The Yakuza series finally began gaining momentum in the West thanks to Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, and it’s all leading up to the conclusion of Kazuma Kiryu’s story in Yakuza 6. Having followed Kiryu’s story for roughly a decade, I was left fully satisfied by Yakuza 6’s events and its ending. Sure, I’d have liked to have seen some series regulars a little more, but the more personal story coupled by the father and daughter relationship Kiryu and Haruka share makes for an emotional, gripping tale.
Set four years after the events of Yakuza 5, Kiryu has just left prison and wants to spend time with Haruka and the other children of Sunshine Orphanage. Kiryu quickly realises that no matter what he does, he’ll always find himself drawn back into the life he’d rather leave behind. With Haruka nowhere to be found and Kamurocho on the brink of an all-out war between the yakuza and the triads, Kiryu, once again, is the only man with the ability to bring peace to the city.
There are recaps for each game in the series if you’re new to the games and, whilst I recommend playing the games available on the PS4 at the very least, you can start here and enjoy Yakuza 6’s mostly self-contained story.
A good chunk of the game takes place in the series city staple Kamurocho, where it’s livelier than ever with more to do, but the quiet seaside town of Hiroshima marks a new locale for the game. Whilst the former is packed with mini-games such as Out-Run, Puyo Puyo and cabaret clubs, the latter is more reserved and is primarily story-focused. That said, the game’s biggest mini-game, Gang Wars, takes place in Hiroshima, and it’s a strategic-action mode where you recruit members to fight against another gang. There are bosses to battle, and your goal is to defeat and recruit all of them.
There’s plenty to do and lovely sights to see, but if you’re hoping for a variety of fighting styles to master then you may be disappointed, as there’s only one here. I prefer it this way because it incorporates elements from each, and Kiryu has never felt so unique. Heat moves are more explosive, and you can mash a button to keep the damage flowing as you dig your fist slow-motion into your opponent’s face or batter them with a road cone.
The combat is slick and even though you’re playing as the Dragon of Dojima, there’s plenty of challenge to go around. Some fights had me desperate to keep on my feet, but that made the victory all the more satisfying. You automatically pick up surrounding objects when in heat mode now, meaning that you can quickly wail on groups of enemies with a park bench or bicycle. It happens seamlessly, and Yakuza 6 gives you as much control as it can whilst ensuring that every move is oh so stylish.
Kamurocho is similar to how it has always been with its cabaret clubs, SEGA arcades and restaurants, but it’s looking better than ever – and there’s a wealth of content to experience! Its wild atmosphere is captured, and it’s at stark contrast with the generally more peaceful Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a delight and where much of the game takes place, and it’s smaller, more intimate setting is the perfect backdrop for the personal story tackled here. Plus it’s right by the sea, and it’s utterly gorgeous. Character models have been improved upon, and cutscenes are a joy to watch – which is great, because some of them get pretty long.
As always, there’s no English dub but it works here because the series is perhaps the most inherently Japanese series to ever be localised, and some of that would be lost in a dub. The soundtrack is stellar and, of course, the karaoke is hilarious. It’s an emotional game, and the voice talent do not disappoint.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a must-play game and whilst I’d recommend playing the others, you don’t need to enjoy this entry. You’ll likely find yourself going back to them though because the series has consistently been fantastic. Buy it, support it, and love it, because it’s worth your time and money, and it’s the perfect send-off for Kazuma Kiryu.