Yakuza 6: Song of Life for Xbox review — An epic conclusion to a wonderful series

A former PS4 exclusive finally graces the Xbox.

Yakuza 6 Hero
(Image: © Windows Central)

The Xbox Game Pass is hands down the best value in gaming, and it continues to get bigger and better thanks to excellent first-party games, which now include many of Bethesda's greatest hits. With that kind of quality at your fingertips, it's easy to miss some of the outstanding smaller games available on the service. The Yakuza series is one such example. They are some of the best action games available on Xbox and while they are popular, they often get overlooked.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life is an endlessly entertaining crime drama that closes the book on long-time protagonist Kazuma Kiryu's epic story while offering some of the best gameplay in the series. Now that it's finally on Xbox, was it worth the wait? The answer to that is a thunderous yes.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life for Xbox: Pity a life of crime

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
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TitleYakuza 6: Song of Life
DeveloperRyu Ga Gotoku Studio
GenreAction Adventure
Xbox VersionXbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Game Size36.3 GB
Play Time20-25 hours
PlayersSingle player
Xbox Game PassYes

Yakuza 6: Song of Life follows Kazuma Kiryu, the aging former yakuza trying desperately to leave the life of crime. It picks up almost immediately after the end of the Yakuza 5 with Kiryu recovering from his injuries sustained in the final battle of the previous game. He's arrested for his past crimes and elects to serve his time in prison so that he can finally wash his hands of the crime family and live a normal life with the Morning Glory orphans. Of course, like every Yakuza game, it's never that easy. Kiryu leaves prison to find that his adopted daughter, Haruka, has been sent to the hospital after a hit and run, and she's left behind a child. Kiryu sets out on a journey to find the baby's father and finds himself once again entrenched in the world of Japanese organized crime.

Unlike the previous games, Yakuza 6 focuses solely on Kiryu and its narrative is stronger for it. Kiryu's gruff demeanor masks the endearing and sympathetic man who wants only to live the rest of his life in peace. Yakuza 6 tackles themes of family, legacy, the price of freedom, the lasting effects of crime, and becomes one of the most emotionally satisfying Yakuza games as a result. It's a mature and grounded drama that's impeccably voice acted and translated. Yakuza 6 even taps some star talent by way of Japanese star Beat Takeshi and other entertainers from Japanese wrestling and adult entertainment (yeah, you read that right).

Yakuza 6 tackles themes of family, legacy, the price of freedom, and the lasting effects of crime.

If you've played other Yakuza games, you'll be in familiar territory here. You can explore the fictional city of Kamurocho, Tokyo as well as Onomichi playing minigames, eating food, and fighting the low-level thugs that patrol the area. While the gameplay is similar to a beat 'em up game, there are RPG elements found throughout. Fighting gains experience, which can be used to level up your skills in various categories.

Yakuza 6 also marks the first use of the Dragon Engine, the game engine employed by Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The engine improves the graphics greatly, shaking out the stiffness in the NPCs and environments, and adding a robust physics engine that makes for a more realistic setting. It also improves the fighting system greatly, condensing and simplifying the fighting and making encounters grander in scale. It all comes together to form one of the best Yakuza games on the Xbox.

It's like one of my Japanese animes!

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While the Yakuza series was never really considered a true RPG until Yakuza: Like a Dragon, it's soaked in traditional RPG trappings. In addition to earning experience points to improve your stats and learn skills, there are many side stories you encounter that often find Kiryu in bizarre situations. Whether it's offering relationship advice to an Idol, posing as a mascot, or browsing internet chat rooms, the game's side stories are where the real insanity of Yakuza lies.

In addition to the side stories, there's plenty of minigames to enjoy. While there are fewer than were in other games, they're still vital to what makes Yakuza "Yakuza". Stop at Club Sega and play Virtua Fighter 5, sing a few songs at the Karaoke bar, hit the gym, and manage clan wars in a top-down strategy game that's good enough to be a stand alone title on its own. Yakuza 6 is never afraid to go too far, and you're sure to crack a smile at just how absurd some of these minigames are.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life for Xbox: Not for the weak of heart

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I mentioned this in my review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon as well as Yakuza Remastered, but these games are steeped in Japanese culture and customs. The game is fully voiced in Japanese, and though the translations are absolutely amazing, I know some people would prefer an English cast voice-over. I have no problem with this, but there have been many times that I've looked away from the screen only to miss some big reveal because, you know, I don't speak Japanese.

The ongoing story might seem like nonsense if this is your first Yakuza.

And you'd better pay attention because Yakuza is a cutscene-heavy game. While Yakuza 6 gets into the action a little faster than other Yakuza's, it's still one of those games where you'll put your controller down for long periods. It's a slow burn, and the ongoing story might seem like nonsense if this is your first Yakuza.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life is one of the more accessible Yakuza games and can be enjoyed on its own, but its best appreciated when you've consumed the previous Yakuzas to fully understand the intricate web of drama that's been brewing since the 1980s as well as appreciate the growth of the series as a whole.

That being said, there's nothing wrong with it existing as it is, fully of Japanese culture and with its long history. It just might make it inaccessible to a few players, especially those who might want to try it now that it's on Xbox Game Pass.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life for Xbox: Is it worth the download?

Yakuza 6 Bathhouse

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I love the Yakuza games, and I think Song of Life is one of the best Yakuza games, up there with Yakuza 0 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Combat, one of my only issues with older Yakuza games, has been streamlined and it's incredibly fun to wail on two dozen guys in the middle of a busy Japanese street or complete one of the many absurd side stories. Now that's Kiryu's journey is complete and available on Xbox Game Pass, there's no excuse not to try the series. They make up some of the best games available on the Xbox.

Thanks to Xbox Game Pass, players can experience one of the best games they've probably never heard of. Yakuza 6: Song of Life is one of the best games in a series of certified hits.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. I like playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.