Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the end of an era. This is Kazuma Kiryu’s last adventure. Of course, it is not the end of the series. I mean, we have Yakuza Kiwami 2 coming to the PlayStation 4 on August 28, 2018. But his saga draws to an end. While there will be varying opinions on how good this installment is, there are some things that it does right. There are a number of themes, gameplay elements and story directions that provide interesting parallels and a proper bookend to his tale.
Editor’s note: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life spoilers will follow. No spoiler images will be shown.
A big part of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life coming full circle has to do with the idea that we have again returned to a game where we are only following Kiryu. Yakuza 4 has four, Yakuza 5 has five, Yakuza 0 has two and even Yakuza Kiwami 2 is adding a new scenario so people can play as both Kiryu and Goro Majima. While having more protagonists can enhance the story, provide more perspectives and offer more diversity, this has always been a series where the Dragon of Dojima was the one who mattered most. It started with him, so zeroing in on him for this final act is important.
There is another way in which Yakuza 6: The Song of Life returns to form that helps end this chapter and provide a bookend. When we first meet Kiryu, he has found an orphaned girl named Haruka who is being hunted. She is the daughter of the woman he loved, Yumi, and a mafia kingpin, Sohei Dojima. Haruka is considered the key to getting missing money and Kiryu spends the game protecting her and looking for the truth behind her parentage. This all happens while helping resolve issues within the Dojima family. This final entry completely parallels this story.
The main woman in Kiryu’s life, Haruka, has been injured and is in danger in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, just like Yumi was. He is left to care for the temporarily orphaned Haruto, whose parentage is a mystery, while investigating, just like he did with Haruka years ago. Naturally, the Dojima family has territory and issues with other clans again. Once you go along, you find out that surprise! Haruto is a target! Just like his mom was! His dad is the Hirose Clan’s Yuta Usami, who is revealed to be the son of Big Lo and possible heir of the Saio Triad.
There is also the notion that Kiryu gets his own clan. In Yakuza Kiwami, Kiryu is on the verge of having his own family within the Dojima Family. It is only when Nishikiyama kills Sohei and Kiryu takes the fall that this is sabotaged. Throughout the series, we keep seeing how important family is to him and that people constantly gravitate toward him. Even though Clan Creator is just a minigame, one you can choose to completely avoid as you play, the fact that he can recruit people, build a formidable force and finally do the good we know he is capable by wiping out JUSTIS is an important way of giving him and fans the thing he deserves.
But the biggest factor is the way Kiryu chooses to end it all. Most Yakuza games end with him saving the day, protecting the Dojima family and making things right again, but nearly dying and ending up in jail again. It is this constant cycle of him trying to get out, being pulled back in, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and being put in a place where he does not get the life he wants and the people he loves are in danger again. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life sees Kiryu taking multiple bullets to protect Haruka, Haruto and Yuta. The Onomichi Incident is famous. So, he fakes his death. He negotiates so Daigo Dojima is released from prison and can return to head up the family. He has an official death certificate sent out, ensures people like Goro Majima will not go seeing vengeance and guarantees the cycle will end. Only Makoto Date knows the truth, as witness to the deal. Yuta, Haruka and Haruto are shown happy at the orphanage with the children, with only Haruto only noticing and taking his first steps as Kiryu takes his away. He sacrifices his happiness for the last time, guaranteeing peace for his family.
Kazuma Kiryu has always been this hero dragged into situations, doing what is right even when it means making sacrifices. When we met him, he was finding out the truth about a child, setting things right during clan conflicts and making the world a better place in the process. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life does the same. He follows a similar path. Except at the end this time, he makes the ultimate sacrifice. He makes a choice that ends a cycle and perhaps offers an opportunity for real peace.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is available for the PlayStation 4.