I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve wanted to since I can remember, but I’ve yet to make the trip. Instead, I throw myself into Japanese culture. Manga, Anime, J-RPGs and books on Ninja can be found throughout my house. While it’s great to read about Ninja, the next step in becoming Japanese was to familiarise with the surroundings (and of course, the mafia). That’s where Yakuza 6: The Song of Life comes in.
We’re thrown immediately into the life of Kazuma Kiryu, an ex-Yakuza. As we’ve learned from old mob-films, you can never leave the life behind. His past keeps catching up to him. I’ll be honest, I’ve only played a few hours of the first game. I was apprehensive for jumping ahead 5 games. However Sega had my back. I was given enough information at the start to enjoy the game without having to catch up. It would definitely enrich the game to have played some of the previous games but it’s not vital. It didn’t put me off backtracking once the credits rolled.
The Story of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
The game is more of a dramatic affair than all out action. I’d like to think of it as more of a soap opera with gangster undertones than video game. There is a lot of story and cut scenes aren’t short. I didn’t mind this as the story is rather compelling. Most text can be skipped but the game forces you to listen to the important plot points.
When you do gain control over Kiryu, you have the freedom to do whatever you want. So long as you have the Yen. If you didn’t feel like launching an assault on the Chinese Triads, then you can let off steam in one of the many mini-game outlets. There are dozens of things to do aside from the main quest. You can head to an arcade and play Super Hang-On or Virtua Fighter. Head to a Karaoke bar and partake in a rhythm game while an ex-Yakuza sings his heart out or head to a strip club. Because why not?
It’s quite astounding that there is so much choice on top of the already lengthy story.
If you did want to have a round of fisticuffs, then you’ll probably want to level up first. To do this you can; eat, play games, visit a naughty bar, or complete one of hundreds of missions and awards. These give you stat points to spend on whatever you want. Everything is unlocked from the start, you just gotta pay. The combat system itself can be tricky to start with. You’re hardly ever fighting one-on-one and when someone creeps up behind you, it’s frustrating that the dodge button isn’t reactive enough. This changes as you buy skills, so level up early on.
Tell me what’s bothering you…
One thing that really irked me about Yakuza 6 is product placement. As Sony have the exclusive rights to the game, they felt the need to encourage the developers to include an element of product placement. Sony products of course. If subtly done, it’s fine. But it’s Sony we’re talking about. The main menu is controlled through an Xperia phone, and Xperia tablets are either used or have posters thrown all over Japan. It doesn’t ruin the game but having a mini-game centred around mobile voice control… Really?
I can just imagine some poor soul in Sega’s headquarters having to patch the latest phone (due 5th April) to keep up to date with whatever Sony is selling at the time.
Unsubtle product placement will always annoy me but it’s one flaw in an otherwise fantastic game.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve not played much of the Yakuza series. Having said that, I enjoyed it as a standalone. Sega have taken their time to make sure Yakuza 6 is a great jumping in point. We have enough back story for the game to make sense, while not giving too to spoil the previous games.
Yakuza 6 plays more like an interactive drama with long cut-scenes full of dialogue but when you’re given freedom you can live Kazuma’s life however you want. His story may seem serious but there is always a sense of humour that comes to the front when you least expect it. I’m looking at you not-siri.
The game is bursting with content to enjoy. From lengthy side-quests, to nostalgic mini-games, to searching for milk with a crying baby in the small hours. Yakuza 6 will keep you busy and the great thing is, it never feels like the game is overwhelming. This video game is a joy to play and will give you hours of entertainment.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has been a highly enjoyable game and well recommended.
You can pick Yakuza 6: The Song of Life up from the PlayStation store digitally from 16th April. Or you can buy from Amazon (same date).
ATLUS/SEGA kindly provided an advance digital copy of this game. I’ve not been paid for this review, nor has it been given a positive spin for preferential treatment. Read more here.