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Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review

Purchased product for this review.

It’s always never easy to end a story and it’s the same way when it comes to video games. Last year, SEGA celebrated Yakuza’s 10th anniversary with the release of a prequel called Yakuza 0, a remake of the first game as Yakuza Kiwami and the announcement of an all-new Yakuza game. Come 2018 and the new Yakuza game arrives, serving as a final chapter to Kiryu’s story called Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Its theme is of family and how far one would go for family. Does this game serve as a farewell to a recognizable hero or come down as a fall from grace?

Yakuza, or Ryu Ga Gotoku, has always been known for it’s story, characters and gameplay and this game is no exception. The story takes place 4 years after the events of Yakuza 5. Kiryu returns to Kamurocho after serving time in prison but something seems off. Haruka is nowhere to be found and the only clue that he can find of his whereabouts is a young baby boy named Haruto. If that isn’t enough, Kiryu becomes the target of a rival clan. It’s up to Kiryu to find Haruka, protect the boy Haruto and find out what’s really happening. But what he’ll discover will lead him to a secret that may bring Japan to ruin.

From my own personal experience, the story is great. I was hooked to see how it would play out and how they would handle Kiryu’s final tale. There are some twists and turns that do surprise me at times and the ending is one it’s best you see for yourself. You will be in tears by the time it’s over. I am a bit bummed that some characters aren’t in this game but it’s mostly for the sake of the game’s plot. Not much anyone can do.

If you played any of the games in the Yakuza series, you will feel right at home with this game. Kiryu is the only playable character in this game and don’t worry, he’s just as good as you remember, if not better. Yakuza 6 is an action RPG game where you go through the story, complete side quests and take part in activities that can offer plenty to do. Yes. Yakuza games always deliver in terms of content. As for Kiryu, he kicks butt just as you’d expect and this time he’s packing new tricks up his sleeve. Instead of multiple styles, he has only one style that offers a mix giving him offense and defense. Not only that but he has access to a heat gauge that fills up as you deal damage to enemies. When it’s full, Kiryu can go into a powered-up state called Extreme Heat Mode that gives him access to stronger attacks. The heat gauge can also be used for Kiryu to pull off flashy attacks. It offers him versatility and how it goes depend on the player.

Since it’s an action RPG, players need to level Kiryu up and they do so in a variety of ways. Kiryu can obtain experience points that are split into 5 categories: Strength, Agility, Spirit, Technique and Charm. You get experience by completing various activities whether it is the main story missions, sub missions, eating or even awards. The experience you acquire go towards four categories: Stats, Battle Skils, Heat Actions & Other Skills and depending on the player can have Kiryu be upgraded however they wish. It offers a lot of versatility for players and in some ways, a necessity in order to go through the game itself.

There is a lot to do in Yakuza 6. In addition to the city of Kamurocho, Kiryu also has access to the small town of Onomichi. Each of the areas offers many activities and missions to take part in. Kamurocho has access to places like arcades, hostess clubs, a gym, karaoke, online chat rooms, etc. It has a lot and it shows and Onomichi is no slouch either with its fair share of mini games like spear fishing and baseball. Yakuza 6 also gives us Clan Creator, a tower-defense like mini game that has you using a group of units to take down enemy groups. They are short but is very useful if you want to grind for yen, the game’s currency. There are also sub missions that show the daily life of both areas including some that are familiar but also surprising. One example being a quest where you must unite a bunch of people together to form a baseball team. For length, beating the main story will take you around 15-20 hours to complete, as it’s 12 chapters long but the side content extends the length to a lot more. Premium Adventure returns, letting players complete anything they missed out on and New Game+ with its Very Hard difficulty extends it further while testing players. You are getting a lot for your money’s worth and it shows.

The game plays great and it also looks great too. SEGA decided to incorporate a new engine for the game, the Dragon Engine. This allows Yakuza 6 to run seamlessly at 1080p with a stunning 60 fps. Not only that but battles also is seamless too. Compared to games like Yakuza 0 and Kiwami where battles start as enemies meet you, here once enemies spot you and race to you, it happens immediately and they end the same way as well. It’s well done. Voice acting is what you come to expect for a Yakuza game and it’s great. There is no English dub sadly but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the game. Music is awesome too with many great tracks, especially some that contend with boss battles. There are bosses in the game and they are without a doubt challenging. Plus it makes it all the more satisfying when you beat them too.

