Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (Playstation 4) Feature Review

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (Playstation 4) Feature Review
Review Score:

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life continues the adventures of Kazuma Kiryu, an ex-yakuza who has struggled to separate his shady, criminal past from his now reformed, civilian self. At the end of Yakuza 5, Kiryu’s criminal past finally catches up to him, and he ends up being incarcerated for crimes that went unpunished. The Song of Life starts with Kiryu being released from jail, three years after the events of the previous game.

Upon returning to Sunshine Orphanage, Kiryu learns that one of his orphans, Haruka, has vanished after being subjected to public ridicule. Upset by the news, Kiryu takes it upon himself to search for Haruka, which leads him to the city of Kamurocho. It doesn’t take long for Kiryu to discover that Haruka was struck by a car in a ‘hit and run’ incident that left her in a coma with life-threatening injuries. More puzzling is Haruka’s baby son, who she was holding during the accident. Unsure about his safety, Kiryu decides to kidnap the child from the hospital before heading out to find the person responsible for injuring Haruka.

The Song of Life includes a plethora of changes that enhance both its gameplay and graphics. For starters, the newly implemented Dragon Engine provides a host of visual upgrades to the character models and backgrounds. These changes are noticeable on a Playstation 4 console, but they look more defined on the Playstation 4 Pro, due to its processing power. The difference between the two consoles is quite striking.

Where ‘quality of life’ changes are concerned, The Song of Life contains many. The biggest change has been made to the telephone booths from the previous game, which were used to save the player’s progress. They have been replaced by a hassle-free save feature that can be accessed via a smartphone. That’s right; the Dragon of Dojima now uses a smartphone for easy task management. From his phone, Kiryu can take photos of his surroundings (including selfies); respond to text messages with stickers; and even participate in timed events. It’s as odd as it sounds, but it was just a matter of time before the world of Yakuza caught up with the 21st century.

Fans of the series will be elated to know that the mini-games from previous installment(s) are present in The Song of Life, including Baseball, Karaoke and Mahjong, to name just a few. The Cabaret Club (formerly known as the Hostess Club) has all the familiar trappings of its predecessor, right down to its relationship system and beautiful women. A topic card system is used to increase Kiryu’s relationship level with the women he meets.

Club Sega continues to provide classic Sega coin-ops such as Space Harrier, Super Hang-On and Outrun, while also introducing multiplayer versions of Puyo Puyo and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. All games emulate their real-world counterparts flawlessly.

New to the Yakuza series is the Spear Fishing mini-game, which is a score-based, on-rails shooter that sees Kiryu assisting an injured fisherman and an orphan, as they search for the shark that ruined their lives. The Spear Fishing segment is tied into a number of sub stories, which the player can find by exploring the game and speaking to certain NPCs. Spear Fishing is not only a lot of fun to play, but worth the effort to seek out.

Introduced later in the game (Chapter 5 to be exact), the Clan Creator happens to be the best mini-game available in Yakuza 6. Similar to a Tower Defense game, the player must command large groups of fighters that spawn using ‘energy points’. These units will fight (and also defend) against any enemies that appear on-screen. The player is given an infinite amount of units during a clan brawl, and previously spent energy points are replenished over time.

In addition to the Clan Creator’s five available units (i.e. fighters, grenadiers, gunners, heavies and knifers), the player can also deploy a leader who possesses special abilities that can be useful on the battlefield. Unlike standard units, which will disappear after dying, a fallen leader can be revived once the player charges up enough energy points. Leaders pay an important role in the Clan Creator, so it’s important for the player to maximize their potential on the battlefield at every given turn.

Like its predecessors, Yakuza 6 provides a wide variety of side missions that can be completed at the player’s leisure. These mission-like diversions can involve battling ghosts in a graveyard; helping a vlogger become a viral sensation; and assisting a young man with girlfriend problems, among others. While the player isn’t required to complete them, Yakuza 6’s ‘side missions’ offer a unique experience above and beyond the main game, making them worth the extra effort to seek out.

In addition, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life can be played in the first-person. The player can enter first-person mode by pressing R3. This mode feels very immersive, since the game is seen from Kiryu’s perspective. Additionally, secrets can be found in the game’s environment when the player uses this feature. However, the game will automatically switch to third-person when Kiryu starts a conversation or engages in combat.

Like the rest of  Yakuza 6, the combat system has undergone some changes. For starters, the game utilizes the Dragon Engine to eliminate the needless load times from previous games. This means that when Kiryu is approached by a group of thugs, the action will start immediately. In addition to this, Kiryu can now take his fights into buildings by throwing his enemies through windows. This feature adds to the game’s overall appeal.

The ‘Heat Gauge’ from previous installments has made its return, but this time it has a new tier called ‘Extreme Heat Mode.’ When Kiryu collects a ‘Heat Orb’ during combat, the player can enter ‘Extreme Heat Mode’ by pressing R2.

When Extreme Heat Mode is activated, the player can grab an enemy by pressing Circle button and then initiate a QTE (Quick Time Event) by presing Triangle button. In typical Yakuza fashion, Kiryu is seen from a variety of camera angles as he delivers a series of bone-crushing blows to his adversary. 

It should be mentioned that Kiryu’s moves all vary based on where is standing in the environment. For example: if Kiryu happens to be standing near a counter inside a convenient mart, the player can grab an enemy and then throw them head first into a microwave. This will cause the microwave to malfunction, shocking the enemy in the process.

Another example involves grabbing an enemy, pressing the Triangle button, and then rapidly pressing the buttons that appear on screen in conjunction with Kiryu’s attack. The faster the player taps each corresponding button, the more health the enemy will lose. The bullet time effect used during this sequence is quite useful, as it helps give the player enough time to increase the damage that is being inflicted. (This is depicted by the enemy’s health bar ‘grinding’ away on-screen.) And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Half the fun is discovering all the ‘Heat’ moves and witnessing them all in their bloody, spine-breaking glory.

As a game, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life delivers on every level. It provides the classic gameplay of its predecessors, while modernizing the experience with a cellphone-based, communication system; revised game mechanics; and vastly improved  graphics. Fans of the Yakuza series won’t be disappointed by Sega’s latest installment; it’s as good, if not better than previous entries in the series.

(Stay tuned for our Yakuza Kiwami 2 review.)

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Official Website:

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Playstation 4/ Playstation 4 Pro
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
ESRB: M (Mature)
Price: $59.99

Review Score
Gorgeous 3D environments and models bring the game to life.
Incredible music, sound effects and voice acting.
Yakuza 6 provides a wide variety of side missions and mini-games that can be completed at the player’s leisure.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life delivers on every level.
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