Guys… if you haven’t ever played a Yakuza game, now is the freakin’ time. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is one of the best, funniest, fullest featured action RPGs you’ll ever play. The latest in the tale of Kazuma Kiryu, it picks up immediately following the events of the last game. But fear not, there’s a really lengthy (but optional) explanation of the basic events of the series in the beginning of the game. This is the swan song for Kiryu, the main protagonist of the series for all 6 of its main games, and it’s shaping up to be the best game yet. This is our Yakuza 6 review.
For the uninitiated, Yakuza is a series revolving around the character Kazuma Kiryu, a member of the Toro Clan, his life, his relationships, and the drama (and plenty of comedy) that ties them all together. I hesitate to call it an open world game because it doesn’t really play like one, though many of its larger maps and the freedom you have between core missions may make it seem like one. Instead, it’s probably best to call Yakuza an Action RPG with a strong bent towards the sort of drama you find in a soap opera or HBO series. It’s fully-voiced, but all in Japanese, so at least you won’t have to worry about bad dubbing.
Combat is a button-combo-mashing affair, but with plenty of nuances for those looking to learn the many new techniques that Kiryu can unlock as you play through the titles 13 or so chapters (dozens of hours). And indeed, if all you did was play the story in Yakuza 6, you’d have a great Action RPG tale of a time. But there’s so much more to Yakuza 6, as there always is. You’ll be able to manage and get rewards from running a Cat Cafe. There’s a whole story (quite tongue in cheek) about doing it. There are full arcade ports of Puyo Puyo and Virtua Figther 5, and while you can play them in the game, you can also select them and play 2-player from the main menu. Darts, Batting Cages, and the whole dating sim of the Hostess Club is here too.
Did I mention that the Club SEGA building has full versions of Space Harrier, Outrun, Super Hang-On, and Fantasy Zone? Mahjong is also there, for those old-school gamers, as is Karaoke as a rhythm game which is often so distracting from the main game that I wind up doing it for a whole night.
Perhaps the most addictive new feature is the Clan Creator. Yakuza 6’s Clan Creator plays like a top-down real-time strategy game (think Clash Royale). You build a deck of clansmen, and lay them down on the map as your energy fills up over time. They charge into battle against AI opponents, and later other players’ clans (asynchronously). Players can spend experience points to train their clan “leaders,” which include Yakuza favorites like Kiryu, Daigo, Akiyama, and Date. Even more surprising is the inclusion of famous names from the Japanese pro wrestling scene. Each leader has their own special skills too.
I mean, guys, there’s even a whole early section of the game where you’re caring for Haruka’s son and have to help him calm the eff down when he’s hungry. This game has it all. Or at least most of it. Ok, just lots of weirdly great stuff.
When the title credits roll, you’ll be hard pressed not to feel bittersweet to know this is the end of Kiryu’s long tale. Where the series goes next is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imaging it without our scarlet-shirted protagonist. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is not only a great game, but a fitting closure for the long and turbulent story of Kiryu Kazuma. There’s a reason the Yakuza series is often called Japan’s GTA. You don’t drive cars in Yakuza, but the same sort of societal commentary and guffaw-making satire is ever-present. Yakuza 6 is just plain awesome, and I can’t wait for you all to play it.