The Yakuza franchise has been one of SEGA’s longest running franchise since they went 3rd party and Yakuza 6 celebrates a new beginning and an end to the franchise. For one this title sports a brand new, high budget engine created from the ground up for the PlayStation 4 and on the other hand this game is meant to be the last game starring the franchise’s protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu.
But did SEGA deliver in a true next-generation experience with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life? Find out with our review.
Yakuza 6 also has a pretty good premise and a very streamlined story. The game takes place 3 years after the events of Yakuza 5. The game starts off with Kazuma coming home from jail, to learn that Haruka ran away, later to be revealed that she was a victim of a hit and run. When Kazuma goes to visit her, he finds out that she had a kid and since she’s in a coma, it’s up to Kazuma to figure out who the boys father is. At the same time, gangs are closing in on the Tojo Clans territory in Kamurocho. While we all knew that the game would feature the iconic Kumorocho, Yakuza 6 also has a brand new locale of Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima. Onomichi is a pretty good change of pace for the franchise as it’s a small port town, having a nice variety of places to visit and see.
The game also features returning faces and a brand new cast of characters. I really found the new characters to be well written and well rounded, which surprised me. They even have Japanese celebrity Beat Takeshi in a minor role. While I won’t spoil anything here, the ending for this game was really well done and well worth the playthrough. I still feel that the franchises writing could be a bit more streamlined, I really dislike when they explain plot points multiple times. Yakuza 6 only features one playable character, our boy Kazuma which I’m alright with. As much as I liked SEGA experimenting with multiple main characters, it really became a hassle when you had to build a narrative for each character and we all know SEGA likes to slowly reveal their stories. Nothing is more annoying than settling into a characters story and then the game forcing you to switch to another character.
One of the biggest new features that Yakuza 6 has to offer is its new engine, being dubbed by the developers the Dragon Engine. This is the first time that the team has completely redesigned the engine from the ground up since Yakuza 3, which came out almost a decade ago. While I have seen clips online, I was really impressed with the engine. The graphics are outstanding, the texture detail is great and the redesigned UI really ties the whole thing together. Everything from the old engine has been rethought, redesigned and improved. I was rather impressed with the work that went into creating this world. I would consider this one of the top three game engines right next to the engines used for Final Fantasy XV and Metal Gear Solid V.
While the engine graphically improves everything, it also streamlines the game. Yakuza 6 also manages to get quite the number of enemies on screen and have physics to all items nearby.. Fighting enemies on the map is instant and you can enter and exit shops without loading. Its rather impressive feat. That doesn’t mean that the game engine does pose new issues, one being that the game runs at 30fps compared to Yakuza 0’s 60fps. Not only that, the game overall has a lot of jaggies and seems to not run any anti-aliasing filtering. Not only that, it also seems to have some screen tearing and frame drops. The frame drops are rather rare though, especially compared to my experience with Final Fantasy XV.
Yakzua 6 also got a new fighting engine, which seems to give Kazuma a bit more weight when he moves around making combos and movements something to get used to. Outside of this, they dropped the multiple fighting styles and focused strictly on Kazuma’s Dragon style. It makes sense since this has been the main fighting style he has used since the start of the franchise. It also seems that they have slowed down the fighting, making punches feel more meatier and easier to predict opponent’s patterns. I want to say that this game is easier, but frankly I think all Yakuza games are rather easy to complete and its more about the experience.
The Yakuza games always feature fantastic, wide ranging music and this game is no exception. From heavy guitar tracks during action fight scenes to slow piano tracks when emotional scenes play out, the game features quite a bit of catchy tracks. Not only that, there is a ton of music composed for Yakuza 6, including remixes of fan favorite tracks and a ton of new musical pieces.
Yakuza games over the years have been known for its numerous distractions which include side missions and mini-games. This game has 52 side missions which are usually very well done. This go from being comical, to adding more to side characters and to some being serious. Over the years I have come to appreciate them much more and happy that they included a large number in this game. While on the other hand, mini-games have shrunk, in a way. We have a ton of new games like the clan creator, baseball simulator, going to the gym, taking care of Haruto, the cat cafe and more. We also got a lot of returning games like the batting cages, hostess club, darts and karaoke. Though I’m a bit upset we didn’t get pool again, since it was one of my favorites. I had fun enjoying each one of these new games, for the most part but was a bit disappointed how simple the baseball simulator was.
Outside of this we also have all the retro SEGA games featured in Yakuza 0 including Fantasy Zone, Out Run, Space Harrier, and Super Hang-On. Not only that, we got some modern classics including the full offline version of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown and Puyo Puyo (which is based on the Puyo Puyo portions of Puyo Puyo Tetris). I have to say that every time I play a Yakuza game I’m always impressed at the amount of content they manage to crame into the game and expected way less content considering they are using a brand new engine. While it might be a bit less crammed compared to Yakuza 0, it still has a ton of stuff to do that will take you dozens upon dozens of hours to explore and complete.
Yakuza 6 might be the ending of Kazuma’s story, but the new Dragon engine is really showcasing that Yakuza Studio is one of the few triple A developers left in Japan. The engine gives the franchise a brand new breath, streamlining its open world. The game also featuring some really smart, funny writing and brand new cast of characters that are a joy to interact with. We also have a more condensed, focused storyline featuring only Kazuma Kiryu.
While the new Dragon engine is impressive graphically, its also not perfect having framerate stutters, screen tearing and lots of jaggies. While it doesn’t get in the way, its noticeable enough for me to nitpick it. There is also a ton to do, plenty of side stories. Its hard for me not to recommend this game to people. I’ve been playing the Yakuza games since the first one and I’m surprised that they still keep impressing me over a decade later.
- Dragon Engine is beautiful
- Great new cast of characters
- Open world more seamless
- Great soundtrack
- Frame rate stutters/screen tearing