Developed By Sega Published by Sega
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
*This is a spoiler free review.
It’s no secret that most of the CFG Games crew are fans of the Yakuza series since the PlayStation 2 days. Personally, this game is in my personal top five franchises of all time. I’ve always been captivated by the incredible story telling, brutal action, and of course, the shining jewel that is Kamurocho. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life marks the end of the main line series games and it really goes out with a bang.
Yakuza 6 picks up right where Yakuza 5 left off and it’s an emotional ride from start to end. Sega went as far as to build an entirely new engine to work with and their efforts paid off. The presentation and level of detail is staggering. The important characters and thugs you beat the crap out of have detailed clothes, realistic faces, and fluid animation. The use of lighting is exceptionally good. Roaming around the two playable locales at different times of day makes them feel like completely different environments. The excellent lighting in the cutscenes makes everything really ooze with style. The facial expressions and detail environment details are top notch. Even the menus have received a nice touch up. The health and heat gauges are especially pleasing.
Of course, presentation doesn’t mean jack if there isn’t good gameplay to back it. Yakuza 6 delivered here as usual, though some interesting changes were made here. The combat system will be both familiar and initially jarring to long time fans. You still use a combination of light and heavy attacks to string together combos, build up your heat gauge, and then deliver devastating heat actions. You also have a new ability called extreme heat mode. When you have filled your energy to at least one orb, you can trigger a mode that gives Kiryu a boost to his stats and allows for more extreme finishers. Oddly, Kiryu’s legendary fighting style feels a bit slow at the beginning, but as you earn experience that can make him faster, more powerful, and take much harder hits. The experience system also ties exploring the world and combat together quite nicely.
In previous entries of the series, shopping, eating at restaurants, and fighting used to be separate experiences. In Yakuza 6, however, everything has been streamlined by integrating each element into a new experience system. Eating certain food grants one of five different experience types. Each type can be used to upgrade specific aspects such as health, new heat moves, how fast you can combo, and more. A good game play loop involves eating to get experience, exploring and fighting, and leveling up. Repeating this was quite easy and it felt natural. Nearly everything combat related was maxed by the end of my first run through the game and it felt appropriate to the difficulty scaling throughout the campaign.
Long time fans might not take to the new combat and experience system right away. A lot of the heat actions that you can unlock can be VERY situational and some of them just aren’t as bad ass as some of the earlier entries. There are also times when the physics for objectives and characters get a bit wonky, breaking the immersion just a bit. These are small nitpicks because Yakuza 6 otherwise runs at an ultra smooth 60 frames per second with nary a stutter. After the first quarter of the game, I was very much enjoying the new changes. The boss fights are especially thrilling this time because of the use of mini cinematics at specific health points. Each boss also have something unique to offer even in this crazy series.
Between Onomichi and Kamurochos in Yakuza 6, there is quite a bit to get done. Mahjong, darts, hostess cubs, and a fully functioning arcade are just a few of the many things you’ll find. ALL of them are a pleasure to partake in. I was very fond of the karaoke mini game and the hostess clubs. Between these mini games, the side stories, and the main plot, you will have a ton to do. Everything is bolstered by great sound effects, a great sound track, and tight responsive controls. Most importantly, all of the side games and events are now also fully voice acted!
The main story is an emotional roller coaster. Previous games had interesting plot lines that dragged Kiryu right back into the Tojo Clan’s issues, but Yakuza 6 delivers the most personal of stories. The strong acting talent, combined with strong use of cinematography and music, makes all the dramatic moments more intense and the tender moments heart wrenching. The game features Kitano “Beat” Takeshi and a host of other talented actors. Their expressive facial animations and the Dragon Engine’s visual fidelity really bring everyone to life. No character is one dimensional and that makes everything much more juicy. The ending had me so wrapped up in emotions and is a fitting finale for Kiryu’s journey.