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Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Sega's open-world crime saga has returned.

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The Yakuza series has been a well-known name for many years already, but took a giant leap onto the Regular Joe Gamer's radar with the release of Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 0 last year. Both games did a great job of introducing new players to the crazy world the series' main protagonist - Kazuma Kiryu - lives in, while at the same time giving existing fans a taste of what the series can do with the extra power the PlayStation 4 offers. Now it's time to see if Yakuza 6: The Song of Life can live up to or even transcend previous entries in the series, as opposed to polishing an already acclaimed piece.

With Yakuza 0 being a prequel to the entire series and Kiwami being a remake of the original game, Yakuza 6's jump to a modern setting might sound scary, but that's not as big of a problem as you might think. Sure, you might not recognise a few of the characters or understand some of the references, but The Song of Life's narrative does a great job of catching us up with an encyclopedia and a few flashback sequences. The story is even understandable and enjoyable without any of this context, although much of that is due to how the game starts.

After learning what happened after Yakuza 5's ending, we see the police charging Kiryu for all the crimes he has done to get the life he wants. Wanting a fresh start, Kiryu accepts the charges, and spends three years in jail. Upon his release in 2016, we learn that Haruka, Kiryu's adoptive daughter, is in a coma after being knocked over in a hit and run incident and that she has a newborn son. Kiryu then takes it upon himself to investigate what happened to Haruka and find out who the baby's father is, not knowing that this will lead him right back to the yakuza and into trouble.

The good news for newcomers is that things have changed drastically over the three years, as families have new leaders, old friends have found new ways of living their lives, and new conflicts have surfaced. This leads to us meeting a whole heap of new characters and we're therefore pretty much starting afresh. Knowing the series will definitely help and enhance the experience, but we're sure that everyone and anyone will get a lot of enjoyment from playing it through.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

One of the reasons for this is that Yakuza 6 is just as weird, fun, and over-the-top as its predecessors. Seeing how Kiryu struggles to understand modern technology and has trouble coping with his role as a grandfather is hilarious at times, especially with everything now being animated and fully voice acted, getting rid of the sterile sequences filled with text to make the world feel more alive and improve the pacing.

That's not the say that the story and its pacing are perfect, however, as the Yakuza games have always been fond of lengthy cutscenes, and Yakuza 6 is no different. Seeing them in motion definitely helps, but not being able to interact with something as often as this can be frustrating at times. Watching a fairly lengthy cutscene, playing maybe just thirty seconds, and then watching another lengthy cutscene just kills the pace, and it happens on several occasions.

Fortunately, this isn't as bad after getting a few chapters in, and we're unleashed upon the craziness of this world. Being able to explore areas like Hiroshima and Tokyo in the modern setting is very enjoyable, mostly due to how open the world is. Want to take a break from the story? Then why not go eat something to gain some experience and a temporary buff, look around for some of the fascinating side missions, take on one of the shorter trouble missions, look for collectibles, fight a few of the wandering goons, or participate in one of the many, many mini-games? All of these option are available from very early on. The different areas might not be as big as you'd expect, because it seems like Sega has decided to go for density instead. Most streets and areas have something to see or do in them. This makes the world feel more alive in our opinion, so we're glad the developers chose that approach.

The side missions and mini-games are without a doubt our favourite part of Yakuza 6, as they often fuse the best parts of the game: the humour and engaging mechanics. We've questioned an AI on our phone to figure out what its intentions are, spear-hunted giant squids, fought a bunch of dudes while wearing a dorky mascot costume, gone to the gym, played baseball, defeated opposing gangs in the tower-defence-like Clan Creator mode, and so much more. This game is chock-full of content and gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Yakuza 6: The Song of LifeYakuza 6: The Song of LifeYakuza 6: The Song of Life