The PlayStation has its fair share of iconic heroes; Kratos, Aloy, Nathan Drake, Ratchet & Clank, and plenty more. However, there’s been one character that has slowly become an icon in a way on PlayStation systems, and that is Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima. It’s been a while since I played a Yakuza game, but I’m fairly familiar with the game and its story. I was really looking forward to diving into this game, and I am definitely glad that I did. The game does a great job of catching you up on the previous game’s story and sets up the story for Yakuza 6. Once this showdown begins, it never stops providing one of my most favorite gaming experiences on the PlayStation 4. Yes, that’s right: it rivaled Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn for me. It’s really that good.
Yakuza 6: the Song of Life catches up with Kiryu at the end of the previous game, where he ends up turning himself over to the police, and doing time for his crimes. After three years in jail, he is released, and heads back to the orphanage that he and his somewhat adopted daughter Haruka have looked over. When he arrives, he finds out that Haruka has been missing for almost the entire time that he’s been in jail. Kiryu heads to Kamurocho, his old stomping grounds, only to find that Haruka has been involved in a hit and run, with no clue as to who hit her. Haruka is in critical condition. Not only that, but she has a son, Haruto, which Kiryu swears to look after, and to figure out who caused the terrible accident in the first place. As Kiryu investigates, he meets both old and new friends, and heads to another town, the port town Onomichi. The mystery begins to unfold.
As you play through Yakuza 6, you spend time between the bustling city streets of Kamurocho, and the smaller town of Onomichi. Kiryu eventually ends up in a war that has been growing between the Yakuza and the Chinese Triad, as the Triad is continually trying to get a better foothold in Kamurocho and parts of Japan. If that wasn’t enough trouble, Kiryu’s old enemies in the Jingweon, the Korean mafia have also shown up in town, and complicate things even more. Kiryu does his best to keep his nose clean as it were, but as he searches for the person behind Haruka’s accident, he gets more and more involved in the power struggle going on in the Japanese underworld. The game keeps you on your toes, and the story being told in chapters does a great job at keeping you engaged and wanting to see what will happen in the next chapter of the game. Will Kiryu get his revenge? Will the Triad take over Kamurocho? Can you take down the new gang JUSTIS who want to rule the streets? So many great stories are going on in Yakuza 6, and it’s well worth it to play through the main story and side missions to see how it all plays out.
Some people, it seems, like to think of the Yakuza series as a GTA clone, but it actually feels a bit more like a Final Fantasy game than anything else. A focus on a few locations, that aren’t quite open world, full of people and side quests, and a lot of RPG style stat building and grinding makes it feel more like a JRPG than GTA, that is for sure. As you roam around the streets, you’ll get into brawls with assorted thugs, which I never had an issue with. As you play you get XP for your different stats, and then as you level them up, you can unlock assorted skills. Fighting with lower level thugs lets you try out new skills and abilities, and prepare yourself for bigger boss fights, which can get a little tough, especially if you haven’t been grinding out stats. Still, I found the controls to be decent for a brawler, though often it would be hard to choose which enemy you wanted to target, or guard against and you get hit with cheap shots. Still, it only happened once in a while so it wasn’t too bad.
There’s also countless side quests, and mini games to play as you work your way through the story. Want to play rhythm-based karaoke games? Go for it. Feel like hitting up a SEGA arcade and playing Virtua Fighter 5, Puyo Puyo or even Space Harrier? It’s yours for the taking. There’s lots of other little mini games and side quests that involve different activities, and many of them offer a lighter side to Kiryu’s adventure. Speaking of Virtua Fighter and Puyo Puyo, you can actually play the full games with two-players, right from the main menu when you fire up the game, which is a great addition and added some extra fun when I had people around, and we felt like messing around with some classic SEGA games. There’s also a massive side quest involving building your own clan to battle on the streets with, and the combat in those missions is kind of like a real-time strategy game. You can grow your clan as the game goes on but always check your phone in-game to see when a battle will happen, because I’m sure I missed a couple good opportunities for fights while I was busy doing other things.
The visuals in Yakuza 6 are pretty much spot on. SEGA’s team working on the Yakuza series definitely knows what they are doing, and it really shows in this game. The cutscene graphics are fantastic, but even the character models when you’re in any in-game dialogue cutscenes still look great, and the models constantly blew me away. Kamurocho, the bigger city, is also brilliantly designed, with gorgeous neon lights all over, great details in the streets, and plenty of people to push your way through as you get from area to area. The voice acting as well is top notch, and all of the cast involved are fantastic. The English localization on the dialogue text also stood out. Characters are believable, and you really feel for them and want to see how everyone makes out by the end of the story.
Yakuza 6 was almost a perfect game for me, hindered only by some issues in the combat system. However, the story of the Dragon of Dojima, all of the people in his life, and all of the twists and turns that happen in Yakuza 6 should not be missed. Even if you’ve never played a Yakuza game before, the game does a great job catching you up and welcoming you into the world of Kiryu, Haruka and all of their friends and enemies. Yakuza 6 is definitely a gem in the PlayStation 4 library, and well worth it if you are looking for an action game with heart and a great story.
Review code provided by SEGA for the purpose of this review.