If I had any nitpicks, it’s that the game really does emphasize grinding. If you plan to max out Kiryu, it’s essential and thankfully there are plenty of opportunities to do so but players won’t be able to max out Kiryu completely unless they spend a lot of time on the game. Also Kiryu is the only playable character and it’s sad that we don’t get to play with anyone else. Characters like Shun Akiyama and Goro Majima are mostly relegated for the sake of the plot. But it’s Kiryu’s last tale so basically all the focus is on him and him alone.

Yakuza 6 serves as the final tale for Kazuma Kiryu and it holds up really well. The game not only looks amazing but plays amazing too, offering something new while feeling familiar. It’ll challenge you don’t get me wrong but by the time you are finished, you can’t help but feel good and wanting more. With SEGA announcing a spin-off entitled Judgment, it will not be the end of the Yakuza series. Far from it, to be honest. This is Kiryu’s last tale and it’s one you do not want to miss out on.

I give Yakuza 6 a solid 9 out of 10. It earns my personal seal of approval. A must-buy.

Yakuza 0 Review

Yakuza 0 Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the sake of this review.

In 2016, the Yakuza, or Ryu Ga Gotoku, series would go on to celebrate its 10th anniversary. SEGA then makes the announcement that to commemorate this event, two Yakuza games would be released. One would be a retelling of the original Yakuza called Yakuza Kiwami. The other would be a prequel to the first game putting its focus on not only Kiryu but also Majima. A prequel focusing on the game’s two most memorable characters… is Yakuza 0 worthy of telling the series’ very beginnings?

Yakuza 0 takes place in Japan in December 1988, 8 years before the events that would set in motion the first game. The plot centers on an empty lot and that whoever obtains the deed would decide the fate of Kamurocho. It centers on two characters: Kazuma Kiryu & Goro Majima as they try to not only get to the bottom of this but also contend with their respective predicaments.

In Kamurocho, Kiryu’s charged for a crime he didn’t commit and must not only prove his innocence but contend with his former clan who are after him due to his connection to Dojima. In the town of Sotenbori, Majima is in charge of a nightclub called Grand but in truth, he is under constant watch due to his exile. But he then takes a hit that would guarantee him back only to find that the target in question is a defenseless blind woman. Hoping to find answers, he decides to protect her while having to deal with the wrath of the Tojo Clan.

The game’s story is just amazing. From start to finish, you see how their tales go and how they reach their conclusions. Since it is also a prequel, we see the main characters being very different from what they are now and the decisions they make would shape them into being who they are today. I love it. There will be moments that’ll fill players with emotion but by the time it’s over, you can’t help but feel bad for some characters as the later games detail their inevitable fates. That’s what happens in a prequel game after all.

If you’ve played any of the previous Yakuza games, you will feel right at home with Yakuza 0. It’s an action RPG game where you pretty much do whatever you like, depending on what happens in the game. Most of the time will be spent going through missions to continue the story. But during those instances, you’re allowed to explore and do various activities. Sub-stories make a return where you can help people with their many issues. At times they reward you with items and money. Side activities are aplenty such as mahjong, baseball, bowling, and even you can go to arcades to play games such as Outlaw and Space Harrier. And if that isn’t to your liking, you can still take the chance to beat up bad guys that cross your path. Most of Kamurocho is still accessible for you to explore but some stuff like the Millennium Tower isn’t there.

Yakuza 0 offers a lot of new additions to the game. One of the biggest is a secondary protagonist: Goro Majima. In later entries, he’s pretty much an anti-hero with an obsession for fighting Kiryu. Here in this game, he’s different and this is before he became the Mad Dog of Shimano. He has his own hub to explore, Sotenbori and his own problems to contend with. In addition, he has his own set of fighting styles that offer a different experience. Both characters each have three fighting styles they can use in battle. Kiryu still has his styles from the first game but Majima’s are new. Thug is similar to Brawler, being balanced. Breaker focuses on breakdancing to deal damage to enemies and Slugger specializes on using a bat or other weapons to give foes the smackdown. It’s a nice change of pace and it does help set the two apart. Both of them also have a fourth unlockable style but that requires a lot of work to unlock it for each of them. Like the first game, the yen is the game’s currency and since this is Japan in the 1980s, the people spend it like there’s no tomorrow… literally. The yen is not only used to help buy items and supplies but also to level up your characters. Fortunately, the game gives you plenty of ways to acquire yen to make it possible. In addition, there are several mentors that will assist Kiryu and Majima in unlocking new abilities and attacks they can use in battle. Want to be the best? Seeking them out and learning from them is the best choice.

