SEGA's classics can go on and on for days. Sonic the Hedgehog, Dead or Alive, Shenmue (just to name a few), but you would be unfair to fail to mention the Yakuza series as one of Sega's greatest hits. Sadly, this entry into the rpg/fighter series brings our beloved and long time protagonist of the series, Kazuma Kiryu's journey to an end. Is it worth the pay out from all those dedicated years of playing all the many entries into the series?
Well, yes. As most have come to expect of the Yakuza series, the key factors of what make Yakuza so much fun to play are all present here in the 6th entry. The combat is sweet and fluid, the sub stories (which are scattered to and fro all over the hub), and even the wacky yet addictive mini games and activities all here. So, its a return to form for what has made the series great, and its a satisfying and worthy finished product. If you have recently regained interest in the recent reboots of the longtime Japanese series, such as the recent Yakuza Kiwami or Yakuza 0, then you will definitely have plenty of reason to get this.
The story is of course centered on Kiryu and his self-proclaimed daughter Haruka, who is once again in danger and thrown in the middle of a local clan war. The infamous Tojo clan (now without an acting Chairman, as Daigo is in prison), the clan faces adversity from the Yomei Alliance and other rival clans, and somehow Haruka has once again become the target with a hefty price on her head. Of course, the main area you will spend most time in is Kamurocho, but for the first time ever in the series, we explore a new locale, Onomichi. It is a replica of the real world location, Hiroshima. Onomichi is a fun little town, which features restaurants, friendly bars to blow off some steam and shoot the shit. But by far, the 2 biggest and best options we get introduced to is the ability to deep sea dive and spearfish sharks and jellyfish and much more and the ability to form, manage and play baseball on a nearby baseball field. Its tons of fun and challenging all the same, and to really reap the benefits and rewards of playing, you will have to explore the towns and recruit the best players for your team all located in different areas. The games at the beginning will seem impossible, but once you find a few star players and train them to level up their skills, you can really make an unstoppable team. Its tons of fun, with the classic Yakuza setup and easy controls.
The new Dragon Engine is also a new feature and this is the first Yakuza game to run on this new engine. It is a beautiful and stunning upgrade over the past Yakuza titles. The facial animations and gestures Kiryu expresses will mesmerize and make you wonder why all the games weren't used with this engine. You can now start a fight on the streets and knock your opponents inside nearby shops, or fast food joints. Its a responsive engine and the visuals are what benefit the greatest.
That being said, I do have a few minor issues with The Song of Life. While the number of sub stories is actually seemingly high (around 48 or so), the actual time it takes to finish 75% of them is very brief. Instead of drawing some of these encounters out and getting the most out of the game environment and different activities, most of the sub stories consist of you listening to the same boring dialogue speeches and lines over and over till the quest is completed. Where as past Yakuza games excelled from the linear and unpredictable nature of their many sub missions, this entry's is rather brief and repetitive. There are some interesting ones here and there, like going head to head in a dart tournament with a champion dart thrower, or wooing the sexy hostesses at the renowned Club Shine, as I said earlier the majority are disappointing and boring.
Yakuza 6 also is the first to introduce a new online or offline mode called Clan Battles. Clan battles had the potential to be something unique and inventive, but the finished product is a so-so system that doesn't live up to the hype behind it. You start a quest to fend off gangbangers and punks claiming to be a part of Justis, a gang that is claiming to rid Japan of any other Yakuza or color gang members, and in doing so, Justis catches the attention of Kiryu and company, so they set off to gain their own clan members and fight back the resistance. It begins with you recruiting fighters who can be found all over both Kamurocho and Onomichi, and then you can form strike teams composed of these members however you like. You can also differentiate positions in the hierarchy of your clan, and this feature sounds and looks promising but the end result is a system that doesn't even utilize these ranks and positions to the full potential. That being said, after you have established who is in charge and their different ranks, you can select units and members to form a strike team which will be your fighters who will take place in the minigame Clan battles. So, the online capability comes in if another player wants to challenge your squad or you can also put yourself out there in the daily and weekly tournaments Sega updates and adds. I really expected more out of this hyped up feature, but was left disappointed by the end result.
The copy I purchased is the Essence of Art Edition and comes with a nice outer case which slides out and also features a 10 page booklet detailing some art designs used in the game. For the price, its a little step above the standard edition, but nothing to spend any extra money for. Its only real feature is the booklet and honestly, I would have preferred a Steelbook edition over this one.
There are many reasons to purchase this game for any longtime Yakuza fans. If your new to the series, obviously, this 6th addition isn't the best one to start the series fresh on (for that I recommend the recently released Yakuza 0 or Yakuza Kimawi), but the story will play out and the endgame, while very sad, is also very true to Kiryu's character. It is a satisfying conclusion to one of the best gangsters in Japan. The Dragon of Dojima may be hanging up the boots in this one, but there is still plenty of possibilities for another story to be told. Awesome job of concluding the story of the Dragon of Dojima, KAZUMA KIRYU!!!!