Reviews March 15, 2018

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: PS4
Genre: Action Adventure
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 04/17/2018
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA

Kiryu Kazuma is hard man to keep down. After nearly succumbing to the injuries he sustained during an encounter with a rival, he gets arrested for his connections to the Tojo Clan – they had recently participated in a war (of sorts) with competing Yakuza. Not looking to cause anymore trouble, Kazuma doesn’t resist. Fast forward three years and our favorite ex-con is a free man. With a new lease on life, Kazuma does what we’d all do. He returns home to visit his family.

While our hero was away, his “daughter” Haruku went missing; she left the orphanage he founded to parts unknown. Figuring he could easily find her, given her status as an ex-idol, Kazuma promises to track her down. Of course, like every Yakuza game, things are never that simple. His initial investigation leads him to a comatose Haruka. Apparently, she got hit by a car and left to die while visiting Kamurocho…with her newborn son…

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Yakuza 6: The Song of Life features the same dramatic story beats as previous titles. At the same time, it’s plot feels fresh. With heartwarming events, gut-wrenching twists, and script that would put some prime-time TV shows to shame, the end to Kazuma’s journey is unexpectedly amazing. And by that, I mean it’s better than I thought it would be. Starting with a dynamic shift in tone; like Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, our man is left with a child in which he has zero experience with. Not only that, his time in the big house puts him at odds with today’s technology and trends (today being sometime in 2016). Watching this hardboiled guy learn how to care for a baby while navigating through the trials of being “old”, leads to a strong emotional attachment that goes beyond wanting to see him beat up some bad guys.

Given Kazuma’s growth, I was over the moon excited to see how SEGA handled the series’ other popular characters. They didn’t disappoint. The supporting cast is as whacky as they ever were, with an undeniable charm that makes it easy to get lost in the narrative. Seriously, I was up at all hours of the night trying to work my way down to “just one more cutscene before bed”. That even true of the bad guys. Though there are plenty of people who’d need a swift kick to the face before the dust settled, what makes kicking them fun is how jerky they can be. What makes all of this great is the fact that SEGA made sure to bring everyone up to speed via a proper recap. The joy of seeing old friends and the thrill of punching rivals isn’t lost on anyone, regardless of how many of the previous games they’ve played.

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SEGA pull out all the stops for Song of Life’s story. The same can be said about the environments that Kazuma traverses. Though the actual maps are smaller than what we’ve come to expect from similar titles, SEGA provides real open world gameplay. From the NPC’s that provide meaningful, yet silly side quests to the various establishments you can freely walk into, these densely populated areas are full of life. Then there are the activities/minigames. Karaoke bars, arcades (complete with full versions of SEGA classics), fishing holes – each activity helps to immerse the player while offering a reprieve from the main story.

Going back to the side quests for a bit, I really enjoyed how they’re implemented. Even if a side quest wasn’t directly tied to the story or had a crazy premise, they never felt like a waste of time. Because they were diverse in playfulness and severity, I really had no idea what was up next. Wait until y’all meet, what I have deemed, “evil Siri.” It’s hilarious yet creepy all at the same time. They also weren’t regulated to some far-off region of the city; they’d typically be positioned near points of interest, allowing me to complete main and side quests at the same time. Good times!

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While most of Yakuza 6 is a blast to experience, there are a few nagging issues that needs to be addressed. Some inconsistences in the graphics department for instance. The only one worth mentioning though is the overly simplified combat. I understand that it’s part “beat em up”, but why is the combat so much of a button masher? With a lack of different combos, you find yourself just pressing away at the base attack button until you dwindle your opponent’s life down. The attacks don’t change much at all over the course of the game – the progression system main purpose is to deal out stat boosts – with the most exciting moves regulated to the finishing cinematics. The fighting becomes more difficult because of the amount of people you fight, but never because the combatants are hard to defeat. The final boss fight took longer than most. That said, I still didn’t feel challenged. Why? Because I was able to button mash my way through…

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All of this to say, there is no reason on earth to not play Yakuza 6. Sure, the combat makes things a bit too easy for my liking. That didn’t ruin my overall experience though. The story is well written, the cities are fun to explore and the minigames are entertaining/help with immersion. It looks good too; the series always had a sense of style when it came to the character design and such. I do wish I could have changed Kazuma’s clothes – allowing him to don a pin stripped suit would have been everything. And there was more than a few duplicate NPC’s walking around. Like the shallow combat, these are minor details given how great everything else is. If you have a PS4, you should definitely check this title out when it’s released in April. I can’t wait to be able to discuss the story with some of you in due time!  

Gameplay: 8
The basic combat is the only real blow here. Everything else has more than fighting chance of pleasing fans.

Graphics: 8
The cutscenes look great and there’s plenty of visual information to take in while exploring. It’s basically like taking a trip to Japan, only not.

Sound: 10
SEGA knocked it out of the park in the sound department.

Replay Value: 7
The story is great, so I’m sure some fans will want to replay the campaign. Also, all of the Sega arcade mini games are available to play with friends.

Final Score:

8.3