The Yakuza series debuted on the PS2 15 years ago, and has enjoyed sequels, remakes, and spin-off games. Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami are arguably the series’ high points, serving as prequel and remake of Kazuma Kiryu’s origins within the Yakuza world, respectively. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, now a PC game, serves as a delightful bookend to Kiryu’s story. Not only does Yakuza 6 conclude his gangster-filled tale, but it pulls us back into the bizarre, dangerous, and oftentimes ridiculous, fictional Tokyo district of Kamurocho.
Crime and Punishment
Yakuza 6 picks up immediately after Yakuza 5, with Kazuma Kiryu recovering from his injuries in a hospital. Police arrive shortly afterwards to arrest him, but Kiryu willingly accepts the charges thrown at him rather than fight it with a good lawyer. Desperate to break free from his life of crime, Kiryu hopes to start clean by paying his debt to society. Unfortunately, upon his release three years later, he learns that things are not well.
Yakuza 6’s narrative is lengthy and engrossing for the most part, though it starts to feel long in tooth as it moves towards its climax. The conclusion to Kiryu’s story is a satisfying one, and while I appreciated the focus on a single character this time around, I wish some of the series’ more prominent side characters received more attention and screen time. Majima and Saejima’s appearance, for example, feel like glorified cameos, which is a bit disappointing if you think of Yakuza 6 as a swan song for the Dragon of Dojima games. Meanwhile, if you want a fresh Yakuza experience without the narrative (or gameplay) baggage of prior entries, consider the recent, turn-based reboot: Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Big City, Big Adventure
Kamurocho is just as vibrant and expansive as ever, so every district block has something of value to check out, be that a hole-in-the-wall ramen shop, a corner grocery, a game-packed arcade, or even a hostess club. The town is jam-packed with detail, and Yakuza 6 goes the extra distance by seamlessly incorporating transitions between building interiors, sizable streets, and combat. Walking into a café and looking out the window onto the bustling street below is wonderful, and feels every bit as immersive as it sounds.
It doesn’t hurt that Kamurocho is a mishmash of several Tokyo districts rolled into one, which gives the town an aesthetic that seems unshakably authentic. Kiryu’s adventure also takes you to Onomichi, a quiet port town with a distinctly old-fashioned aesthetic.
Naturally, vibrant cities are inhabited by quirky people. Yakuza 6, as with all games in the series, is packed with oddball characters desperate for help or a good fight. There are more than 50 side quests to undertake alongside the main story, each with their own rewards. These quests run the gamut from sad to hilarious. In one such quest, Kiryu is tasked with helping restless spirits rest by throwing hands with ghosts in a graveyard. Another has you running around town, befriending stray cats with food bribes to lure them to a failing cat café. Generally, side quests are independent affairs, but some unlock subsequent quests when completed. The baseball manager minigame, for example, spans more than a dozen quests.
Yakuza 6 also has a clan creator minigame. In this top-down, tower-defense game, you spend points to hire units to defend your turf from an onslaught of rival thugs. Much like the side quests, these minigames both have their own storylines and rewards, giving you an expansive list of activities to enjoy as you immerse yourself in Yakuza’s world.
Food and Fighting
As you roam Kamurocho and Onomichi’s streets and alleys, you will invariably encounter thugs and crooks hoping to shake you down or slap you up. Fortunately, Kiryu is a beast of a man with decades of street-fighting experience, so defending yourself and busting skulls is second nature. Yakuza 6’s combat isn’t all that different from previous Yakuza games, but its systems are condensed and streamlined.
Kiryu has a single fighting style this time, as opposed to the four he had in Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. That said, the one style contains elements of those missing styles. You have a light and heavy attack, a block, a grab, and contextual attacks that are performed in special situations or near certain hazards or weapons. You build Heat during combat in the form of orbs under your health bar. You can use Heat to boost your attacks, or it on powerful blows and finishers that deal heavy damage.
Fights are flashy and extremely fun, but Yakuza 6 rarely challenges you outside of one or two boss fights. My health bar never came close to being critically low, and even then, the overabundance of health-regenerating food and eateries mitigates the danger. It’s fairly easy to tackle an enemy mob and even bosses with a rudimentary combat understanding, which is a shame, as more challenging foes would make mastering the combat system that much more rewarding.
As previously mentioned, Kamurocho and Onomichi are filled with sights to see and places to visit, including prominent restaurants. From fast food to fine dining, Kiryu can gorge himself on all manner of munchies. The attention to detail really shines here, as every food item has a unique visual graphic and name, bringing to life even something as mundane as a convenience store egg salad sandwich. I enjoyed exploring the game to find as many eateries as I could just to peruse their offerings.
Food serves a greater purpose than mere eye candy,. Eating restores health and awards XP in much the same way that fighting and story progression do, but the only drawback is the size of Kiryu’s stomach. Food items have different fullness values that prevent you from overeating: you can still pig out if you’re full, but you will not earn any XP if you do so. You don’t need to visit restaurants, but it’s a powerful tool, especially early in the game.
Can Your PC Run Yakuza 6?
To play Yakuza 6 at minimal settings, your PC needs at an Intel i5-3470 or AMD FX 6350 CPU, an AMD Radeon HD 7870 GPU or Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 GPU, and 4 GB of RAM. Yakuza 6 ran at a variable frame rate on my gaming PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, and 16GB of RAM. In fact, my rig pushed polygons at a smooth 80-100 frames-per-second rate, at max settings.
Visually, Yakuza 6 looks quite nice, but you’ll notice jaggies on distant buildings and character models. No amount of fiddling with settings alleviated the issue, so this may be a problem with the graphics engine.
As a Steam game, Yakuza 6 supports Steam Cloud, Steam Trading Cards, and more than 50 Steam Achievements. It also has full gamepad compatibility.
End of an Era
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the culmination of Kazuma Kiryu’s long-running story, and a fantastic series entry. Kiryu’s engrossing and personal tale, alongside the wacky side quests and near-limitless diversions, should keep you engaged and satisfied for a long, long time. We would have liked more classic series characters, and a stiffer challenge, but Yakuza 6 is an excellent game. If you like beat ’em up games, Yakuza 6 is well worth checking out.
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