Another addition is the special side activities. Real Estate has Kiryu going around, buying up land in Kamurocho in the hopes of raising money and driving rival gangs out. Cabaret is all Majima and your job is to make your club the best in Sotenbori by not only making your guests happy but growing your ladies to ensure they make it possible. These activities require some skill to complete but the rewards are worth it.

Yakuza 0 offers a lot to do in one game. With two protagonists, the game’s length can get ridiculous. To be fair, if you plan on just beating the game, it’ll take you roughly 15-20 hours but to complete everything raises it to around 70-80 hours. Replay value is high since after beating it, you have access to Premium Adventure and Legend difficulty aka New Game +. As for progression, the game lets you control Kiryu or Majima for 2 chapters. After 2 chapters, you shift to the next character with a recap that details what happened in their story. It’s a good way of getting players up to speed on the story. There will be times you will switch between the two characters but eventually, you will have the option to switch between them whenever you like. It’s useful in case you missed out on some things with the other character. There are a ton of other activities you can do such as collecting tapes that can unlock some softcore videos, places where you can phone chat with girls that can lead to dates if you’re lucky, singing karaoke and others but yeah… stuff like that is one of many you can do in this game.

This game looks good. For a PlayStation 4 game, it’s awesome. SEGA did a fantastic job showing Japan in the late 1980s, during a time when they were in an economic boom and it reflects on it. The characters look good in cutscenes and can be really expressive but when you go to the game itself that leaves a bit to be desired. It also has a stellar soundtrack and what’s more is that in battle, the music changes depending on what style you use. But the game also has some tunes that happen in the more important bits like in boss battles. There are boss battles aplenty and it’ll get you on the edge of your seat with some being awesome. Yakuza 0 is also on PC and personally, if you want the best experience, the PC version is a recommendation.

For all the good that Yakuza 0 has, there are some negatives. Most of the presentation seems a bit dated but I feel it makes sense. Yakuza isn’t about how good it looks, it’s about how good it plays. Not that it’s a bad thing. Also, the game can be unfair in some instances with enemies carrying stuff like firearms. It kills the momentum at times… like in Yakuza Kiwami.

Overall Yakuza 0 is a welcome addition to the series, being that it’s a prequel that helps set up the first game. Two protagonists having two stories that intertwine into a plot revolving an empty lot, gameplay that is good with a lot to explore and do and so much more. Despite some minor hiccups, it’s a solid game. Very solid. What else can be said that hasn’t already been said? If you wish to experience how two legends got their start, this is it. Every series has a starting point and this is that one. Just be ready because this is one journey you don’t want to miss out on.

I give Yakuza 0 a solid 8.5 out of 10. It’s worth your money whether on PS4 or PC.

Yakuza Kiwami Review

Yakuza Kiwami Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the purpose of reviewing this game.

Back in 2005-2006, SEGA released a game called Yakuza or Ryu Ga Gotoku (Like a Dragon) to the world. It would go on to be a big success for SEGA and would spawn a franchise. Many sequels and spin-offs would soon follow from its success. A decade later, the franchise would celebrate its 10th anniversary by releasing two games in the Yakuza series. One was a prequel called Yakuza 0 and the other would be a remake of the original. The remake, Yakuza Kiwami is a retelling of the original Yakuza. Does this remake do the original and the series justice?

