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story.lead_photo.caption Artwork from Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Title: Yakuza 6: Song of Life

Platform: PS4

Cost: $59.99

Rating: Mature, for blood, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual content and strong language

Score: 7/10

The Yakuza series plays to a pretty niche crowd. It's a combination of soap-opera-like cut-scenes, zany street brawls and virtual tourism.

Compared with the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Yakuza 6: Song of Life leans decidedly more on the cinematic end of the spectrum. It's also much less of an "open world" game, being the culmination of a series that began in 2005, starring antihero Kazuma Kiryu, an honorable yakuza enforcer.

Yakuza is a Japanese organized crime syndicate.

If you're new to the series, Yakuza 6 starts with an extended cut scene to give an overview of relevant events and people. Kiryu has just finished spending several years in prison (for events that took place in Yakuza 5), a sentence that he hopes will cleanse him of his criminal sins, and has retired from his yakuza lifestyle. But trouble continues to follow wherever he goes.

Returning to an orphanage he created (because he's a gang member with a heart of gold, of course), the perpetually scowlingKiryu finds his adopted daughter vanished a couple of years before.

He eventually finds her in a coma after a hit-and-run, and discovers that she's given birth to a baby that he now must protect while he searches for the father. It's a very personal story that is set against the backdrop of his former yakuza clan waging war against a ruthless, expanding Chinese triad organization.

Yakuza 6 is a pretty long game -- expect to spend anywhere from 30 to 50 hours completing it. A lot of that comes from the many lengthy, dramatic cut-scenes (up to 20 minutes long) with soap-opera-like twists and turns exploring themes of family, legacies and aging. It's also a game that's subtitled in English, with Japanese voice acting.

One of the more interesting parts of the game is the virtual tourism -- the realistic re-creation of modern Japan, explorable by the player. The game presents a small slice of a fairly authentic Japanese city, including restaurants, vending machines, karaoke bars and video-game arcades.

Kiryu has a hunger meter that depletes by running around and brawling with gangs on street corners, and he gains experience whenever he eats food from one of the dozens of restaurants -- with extensive menus -- in the area.

So if you're interested in what it would actually be like to walk around the streets of a Tokyo entertainment district, singing karaoke and visiting ramen shops, Yakuza 6 can give you a virtual taste.

In between the dramatic narratives, Yakuza 6 lets players relax and blow off some steam with a stable of entertaining minigames. The minigames all revolve around using the controller -- through its motion sensors or by pressing buttons in the right sequences. You can join a gym and pump some iron, sing karaoke, throw darts, hit baseballs at the batting cages, go spearfishing and more.

There's even the Nyan Nyan Cafe -- where you can visit and feed stray cats that you've rescued from around the city.

There's also a couple of mature-theme minigames that aren't suitable for a younger audience. One involves chatting up women at a hostess club, and the other is more a live-chat experience of women getting into various stages of undress online. It's not explicit, but it's pretty risque.

Then again, using a bicycle or baseball bat to smash up gangsters on the city streets isn't really suitable for a younger audience, either.

As you explore the city between the dramatic main-story cut-scenes, you'll also come across often-silly sidequests, where you'll help people out. There's a YouTuber with a selfie stick who wants to do a documentary on the yakuza, and a cemetery that has a problem with ghost pirates. You can even take your own selfies with a camera phone when you come across interesting events or backdrops.

For those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, about half the main story takes place in a small fishing village that has its own charms, restaurants and minigames.

Graphically, the game is a big step up from its predecessors, but the combat system is fairly simplistic, and the fights were pretty repetitive. For me, the best part was the virtual tourism, visiting the stores and shops and getting that street-level view of another country, and the wacky side-quest encounters.

Even though it's the last entry in the Kazuma Kiryu saga, it's still pretty accessible to first-time players.

ActiveStyle on 06/25/2018

Print Headline: Game On

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