I've never played SEGA’s Yakuza games before because they reminded me of Shenmue and I was not a fan of Shenmue when I was younger. But I’m trying to expand my taste so I played Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and now I’m hooked. I’m not sure what it was but Yakuza 6 just scratched an itch that I didn’t know I had. Thankfully for me, Yakuza 6 has a section that explains all of the previous games key points and how we got to where we are now.
The story of Yakuza 6 follows ex-Yakuza member Kazuma Kiryu as he tries to live a normal life as a civilian. However, things don’t go as planned when his adopted daughter Haruka Sawamura is put in a coma during a hit-and-run. Haruka also happened to be holding a child during the incident that would be a key element to the plot. The main story is told through a lengthy amount of cutscenes and reminded me of a soap opera. It’s all very dramatic and more than entertaining. I would have preferred if there were an option for English voices, but after playing through Yakuza 6, I feel as though leaving the Japanese voices makes it more authentic. The main quest of Yakuza 6 is lengthy and should probably take several hours to get through. The real meat of the game comes from the side quests and minigames though.
Yakuza 6's minigames are a blast and where you’ll probably be spending a lot of your time, outside of the main story. Minigames range from baseball, karaoke, darts, dating, and more. There’s even an in-game arcade where you can play a bunch of SEGA games like Harrier, Outrun, and even Virtua Fighter 5. All minigames offer experience and will be where you’re going to rely on getting experience near and after the endgame if you’re a completionist. I love the side quests as well because they are so quirky. Some of the best ones are so great simply because of the dialogue.
Being an ex-Yakuza in Japan is a hard time because everyone wants to pick a fight with you. But Kiryu is more than equipped to handle himself - even when he’s outnumbered. Combat in Yakuza 6 feels smooth and the street brawler style fits everything about Kiryu’s personality. Unlike previous games in the series (i.e. Yakuza 0), you cannot change between fighting styles this time. Fighting is in almost every part of the game and most of the side missions end with having to kick someone's ass. They're quick and offer a small amount of experience to level up your stats.
You don’t really “level up” in Yakuza 6, but all events such as fighting, eating, main and side quests offer experience points that you can spend on increasing your base stats or unlocking special skills. Fighting, gaining experience and eating all go hand-in-hand. For instance, eating fills you up, gives you extra damage for fights, and gives experience.
My favorite thing about Yakuza 6 is Kiryu’s attitude. The stakes are almost always life-or-death and Kiryu is down for whatever. Whether it's fighting off one hundred armed goons or a one on one in a burning building, Kiryu doesn’t give a damn. Some of the best moments in the game are his nonchalant responses to outrageous situations. Playing Yakuza 6 for the first time opened my eyes to a game franchise that I never even had on my radar before. Now I want to go back and complete the other games for my own enjoyment and to see the Dragon of Dojima in action. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life gets 4 TOV Stars out of 5 from me.