Yakuza 6: The Song of Life - PS4 Review

Whether you are new to the Yakuza titles or a long-time fan of Kazuma Kiryu's exploits, there are numerous things to like about Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. The title creates a sense of familiarity for those familiar with the series, but has enough new features and nuance to make this entry its own title as well. If you have not yet played any of the Yakuza games, this chapter does a great job of catching you up on the story while providing approachable - if sometimes a little shallow - game play. The end result is an open-world game that rewards you for the time you invest.

I am not by nature an open-world guy. There are a handful of action-adventure games with open-world settings that have pulled me in and kept me hook, but the majority lose me somewhere early along the way. Usually I need a particularly solid narrative to hook me and keep me coming back for more, and to its credit, the Yakuza series has always provided an interesting crime story that has grown more nuanced and emotional over the years as it has made its focus on family the heart of its narrative.

This chapter continues to focus on Kazama Kiryu, who is a fantastic character that has also grown over the series. Kudos to the developers for taking a character and story that has spanned multiple games and managing to summarize them so effectively in the opening of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, though fans of the series will no doubt get the most out of this chapter. There have been a handful of 'Japanese crime story' games out there, and many of them have their merits, but there is a charm that comes out through the well-voiced characters and sometimes wacky scenarios in Yakuza 6 that is difficult to top.

On top of the excellent voice acting, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has some fantastic ambient sound effects while walking around the busy city streets, and thankfully the visuals benefit from the new graphics system as well. There is often a lot of activity taking place all around you (and viewing the game through the first person mode seems a bit gimmicky at first, but is actually impressively immersive).

The combat itself is probably the weakest part of the game. There is often a trade-off to be made when making combat mechanics accessible, and by and large Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is certainly that. It is not hard to pick up the somewhat button-mashy, brawler style of gameplay. There is some variety thrown in when you pick up weapons or the actual environment around you and your opponents can impact the animations, but really the system never becomes incredibly deep. There is some nice progression built around the experience system, with flexibility around which abilities to unlock when you would like, they just don't really add a lot of really interesting new wrinkles to the fighting itself. Still, the combat can be silly and also pretty satisfying, so it works, even if it is one of the game's shallower components.

Where Yakuza 6: The Song of Life really shines however, is in its engrossing story. It reaches a satisfying conclusion, and revolves around a flawed character that I was still easily able to invest in - always a good recipe for drama. The open world structure of Yakuza 6 however, allows for the substories, which are in and of themselves disconnected from the primary plot, but actually seeing them through is a lot of fun. To give the open world a nice sense of life, these smaller bits of narrative help to flesh out a world that is about more than just our protagonist. In a similar light there are numerous mini-games scattered throughout that provide both entertainment and substance beyond the core mechanics of the game. If there is a complaint to be had here, it feels like there has been a reduction in the combat styles, mini-games and substories from the most recent prior entries of the story. Still, some of the other mini-games like clan creator are fantastic additions that provide a lot of mileage.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is an excellent open-world title with fantastic presentation values, a protagonist to invest in and a story worth experiencing from start to finish. There is a lot to do, and it is all high quality, even if some of the systems lack the depth of prior entries. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is worth playing if you are new to the series, and a must-play if you are a returning fan.

Game Information

PlayStation 4
Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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