Yakuza 6 is the final chapter in the series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu’s story – The legendary Dragon of Dojima has had a long and wild ride throughout the series meeting memorable characters and singing all kinds of karaoke (Most importantly)…
Yakuza is a series I only recently got into… Sadly, I was not able to play Yakuza 2 – 5 due to a number of reasons but I am certainly glad I got caught up as fast as I did since this is one story I think everyone who loves this series will remember for a long time.
The story now revolves once again around Kiryu’s foster daughter Haruka, who after the events of Yakuza 5 had gone missing for about 3 years – In those three years Kiryu was spending his time in prison, mainly so he can later live peacefully at the orphanage with the other kids he’d been caring for alongside Haruka.
Upon being released from prison he finds out that not only has Haruka been in a terrible accident, but she also had a child in the time Kiryu was locked up… This all leads to Kiryu going on a chase to find out who could have done such a thing to Haruka, who could be the father of the child and if that wasn’t enough, tensions are rising between the Yakuza clans and the Chinese Triad.
Now I have to say that the story is by far the best thing about this game. It takes you on such an amazing journey and introduces you to so many great characters in such a short amount of time – The first couple of chapters are straight up adorable as they involve Kiryu going to Onomichi, Hiroshima in Japan to find out more about Haruka; you get into some small town antics and meet the locals; it’s great… But Hiroshima ain’t just some place you go once and never come back to; Onomichi is one of the keys to one of the bigger mysteries in the game’s story and you’ll be going between Kamurocho and Onomichi a lot.
The story has some absolutely fantastic (If not silly) twists that you can sometimes see coming from a mile away but still enjoy them all the same, and the emotional moments in this game are so great… I can admit that around the last couple of chapters I teared up and even cried like more than three times. Maybe I’m just a sucker for some melodrama but it was so great. This, and the fact that I think the story acts as a pretty good and somewhat classy way to end the Dragon of Dojima’s story.
The game barely had any fan-service, although I think they should have had much more of a particular character who was pretty much not present the entire game… But all around it was a satisfying story through and through even though it takes a little time to get to the good stuff.
As always returning to Kamurocho is always a delight, since you get to see how much has changed over the years. It’s a really cool feeling coming back to a place that feels all too familiar in a game, and with the use of the new Dragon Engine this game was made in, the city of Kamurocho has been given a new sense of verticality as you can now explore Kamurocho and Onomichi even further.
This is still kind of underused though since I did not find myself actively trying to get up every building and really scour for new stuff since there usually wasn’t that much stuff up there. The Dragon Engine also helps out in the fact that everything is one large flowing world now and you don’t have to go through loading screens whenever you want to enter a store or anything of that nature – You can even take fights into stores and restaurants if you feel like it!!
Now, the Dragon Engine is great for the open world and it’s absolutely fantastic for the story since even those boring-ish letterbox cutscenes have been completely removed for more cinematic cutscenes to keep you invested. Side Stories which are now a staple of the Yakuza series are also much more enjoyable because they’re all full voice acted and they look like proper cutscenes… But due to the increase in production value, the number of Side Stories are greatly reduced. That kinda sucks because the ones that are there aren’t too great but they’re definitely some good ones here and there. Also, I think the developers were really into the movies of Makoto Shinkai when writing these Side Stories since two of them reference two of his most famous movies, Your Name, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Where the Dragon Engine is detrimental to the game is when it comes to combat – To put it simply the combat system isn’t great; the best I can say about it is that it serves it’s purpose, but it feels so barebones and lifeless after what I had experienced in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. You now have a new Heat system which isn’t bad (Albeit a little overpowered), and yet you have probably the smallest list of Heat Moves I’ve ever seen. Out of all of them I could probably only remember 1 or 2 cool ones while in the previous titles there were just so many and all of them served some kind of purpose. The engine also likes to show off the new fancy physics and sometimes it doesn’t translate very well in combat since enemies start to ragdoll like crazy and stuff is flying everywhere at some points which leads to some really clunky and dumb looking fights.
The leveling up system has also been changed where now you have to get certain kinds of EXP to level up certain things such as Heat and Attack, as well as unlocking new moves and bonuses. I really didn’t care for this system a whole lot since it didn’t feel satisfying unlocking most things, mainly due to the fact that there wasn’t really a lot to unlock or at least anything worthwhile.
On the other hand combat shines pretty well when it comes to boss fights since they are primarily one on one encounters and usually are the most hype points in the game. I’m extremely glad that the devs noticed that the dynamic boss intros are downright the coolest ways to start a boss fight I’ve ever seen; I mean seriously, I got chills every single time one of those little intros showed up.
Now, it can’t be a Yakuza game without the side content, and I’m pretty pleased to say that Yakuza 6 might have some of the best mini-games from the two games that I have played. When it comes to small stuff the arcades have some pretty good games and there’s always the batting cages you can visit. Karaoke and host clubs are back and they’re as entertaining as always; you even have this weird mini-game where you kinda just watch a cam model undress and talk to you as you type in weird stuff in the chat, it’s still pretty hilarious since you can read what other people are writing in the chat and you can tell the translators had a pretty fun time localizing this game since you can see all the jokes and references they sprinkled in there.
One of the bigger mini-games is the Clan system where you recruit members and make a big ol’ team of thugs to fight in these small RTS styled missions until you beat the boss and finish the story based around it. I didn’t particularly like this too much but it’s still a neat thing to have around and you get some decent money from it.
I think the best mini-game of them all is just a straight up playable version of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. Like seriously I’ve put in just as much time into Virtua Fighter now as I have in the actual game. The very fact that I sometimes boot up Yakuza 6 just to play Virtua Fighter is kinda crazy to me. But it’s such a welcome addition.
I think in the end Yakuza 6 just did a really good job at concluding the story of Kazuma Kiryu. The new risks it takes with the Dragon Engine are totally in the favor of narrative while gameplay is just kinda pushed to the side. The narrative alone was enough to keep me invested though and I think that says a lot about how good the story and characters are. This is coming from a person who’s favorite games are mainly gameplay heavy, so although the gameplay is not that great in the end, the overall experience was a fun and memorable one.
I give Yakuza 6: The Song of Life an 8 out of 10
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