Being that it’s a remake of a PS2 game, its story is largely unchanged. The plot centers on Kazuma Kiryu, a Yakuza lieutenant who takes the fall for a crime his friend Akira Nishikiyama committed in 1995. Ten years later, he is free on parole to find that his home of Kamurocho has changed. 10 billion yen ($90 million USD) has gone missing from the Tojo Clan, causing an all-out war between various factions and the only one that has any answers is a young girl named Haruka. Kiryu now makes it his goal to not only find his childhood friend Yumi, the missing 10 billion yen but also to protect Haruka from anyone and everyone that’s after her, including his old friend Nishiki who has become his sworn enemy.

The story is great. Everything about it is just well done but at the same time, you can’t help but wonder what happens next for all the characters involved. It has enough twists and turns that make your head spin. Being that it’s a remake, SEGA has taken the opportunity to add more to the game. An additional 25 minutes of cutscenes were added focusing on Nishiki and how what happened in the beginning shaped him to be what would end up at the end. It’s well done and you can’t help but feel bad for him. It adds more to his character than just having him be like a traditional bad guy in the original. It was what the original lacked.

As for gameplay, Yakuza Kiwami is an action-adventure game with elements of the open world, RPG and a bit of beat-em-up on the side. The game follows a chapter format where within each chapter of the game, you can do many things. Doing the story is one option but there’s a plethora of activities and mini-games for players to do. Kamurocho is a town that offers various doings such as bowling, pool, darts, karaoke, mahjong and so forth. Players can go to Hostess Clubs and woo beautiful women that work there. If they’re lucky and do well, they can take them out to dates. It’s as if SEGA took a piece of Japan’s heart and soul and integrates it into the game.

Not only that but players will encounter trouble in the form of punks. Things shift into a beat-em-up. Kiryu has access to three different fighting styles: Brawler, Rush, and Beast. Brawler is balanced, Rush specializes on speed and quick punches and Beast is all about brute force. You use these three styles to take down anyone that gets in your way. Taking down foes give you experience and you use the experience to unlock new moves and techniques for your three styles. There is an additional fourth style: Dragon and that is unlocked with a new feature that’s exclusive to Yakuza Kiwami: Majima Everywhere.

Majima Everywhere is pretty much a mini-game where you must encounter and battle Majima in order to fully max out the Dragon style. It can range from a variety of activities but they all have one simple goal: building up the fourth style. Being that it is an open-world game, players will have to prepare themselves for survival. The city offers plenty of places to stock up on supplies for the trials ahead. The yen is the game’s currency and you get it by completing sub-stories and selling stuff. Not only that but the game also has various sub-stories that detail life within Kamurocho and it’s people. Completing them offers plenty of rewards like goods and experience. But overall the game really gives you a lot to do.

All of this is enough to drive players to spend hours on completing the game. If you focus on story alone, the game will take about 20-30 hours but to 100% the game, it extends to the hundreds. Beating the game also adds more replay value with the Premium Adventure and Legend difficulty. As far as presentation goes, the game is a step up from both the PS2 and PS3 versions. It’s seamless and fluid with no load times to get in the way. The game also is amazing at 1080p running at 60fps. The character models are good and show a variety of expressions to boot. As for the voice acting, SEGA decided to give it an overhaul dropping the English dub in favor of a Japanese one. It’s very good. Fortunately, there are English subtitles but for those that would want to see the 2005 dub come to this game, expect to be disappointed. The music has some remixed tunes that were in the original but it’s a bit mixed. Some are really good while others are a bit of a miss. It shouldn’t stop players from enjoying the game.

Though there is a lot of good with Yakuza Kiwami, the game has some faults. The combat can get hectic at times when there are a lot of enemies. Fortunately, the game fixes some of the issues and lets you automatically attack the nearest enemy. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that at times, enemies can pack heavy artillery and you’d be really screwed. Also, the Majima Everywhere can be a repetitive grind, all for the sake of maxing out the fourth style, Dragon.

Yakuza Kiwami is a Yakuza game redone for the modern generation of gaming. With a stepped-up presentation, solid gameplay and plenty of content, what more needs to be said? Plus it has a story that gets you invested in the characters. SEGA put a lot of love towards the franchise and it shows with Kiwami. With SEGA announcing remasters of the other Yakuza games, now is a good time to get into the series. Want a starting point, go with either 0 or Kiwami but Kiwami is a good choice to see where the series began.

I give Yakuza Kiwami a 9 out of 10. It is a must buy game and earns my personal seal of approval.