Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Reviewed

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Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Reviewed

Posted by Chanel Ferguson

20 Apr, 2021


The Dragon of Dojima’s final swan song takes him to Kamurocho and Hiroshima—beating up thugs, uncovering dark secrets and singing karaoke one last time.

After a long time of PlayStation 4 exclusivity, SEGA has ported over Yakuza 6: The Song of Life to the Xbox and Steam ecosystems. Players can now experience all modern mainline Yakuza titles on PlayStation, Xbox and Steam. Originally released in 2018 in the West, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the final game with longtime lead Kazuma Kiryu as the main protagonist. Following directly after the events of Yakuza 5, Kiryu returns home to find Haruka Sawamura—his surrogate daughter—missing with no explanation. Kiryu’s search for Haruka takes him back to Kamurocho in Tokyo and then to Onomichi, an easygoing seaside town based in Hiroshima. With the implementation of the game’s new Dragon Engine, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life offers improvements in some areas and a step back in others. While the game’s story is mostly designed for newcomers—with a cast that features many brand-new characters—the narrative’s strongest emotional pulls work best for those who’ve played Yakuza 0 through Yakuza 5.


Yakuza 6: The Song of Life largely plays like previous entries in the series. The game retains the classic brawler combat in the middle of distinctively Japanese cities. As Kiryu, players are free to explore Kamurocho and Onomichi to their heart’s content, running around these densely packed cities like virtual tourists. In terms of gameplay improvements, the Dragon Engine doesn’t have much to offer. Unlike in Yakuza 0, Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5, players only have access to Kiryu as the playable character. He only has a single fighting style, which players can upgrade by leveling up and unlocking new skills. Due to certain changes with the brawler fighting, however, the fights easily get stale.

Enemies tend to cluster around Kiryu, attacking more aggressively than in previous games. They also love blocking. Unfortunately, any time Kiryu hits a blocking enemy, this interrupts your combo as Kiryu’s attacks bounce off whoever’s blocking. Even if you accidentally hit another target nearby, and the target blocks your attack, it ends up killing your momentum in combat. This happens way too frequently, making most fights feel lame and fragmented. You have other options of picking up weapons or random items out in the street, like bikes or traffic cones, and using these to beat down your enemies instead. But the associated Heat actions, or special attacks, with these moves are noticeably less varied than in previous Yakuza titles. Kiryu’s powered-up mode makes up for this, where he swings a relentless fury of attacks guided by QTE prompts on screen. Fighting in this mode during epic boss fights really ups the emotional intensity in battle. But outside of these opportunities, most fights are lacking.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life offers plenty to do outside of the main story. Just like other Yakuza games, players will find tons of side content, such as playing old-school SEGA games at arcades, working out at the gym, chatting with sexy cam girls online, drinking with Kiryu’s friends at a bar in Onomichi, spearfishing underwater and even hanging out with cats at a cat café. However, there’s a huge lack of activities in Onomichi compared to Kamurocho. Maybe the small town just can’t compete with the big city. But there’s also a large section in the north of Kamurocho that’s blocked off for no apparent reason. Everywhere throughout Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, too many signs point toward cut content, downgraded content or content lacking in depth. This lack is especially disappointing after the huge swaths of content in Yakuza 5, which featured fully fleshed-out side activities for multiple playable protagonists. Regrettably, Kiryu doesn’t receive anywhere near this treatment for his final goodbye.


Like the gameplay, Yakuza 6: The Story of Life’s plot stumbles due to a number of questionable decisions. Even though this is Kiryu’s final game, longtime Yakuza players won’t get to see much from series staples like Goro Majima and Taiga Saejima. Other characters like Shun Akiyama and Makoto Date feature to some extent. Most of the story centers on Kiryu’s new allies and enemies in Onomichi and Kamurocho—new yakuza families and the return of the Chinese and Korean mafias from previous games. However, Kiryu’s quest to find out what happened to Haruka is especially perplexing. Most of the drama centering on Haruka stems from her behaving vastly out of character compared to the rest of the series. The baffling choices Haruka makes as a character—and Kiryu’s quest to find out the whole story—feels like one big, pointless melodrama designed to keep players on an emotional roller coaster. Even outside of Haruka’s story, too many other big moments and dramatic reveals fall flat. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life’s ending suffers as a result, destined to evoke polarizing reactions.

Graphics and Visuals

The Dragon Engine makes Yakuza 6: The Song of Life look incredible. Kamurocho’s city lights at night put players right in the middle of Tokyo, reflecting beautifully off cars and even puddles on the ground. The rippling ebb and flow of Onomichi’s gorgeous seas evoke an enduring sense of peace and tranquility. Kiryu still looks great, believably showing his age and his harrowing life experiences with some wrinkles on his face. Every character has a distinctive design, brimming with personality with their hairstyles and the outfits they wear. Talking to a beautiful hostess in a club one on one feels like an intimate experience with the first-person point of view. Thanks to the new engine, there’s no question that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a beautiful game. 

Music and Sound

Standard for the series by now, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life only has Japanese voice acting with English subtitles. Even without understanding the native language, the voice actors do a great job with their lines. Word by word, sentence by sentence, everyone sounds authentic and true to life. As long as you don’t mind reading subtitles, you’ll have an easy time following the dialogue. The soundtrack, however, isn’t the best. In general, the music is serviceable for a Yakuza game, but it lacks the gritty originality from earlier titles. Players will likely have a blast with karaoke—each of the songs, old and new, are surprisingly catchy. Outside of karaoke though, the soundtrack is just okay.


Despite the fanfare surrounding Kiryu’s last playable title, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life makes him seem lonelier than ever. He doesn’t have Haruka by his side, and her true whereabouts are relegated to a sensational carrot on a stick throughout the story. Kiryu is the only playable protagonist, and most of his other longtime Yakuza companions barely show up to say goodbye. His gameplay and exploration content doesn’t hold a candle to previous games, and his watered-down fighting style and brawler controls are unsatisfying. 

Kiryu meets plenty of new people and learns about tons of new mysteries, secrets and betrayals, so, objectively, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has plenty to offer on the surface. However, in removing so many emotional payoffs for Kiryu, the heart and soul from the rest of the Yakuza series is missing. His remaining days feel miserable, and the game’s ending doesn’t do him many favors. Without that tangible thread tying Kiryu’s journey from Yakuza 0 up to now, the essence of his story fizzles out to depression by the end. Though the game is heartbreakingly disappointing, it still leaves the door open for more stories in the Yakuza universe, such as Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Judgment and beyond.


About Author

Chanel Ferguson

Chanel Ferguson is a novelist who loves gaming. She grew up with role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in philosophy, she spent her free time writing fiction novels, crafting unique worlds and characters inspired by video games.

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