The Yakuza games have had a tendency to talk about connections, as well as life in a crime-ridden Kamurocho. As an orphan, Kazuma Kiryu did not have a biological family, but we have seen him create his own family over the years with people like his foster father, Shintaro Kazama, and adopted daughter, Haruka Sawamura. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life gives us the chance to see these relationships begin to pay off and understand the effect Kiryu has had on his community.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life begins by showing the repercussions of Yakuza 5, but at the same time calling attention to what people do for the ones they love. Haruka admitted Kiryu was her father onstage, letting the world know she was connected to the criminal underworld. The conflict has caused Kiryu to be arrested and jailed again, in the name of possibly bringing peace back to the various families. Instead of a peaceful life at the Okinawa orphanage with Haruka, he is heading back to jail. There is a sense of the sacrifices people need to make for the people important to them. Kiryu does his time again to protect people and bring peace. Haruka leaves the orphanage once paparazzi learn where she is, to protect the other children. When Kiryu comes home and finds Haruka is gone, he willingly leaves the kids to go back again. Haruka sacrifices herself to keep her son, Haruto, safe when she is hit by a car. And Kiryu gives up a possible peaceful life to investigate her accident. We keep seeing people give things up for the people who matter and do what they can for them.
But while the sense of constant sacrifice that kicks off Yakuza 6: The Song of Life may leave people a bit melancholy, there are constant reminders of how much these characters mean to each other and what they are willing to do when brought together for a good cause. In the introduction, we see Goro Majima and Taiga Saejima standing guard outside of Kiryu’s hospital room. Makoto Date always has Kiryu’s best interests at heart, offering inside information whenever he can. When Kiryu and Shun Akiyama reunite for the first time after Kiryu’s time in prison, Akiyama immediately jumps into action and fights alongside Kiryu against Ed, a member of the Saio Triad. Not to mention when Akiyama is explaining how he has gone underground and become homeless again to assure his safety, he notes that he sent his secretary Hana to the countryside to make sure she was protected throughout all this. There are these little touches and actions to indicate how important these people are to each other and how they have chosen to impact each others’ lives.
One of my favorite moments in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life that ranks high on being both heartwarming and a prime example of how Kiryu has made a difference to the people around him is when he returns to the orphanage after his time in prison. In a scene just before this, Kiryu is unconscious and wandering through his memories. When he sees Ayako, Eri, Izumi, Koji, Mitsuo, Riona, Shiro and Taichi, he remarks on how important these orphans he has been caring for and supporting helped him. People who have been following the series for a while will know that Taichi and Ayako are considered the “leaders” of the group of children. When Taichi sees Kiryu again for the first time, he runs up to him, crying, and hugs him. All of the children gather around to great Uncle Kaz. The love in that moment and in the brief period where he talks to each child before heading to Kamurocho to get in touch with Akiyama again and search for Haruka is evident.
Another example of this devotion appears in an early sub-story. Kiryu comes upon a little girl who is a Haruka fan. The little girl wants some kind of fan merchandise to remember her by, as she met her during an idol event presumably during the events of Yakuza 5 and was impacted by her actions and performances. This leads to a chain of events that sends Kiryu searching for merchandise among fans, heading to a pawn shop to get a bromide portrait photo, saving the fan who bought the picture first and then returning to present it to the child. When he does, the little girl reveals that she knew Kiryu was Haruka’s father the whole time, because she could see the admiration in his eyes and voice when he spoke about her. It really helps set the stage for the game and make players realize why Kiryu is on this journey.
Kiryu’s relationship with Haruto shows how this cycle continues. Even with everything that has happened in his life, he opens his heart to this baby and does what he can to help his grandson. We see him going out of his way to care for the child, feeding and appeasing him. And Haruto recognizes Kiryu and shows this genuine joy when he is around him. Even though he has just met the baby, he immediately extends himself for his sake.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a game that is constantly showing us how much Kazuma Kiryu matters to the people in this world. He is a parental figure to a group of orphans and a new, doting grandfather. He is a close friend to Date. When it comes to Akiyama and Majima, he is more like a brother. He is constantly trying to do his best for people, all because he cares about the family he has created around him so much. It really makes the story all the more poignant.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe on April 17, 2018. It is immediately available in Japan. Siliconera will be live streaming the game on March 15, 2018 at 12pm PT/2pm CT/3pm ET.