Yakuza 6: The Song of Life review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Medium: Blu-ray/Disc
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

I really dig Yakuza 6: The Song of Life despite it feeling like a somewhat smaller game than Yakuza 4 and 5. I thought maybe stepping back from the multiple protagonist angle of those entries would feel like a step back for the series, but the focus on series hero Kazuma Kiryu actually feels like the right move, especially considering how personal the story is for the history of the character. The opening events involving his now grown-up ward Haruka propel things forward at a quick pace, which helps make up for some of the more meandering moments found in the previous entries.

That?s not to say the experience isn?t on-rails by any means. You?ll still be given ample time to explore the streets of Kamurocho and other areas throughout. You?ll also find plenty of the traditional side activities like Mahjong and Hostess Bars, along with new activities like Live Chat and managing your own local baseball team. There?s plenty to do in Yakuza 6, with almost all activities benefiting Kazuma by aiding his overall stats and abilities in some way. So even if you?re wasting time in the arcade playing Virtua Fighter 5, you?ll still see a bit of progression via side goals that?ll help when you finally decide to progress in the story.

Likewise, the trademark beat ?em up style of combat feels largely familiar, with slight changes. The game engine incorporates physics for inanimate objects, so Kiryu or enemies can occasionally topple over, kick, and interact with objects around them differently than before. Also, you?re no longer confined to an arena box when fighting out on the streets, you can freely run around and let enemies chase you in order to get some breathing room. One thing to note is that Yakuza 6 does feel a little easier than some of the previous entries, even when compared to newer titles like Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 0, but you can adjust the difficulty if you?re feeling overpowered early on.

Story is generally the appeal of the Yakuza series for a lot of people, and I don?t think Yakuza 6 disappoints. As I mentioned before, this is a fairly personal tale for Kazuma Kiryu, despite the involvement of the Tojo clan, the Korean Mafia, and Chinese Triads. There?s a lot of wheels spinning the plot at all times, but it?s never difficult to follow or understand. If you?re new to the series, or have only played through Yakuza 0, there is an optional catch-up video built into the game menu that?ll run you through the storyline up to Yakuza 6. But even without that, it?s honestly not difficult to follow. My only real complaint is that little of the supporting cast outside of Detective Date and Akiyama make much of an appearance here, so Majima fans should prepare for a little bit of disappointment.

While you?ve got until April to wait, I?d definitely suggest checking out Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, whether you?ve checked out every entry to date or not. It?s a pretty solid Yakuza tale, and it builds upon the progression and combat systems from the previous games pretty well. The side stories are fun and weird (sentient cleaning robots?), and there?s still a hefty number of side activities to explore. It?s a great looking game with some minor technical issues, and will likely provide the average player with dozens of gameplay hours. I have zero idea where the series goes from here, but I hope we?ll see more outside of the Kiwami remakes in the near future.

Note: Sega provided us with a Yakuza 6 PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-