It’s been a long time since I dipped my toes into the world of Yakuza. It’s been over 10 years since I last conquered Yakuza 3, so I was excited to take a swing at the most recent iteration in the series, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. After so many years away, I was genuinely curious to see where things were at now. And this probably goes without saying, but once I got past some initial tech issues, I wasn’t disappointed at all.
As a disclaimer right off the top, yes, I did encounter some serious tech issues when I first started the game. It turns out that enabling any form of anti-aliasing in the engine that powers Yakuza 6 reduces otherwise stout rigs to utter slag. Even machines with specs that extend well past the recommended settings have apparently been running into performance issues. That said, once I was able to locate and rectify this issue in my settings, things took a turn for the better.
Time to explore!
The world of Yakuza 6 is extremely well fleshed out, featuring action and off-color shenanigans galore. Would I rather go and hunt for a missing family member or run off with a total stranger to participate in “sexy chat rooms”? Regardless of what sounds better to you, the point is it doesn’t take long before the gates of Yakuza 6 whip wide open, revealing a sprawling world that is a joy to explore. Everything on the map is heavily detailed and well thought out, and those elements help bring things that much more to life.
Part of what is appealing about this installment is seeing the conclusion of Kazuma Kiryu’s core story. After starring in six games spanning the last 15 years, I was genuinely curious to see how things would conclude for our favorite scallywag. After spending several years in jail, Kiryu’s now a free man looking to re-establish a life for himself. The problem is the life he wants is a mess.
It turns out that Haruka is in a coma after being struck by a car during a “freak” hit-and-run incident. Further fueling the tailspin is the revelation that Haruka was injured trying to protect an infant. This infant just so happens to be her son that Kiryu had no idea even existed. Talk about a heavy way to lead off a storyline.
Though the storyline is a very strong driver for the series, if that is why you are playing a Yakuza game, you differ from me. My favorite aspect of the design is all of the odd side storylines and mini-games featured throughout. The development team somehow shoehorns 20 different games into this one universe — and makes it work. I can’t wait to see everything in Yakuza 6 and explore all the bizarre scenarios.
Kicking and screaming
The finely tuned combat mechanics are the most gratifying part of Yakuza 6. Even though I played the game with a keyboard and mouse (despite there being a screen that heavily suggests you use a controller), bare-knuckle brawling has never felt so crisp and gratifying. This was my first opportunity to play the franchise on PC, so I was not sure how it would feel. Fortunately, I never felt like I was missing anything by opting for the WASD route.
Again, as a lapsed fan, the early campaign gameplay feels very directed and lacks some of the appeal of a more open world. However, once I got through the initial narrative gauntlet, things opened up rather drastically. Once this happened, I couldn’t wait to see what kinds of goofy trouble I could get myself into by just exploring the far reaches of the map. Oh, and just know that without a gigantic time investment, you’ll likely never see everything that Yakuza 6 has to offer.
A song with many words
Returning to the narrative, my time away from the Yakuza series did lead me to forget about how much exposition it offers. Get ready to spend immense amounts of time in cutscenes because the developers can’t wait to cram hours of backstory into the span of a few short minutes. On top of that, having cutscenes that segue to other cutscenes is also a fairly common occurrence. So, if you’re looking for a storyline that gives you something to sink your teeth into, look no further.
While there are certainly some engine issues that prevent Yakuza 6: The Song of Life from making a solid first impression, this isn’t something to be overly concerned about. As long as you don’t try to tweak settings beyond the capabilities of your rig — like this dummy — you will likely find plenty to enjoy. Plus, when you factor in the meager $19.99 USD price tag, you would be crazy not to give it a look. It’s time to help send off Kazuma Kiryu in style.