Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review

Richard Walker

Over the space of six games, we've been through thick and thin with Kazuma Kiryu, from his formative years, alongside best friend and oath brother Akira Nishikiyama, in Yakuza 0; to running an orphanage in Okinawa, then living a second life as a taxi driver in Fukuoka, during the events of Yakuza 5. It's been one hell of a ride, but, sadly, all good things must come to an end. As such, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life provided a fitting conclusion to Kiryu's saga upon its PlayStation 4 release, back in 2018, and now, finally, you can play it on Xbox.

That's what you get for upsetting the Dragon of Dojima.

Heralded as one of the series' best games with good reason, Yakuza 6 does away with the relative bloat of Yakuza 4 and 5, refocusing its narrative purely on Kiryu, as he journeys to Onomichi in Hiroshima, following an accident involving adopted daughter Haruka. This being a Yakuza game, things quickly begin to spiral, and before you know it Kiryu finds himself at the centre of yet another intricate conspiracy – how does he manage to always walk into these things, eh? Regardless, after serving time in prison, in the wake of Yakuza 5's messy fallout, Kiryu finds himself returning to the Morning Glory orphanage years later, only to discover that Haruka has gone and sodded off.

Eventually, the trail leads to the sleepy port town of Onomichi (with its brilliant mascot Ono Michio-kun), where Kiryu is confronted by the local yakuza toughs and inevitably ends up fighting in the streets. No change there, then. Soon, you'll also return to Kiryu's regular stomping ground of Kamurocho, where you'll find the usual SEGA games like OutRun, Super Hang On, Space Harrier, and Virtua Fighter 2 in the arcade, and a smattering of new mini-game activities, like returning missing cats to a cat cafe, and pumping iron in the RIZAP gym.

You can also socialise with the local barflies back in Onomichi, solving all of their problems. As you do. More involved distractions, meanwhile, include the Clan Creator from Yakuza Kiwami 2, wherein you'll assemble a gang to take on a succession of villainous rivals; and a baseball management mini-game, where you'll attempt to reverse the fortunes of the ailing Setouchi Warriors squad. Harpooning fish, helping out with Trouble Missions in Kamurocho, engaging in horny online Live Chats, and hanging out at the hostess club round things out as far as mini-games are concerned, all of which prove enjoyable and smirk-inducing.

Therein lies the evergreen appeal of any Yakuza game – there's always a humorous substory or mini-game to keep you occupied between the more dramatic narrative beats of the core storyline, and in that respect The Song of Life is no different. From developing Kiryu's brawling skills to recruiting clan members, or warbling out a tune at the nearest karaoke bar, there's always stuff to do in Yakuza 6. And, as ever, the crux of the gameplay is to be found in the ass-kicking combat, which returns with a new 'Extreme Heat' mechanic, enabling you to unleash a flurry of punishing strikes that can break down an enemy's defences, leaving them open to a devastating Heat finisher. Naturally, there are items galore to pick up and wield as weapons, including the usual array of bludgeoning tools like traffic cones, bicycles, plant pots, and street signs, as well as a glut of gloriously violent, bone-crunching Heat moves to pull off.

And while combat encounters can grow a mite repetitive, the level of fun the brutal face-punching provides, punctuated by the daftness of the substories and the central narrative itself, keeps on dragging you back for more. This being the concluding chapter in Kiryu's seven game arc, the stakes have never been higher, and the end escalates to a seriously gratifying crescendo. The best thing is, even if you've never experienced a Yakuza game before, there's ample opportunity to catch up on events within Yakuza 6 itself, if the prospect of trawling through Yakuza 0 to 5 sounds like too much of an ordeal (although it really isn't and you should totally play them all) – all players are duly catered for.

Kiryu: friend to the cats of Kamurocho.

If you have played a Yakuza game, however, then you'll obviously be well-versed in what to expect – plenty of fisticuffs, oodles of narrative intrigue, and gleefully silly substories galore. But Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is also a sensational swansong for Kiryu, and a culmination of a seven-game saga that's unlike anything else. If you've enjoyed everything that Ryu Ga Gotoku's story of warring criminal factions has had to throw at you so far, then you really owe it to yourself to play Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and if, conversely, this is your first throwdown with Kiryu and co., then you're in for a treat, regardless. Seeing how Kiryu's fate ultimately unfolds is hugely compelling, paving the way for a certain new hero in Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Farewell, Kiryu – it's been emotional.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

If you’ve spent hundreds of hours with Kazuma Kiryu over the years, then the conclusion to his sprawling arc in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life won’t disappoint. And if you haven’t played a Yakuza game before, you’ll still get a whole lot out of this. Yakuza 6 is a sensational game.

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The Japanese voice actors do another remarkably stellar job, while the score is sublime. Great stuff.


Wonderfully detailed characters and vibrant locations make for a lovely feast for the eyes, making up for a slightly treacly frame-rate.


Seven games in, the combat can feel a tad repetitious, but it’s so much fun, it’s hard to care about that. Yakuza 6 is consistently enjoyable from start to finish.


The usual slew of mini-games, an epic narrative that provides a fitting end for Kiryu, and loads of ass-kicking to be done across 40-50 hours. Marvellous.


A great list with a spread across pretty much everything that Yakuza 6 has to offer. You couldn’t really ask for much more.

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