Posted on 11 Jan 2023 by L Coulsen

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

The Defence

Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fighting
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

The Case

At time of release, Yakuza 6 was intended to be the final hurrah, the closing chapter, in the story of Kiryu Kazuma. One last adventure to put a definitive pin in the trials and tribulations of our favourite blunt force brain surgeon. More recent developments have caused the Ryu Ga Gotoku team to reconsider this, but for the time being, let’s approach this as what it was intended to be. I think, however, it behooves us to bear in mind not only whether the intention works, but if there is still room for more to come. To that end, let’s dive right in.

The Trial

First things first, we have to address the elephant in the room. I know this will be difficult for all, but it’s something we simply cannot shy away from. There are some extremely distressing developments we simply cannot deny. Better, rather to face them head on. Gird your loins, dear reader, because this is as equally difficult to write as it will be for you to read. Yakuza 6…does not feature Majima. It…we all need to take a moment to recover. Emboldened and comforted only by the fact he at least appears in one of the closing cinematics, even if only for a few seconds.

The first outing of the Dragon Engine, Yakuza 6 follows Kiryu as he returns to Kamurocho after spending another stretch in prison. This one much shorter than shown in his first outing, but still long enough for a lot to have gone on in the background. The children at the Morning Glory orphanage are now largely grown. With Haruka, in particular, now officially an adult. So when he learns that she has not been there for some time, he’s a little perplexed, but not initially concerned. Spoiler, he really should have been. Well, more concerned, at least. Because to claim he didn’t care would be woefully inaccurate. He’s been effectively raising the girl for a decade by this point.

Reaching Kamurocho itself, he quickly learns that shizz has been going down. I know, shonk. And not soon after learns that Haruka has been hit by a car and is now in hospital…with her infant child, Haruto. Yep, that’s right, Dojima Ryu is now a granddaddy. Who quickly sets out to find out who Haruto’s Father is, presumably to give him a bit good slap for not sticking around. But also to figure out precisely why that car, seemingly, deliberately hit Haruka. A touch of underlaying concern that, once again, he himself has been the cause of her tribulations. This leads us to a new location, one of the smallest in the franchise, but also one of the kost striking. Hiroshima. Yes, that Hiroshima.

To infinity, and beyond!

The Dragon Engine really shines, here. Despite being an earlier version than Yakuza Kiwami 2, the extra time it took to port Yakuza 6 gave the RGG team some time to tweak it up to close to parity. With Hiroshima itself already being a beautiful locale. Warm and welcoming. So much so that I, who typically hates the heat, can confidently say this is possibly the most inviting place the of the entire series. It positively drips with warmth, both physically and metaphorically. With beautiful, clear waters and a serene temple further up in the hills to name but two of the varied sights to see.

Gameplay is largely identical to that of the following game, though a little less complex. Grappling, in particular, is almost none existent, whilst some of the heat actions are a bit wonky, assuming you can even get them to trigger in the first place. It doesn’t really feel like a step down from the preceding game, just different. But it’s also not at its best in this entry. Though the overall quality of the engine and animations make it feel extremely crunchy and impactful, making it still fun to engage in.

Perhaps the must interesting thing about The Song of Life is that it’s the first, and to-date, only game to be fully voiced. Every line of dialogue has a voice with it. No more of the idle, text on screen story moments that actually make up a fairly hefty section of most games. Though, because of this, it’s also one of the smaller games. But it still clocks in at a good 40 hours of gameplay, even without fully exploring all of the side content. So to call it “small” would be a flat out lie. Even if it seems tiny compared to the absolutely massive Yakuza 5 before it.

This is not to say that Yakuza 6 is missing out in any way. There is still plenty of side content to sink ones teeth in to. Including a few things unique to this game. Spearfishing, an early version of the clan creator that featured quite heavily in Kiwami 2, and an extremely interesting entire story focused around a local bar. In which you make your way up the social ladder by becoming a regular and forming bonds with the other customers. It’s like a light version of the Social Link mechanics in the Persona series. Rather interesting.


Another lengthy sub-plot focuses on a local baseball team. Baseball itself has been common in the series with the batting arenas, but this expands on that to make it a team game, rather than just a small detour to pass the time. You have to build your team, train them up and make your way to the top of the league. With various dramas and plot twists along the way, of course. You don’t play entire games, only taking control of certain characters at key moments, but it’s yet another example of a mini-game with enough depth to be a game in its own right.

Basically, this review would be a lot shorter if we just cut to the chase. It’s a Yakuza game. By this point, that really does tell you all you need to know. If you like the franchise, you’ll like this game. It’s more of the same, and not in a bad way. Though one thing does need to be pointed out, because it was extremely surprising. One of the major characters is played by ‘BEAT’ Takeshi Kitano. What stands out about this isn’t that he’s included, which is a big deal sure. The weird thing is that it took so long for him to show up.

Outside of Takeshi’s Castle, which he may be best known for outside of Japan. Kitano made his career almost entirely by making films about the Yakuza. Widely regarded as some of the best crime dramas ever made. Not just in Japan, but the world over. Seeing him was a real squee moment for me. He’s a superb actor that fits in so perfectly, it would be no surprise if he acted as a writing consultant. He’s also the one in that infamous baby throwing scene.

The Verdict

It should come as no surprise that, like pretty much every game in the franchise, Yakuza 6 gets a firm recommendation. One of the best entries, certainly one of the prettiest. The gameplay does feel like a step down if you played Kiwami 2 first, but just bear in mind this was actually the prototype for that game and it goes back to being exactly what it is. An amazing foundation for the next stage of the Yakuza story.

Case Review

  • New Engine: Put simply, the Dragon Engine looks and plays amazing.

  • Scale: Being a little smaller than the typical Yakuza, and significantly shorter than its immediate predecessor, makes Yakuza 6 large, but much more approachable.

  • Heat: Yakuza has always been a bit wonky with its Heat actions, and this is no exception. Some are almost impossible to pull off.

  • Majima: No Majima at all, really. Sadface.

4.5 Score: 4.5/5
Another great entry in the Yakuza franchise.


  • Controls: Clearly built with a gamepad in mind, what with being a console port and all. Mouse and keyboard still works absolutely fine, and both options are fuully customisable.
  • Game Options: Some rather neat extra features that can lead to a really impressive, but also very demanding, visual presentation. Not quite as advanced as Yakuza Kiwami 2, it's still a very pretty game.

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