only issues I had with this setup is that you’re stuck in one area or the other while doing story missions. This game is supposed to be open world, so being restricted to one area or the other didn’t really sit well with me. Upon completing the main story line you will unlock Premium Adventure mode, which will allow you to explore both maps whenever you want with no story missions to get in the way.
Combat in Yakuza 6 is a pure joy. You can tell it went through a lot of refinement to get to this point because the button mashing combos are smooth as silk, and the combat animations are some of the hardest hitting you will ever see. In addition to the basic move set there are also Heat Moves. These are more exotic moves that do a great deal of damage. Some of these moves will require to you complete a QTE to pull off but many of the results are astounding. There are also tons of items laying around that can be used as weapons as well. These items include benches, bikes, road cones, knives and more. There are Heat Moves with weapons as well, so if you ever wanted to bash a guy’s head in with a road cone, here’s your chance.
There is a lot more I could say about Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, but without being long winded I think I’ve covered the basics here. I really loved this game despite it feeling a bit constrictive at times due to being stuck on one map. The combat is fun, the story is well written and draws you in from the start, and Kiryu is maybe my favorite male character in gaming ever now. They give a great recap at the front of this game for newcomers to the series and while I’m sure its much better to play the old games first, I never felt lost or like I was missing out. I put about 30 hours into this one and completed the main story mode. I could easily put in another 30 to experience everything the game had to offer. This title is well worth the $59.99 price tag. I would recommend this to anyone that loves action games, or folks looking for something new and different, because there is nothing else like this out there.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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