REVIEW – After more than a year of difference from its launch in Japan – where we could already enjoy the latest installment of this prolific saga – Yakuza 6 is finally here. In the review of Yakuza 6: Song of Life we tell you the strengths and weaknesses of the, possibly, last installment of the adventures of Kazuma Kiryu.
Yakuza has never had it easy in the West. Even less with the late arrival of some episodes, but above all, to follow the thread of a story that has been told since the end of the generation PlayStation, a platform that saw the series born. Luckily, the release of Yakuza 0, the remake of the first game with Yakuza Kiwami and the future Yakuza Kiwami 2 are getting many new players to approach this release from a new perspective.
Unfortunately, these factors do not play at all in favor of Yakuza 6, the possible last adventure of Kazuma Kiryu whose objective is, on the one hand, to close the narrative arc of the character and, on the other, to release a new graphic engine which was supposed to bring new possibilities, but in the process some things were reduced.
Despite the summaries of each of the games, those who have not gone through the intermediate Yakuzas may feel reluctant to enter this sixth part, while those who tried the latest remastered deliveries on PS4, may find in Song of Life the odd step backward.
However, let’s go in parts because Yakuza has always been a franchise difficult to define. Its main asset is the new Dragon Engine, very well received because it makes both cities and characters shine better than ever. Walking through Karumocho both day and night is like playing a remake of the remake. The level of detail is vast and feels much more organic than in any of the other episodes, with all the accesses of the city orchestrated without any game load.
Technical advancement can also be enjoyed in the character’s appearance. Although the Yakuza saga was already recognized by its realistic characters (skin pores) Yakuza 6: The Song of Life returns to raise the bar, recreating even more in details, as the hair and clothing of its protagonists. Special mention for some guest stars in this edition, such as the renowned director Takeshi Kitano or the famous Japanese actor Tatsuya Fujiwara (Death Note, Battle Royale).
Compared with Yakuza 0 or Kiwami in the edition that came to us, it may not seem like such a big change on some occasions, but in general terms, the recreation of Tokyo’s red light district and the new city of Onomichi in Hiroshima prefecture are a visual delight.
One step forward and one step back
The problem comes when this graphic engine and the short time of development have greatly limited the ambitions of a saga that has always been characterized by contributing more and more in each of its releases. It is noticeable that we go into the first chapters of the game, with parts of Karumocho that were previously available and now appear cut after a barrier that prevents the passage. In general, we find fewer personalization and exploration options in each of the two available cities.
It also affects the many fights. If in the last games the combat had evolved to an attractive mixture of styles that allowed us to change the strategy of the confrontations and even choose between a good handful of protagonists, here we return to focus exclusively on Kiryu and its classic style without many variants. The skill improvement system is one of the most proficient in the franchise, but you can choose with certainty what skills and disciplines (health, attack, defense, dodge, special) improve first. However, it feels quite repetitive, especially when some of the main and basic combos are usually the most effective. Although some battles try to put us in difficult situations, such as facing many enemies at the same time, we often have at our disposal a near bicycle to attack in the area and clear the space quickly, losing the good balance of the fighting styles of yesteryear.
The legacy of Yakuza
The story repeats the same patterns as the last games. That is, while enjoying and entering the dangerous world of the Japanese mafias, it seems more and more personal, but also less relevant than in the first episodes. It is logical, in part, because Kazuma increasingly belongs to this world of the Yakuza. Not that it matters too much, it is in the secondary missions where the game has shone lately with some beautifully written stories, others totally eccentric and always fun, full of tributes, easter eggs, and downright crazy situations.
Of the main one, suffice it to say that he continues where he left the events of Yakuza 5, with Kazuma recovering in the hospital and having to serve a sentence of three years in jail after the events of the game. Enough time to get closer to the most current Tokyo in the middle of 2016, which allows the Nagoshi team to exhibit their often critical and cultural portraits of their homeland and that we will discover together with a Kazuma who, again, looks like a character just out of a Time machine to the future.
To be the end of the series, the truth is that there are many players who are not truly satisfied with the main story. It is logical, in part, it is the closure of the plot of Kazuma Kiryu and perhaps feels more personal without finishing giving so much prominence to other characters as dear as Goro Majima, for example, among others. They will make their appearance, of course, but they do not capture the prominence of other episodes, and we would have loved a more meaningful homage to them.
The secondary missions, as we said, are more and more the true essence of a Yakuza, although this time we find them more scarce and also hard to find. While in other installments it seemed that people were practically throwing themselves at us to tell us about their problems, here we may not find many if we do not pay attention. Fortunately, they are joined with new ones that will send us directly to our mobile (through an application called Troublr) to increase the hours of play.
Leisure on every corner
You could not miss the minigames, which there are more abundant than ever. We find old friends like Batting, Go or the great SEGA Club minigames, divided into classics where you can play Outrun, Fantasy Zone, Space Harrier, Hang-On or other modern ones like Puyo Puyo and a whole Virtua Fighter 5 Final Shodown integrated inside of the game. These last two taking advantage of the local multiplayer of the game. Simply wonderful.
They are not the only ones, the karaoke could not miss the appointment, and some video clips are starring Kiryu himself are so striking that they are halfway between the shame of others and the brilliance. More intricate games have been added, such as a baseball manager and inter-clan wars. With the latter, it is noted that Sega wanted to add a more modern style, because sometimes it recalls an archaic version of a Clash Royale where launch units that attack alone based on the “mana” we have, with different cost cards and, above everything, payment options. What’s certain is that the formula, although it is curious, does not finish to hook and it approaches dangerously to the land of the pay to win in the most advanced combats.
It is difficult to account for all of them. Recreation rooms for cats, the classic places of the company with girls, but we must highlight the Live Chat Rooms if only for the quirky that result. Attention, because they are more surprising than they sound.
Through a simple minigame of pressing a sequence of buttons in the correct order, we will chat in a room with a girl that is shown in the form of real video, while little by little she goes undressing. If you believed that the Nagoshi team could not be overcome after the Cat Fights, we assure you that this does.
And by far, touching the erotic and starring even porn actresses Anri Okita and Yua Mikami. The truth is that the content is strong. Sometimes, it feels right, because Yakuza 6 is able to justify it by means of small stories that portray how lonely and hedonistic a society can be if it focuses exclusively on entertainment and the pursuit of pleasure, sacrificing the real for the virtual. In others, however, it seems to be recreated without much need for justification.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a game of contrasts. We expected a step forward because it is dedicated exclusively to the present generation, but it is noted that the almighty Dragon Engine has consumed too much development time leaving a more conservative delivery that what could be expected, moderating in combat, exploration and the abundance of content. It is still incredibly fun, and a must for any fan of the series. Only, do not expect a revolution. Song of Life is more a close in a precious package that gives as never the opportunity to gloat in the details of Japanese society (there is a great camera in the first person to encourage immersion). An advance of what could be the series updated and free of ties, including all its cast of beloved characters. A firm step, but within its limits.
+ The recreation of Karumocho and Onomichi is magnificent
+ The variety of mini-games continues to be first class
+ Secondary missions bring out the best in the Yakuza series
– The combat has been simplified with respect to previous deliveries
– The main story, without being the worst of the series or much less, fails to live up to what a close
– While graphics are generally very good mimics during conversation they are not so much
Genre: action, adventure, open world
Release date: April 17, 2018