GENRE: Action/Adventure
PRICE: £49.99

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is both an end and a new beginning to SEGAs long running crime saga. The changes are sweeping, and mostly welcome with a new engine, revamped combat and a more focused, down to earth narrative that will appeal to new comers, and long-time fans of the series alike.   

Taking place three years after the events of Yakuza 5,  Kiryu’s latest adventure sees him return to the Sunshine Orphanage after yet another prison sentence to find his adoptive daughter Haruka missing. After a tip-off that she may be in Kamurocho, Kiryu returns just in time to find Huruka in a coma following a car accident and Kiryu left holding her infant son Haruto.

Kiryu then travels to the sleepy seaside town of Onomichi in Hiroshima to find his adopted grandson’s deadbeat dad, while there he becomes involved with a local gang of Yakuza lead by a doddering Patriarch played by Beat Takashi (Battle Royale) who steals every scene he’s in.

Things soon pick up though, as Kiryu gets involved in a much grander plot that could have massive ramifications for the Yakuza. Though epic, the narrative is much more grounded this time, eschewing the bear fights and prison breaks of Yakuza 5 in favour of a more believable crime drama.

Don’t worry though, the side missions are still bonkers. Highlights include Kiryu running into a Youtuber desperate to go viral and contending with a self-aware phone assistant with plans for world domination.

The clan builder from Yakuza 5 also makes a return, with players recruiting bored thugs across Kamurocho and Onomichi to bolster their ranks before waging war against rival gang JUSTIS lead by  wrestlers from New Japan Pro wrestling. Each gang fight see players spawn thugs of various types in an attempt to wipe out all the opposing forces before the time runs out. It’s simple, fun and surprisingly deep, which at times feels like a game within a game.

Speaking of games within games, Players can go to Sega Arcades throughout Kamurocho and play full versions of arcade classics including After Burner, Space Harrier, Puyo Puyo, and most impressive of all, the full arcade version of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

The new ‘Dragon’ engine is a high point - breathing new life into the bustling open world of Kamurocho. The streets are more densely populated and there are no more loading screens. If you want to go into a shop you simply walk in. if you start a fight with a gang of thugs, it starts instantly and can spill over into the convenience store Kiryu just bought some bento from.

Yakuza 6 drops the multiple combat styles of Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. This is a double-edged sword because although the styles have been effectively merged into one I found myself using very similar tactics in each fight.

Likewise, the new levelling system which has players earning points in five different areas dependant on Kiryu’s actions gives the illusion of choice but is ultimately pointless because it pays to keep Kiryu’s base stats balanced and most new abilities require points from all five categories.

However, players ability to rack up XP by doing practically anything makes Yakuza 6’s myriad of diversions more rewarding and worthwhile.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has been billed as the concluding chapter in Kiryus story arc and welcoming in a new generation. Kamurocho is changing, the Yakuza are changing and introduces a slew of new (mostly likeable) characters. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of old favourites like Goro Majima and Daigo Dojima who are noticeably absent for most of the game.

It’s a new era for Yakuza, both in game and out. Yakuza 6; The Song of Life may not be the grandiose send-off that some fans may have wanted, but it’s a fitting conclusion to Kiryu’s story and one that makes me look forward to where the series is headed next.

Score: 9/10