Whether you’re a new recruit to the Yakuza family or a battle-tested chairman, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life can easily inundate you with all its sightseeing surprises and systemic subtleties. To make it in Japan’s criminal underworld, you need to stay on top of everything the game throws you, including the stuff that it doesn’t even tell you about.
That’s right, despite being notably more accessible than previous Yakuza games, there’s still a lot to learn when it comes to navigating the nuanced mechanics and finer details of Yakuza 6, and not everything is laid out before you via your mobile phone’s tutorials. As it so happens, I’ve completed the game and am here to impart some advice before it releases in the West on April 17, just so you’re as ready as you can be on launch day. Here are the things I wish I knew before playing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.
You should play all the mini-games and eat all the food
Not just because the mini-games are ridiculously fun and the food looks so mouthwatering in its detail that you can practically taste every order, but because all of it will earn you more XP to level up Kazuma Kiryu, no matter what you’re doing. That’s great, because there are tons of new skills and traits to unlock, and what could otherwise be a frivolous pastime (such as having a game of darts or chowing down on a burger) is now a meaningful way to keep progressing in Yakuza 6.
Don’t think eating is a shortcut to endgame, mind. If your hunger meter is full, any further food you intake will stop awarding experience points until some time has passed and it’s back below the 100 point threshold, though other consumable items are able to offer certain bonuses and perks for fighting and so on. Also… don’t try the live chat mini-game. Trust me on this: don’t.
Getting drunk can make you a better fighter
It’s not exactly sending out the most wholesome message, but alcohol can actually be an advantageous option for responsible drinkers in Yakuza 6, though there’s a fine line between getting tipsy and going overboard. For example, swig down enough liquid happiness, and your heat orbs will fill up faster during combat, meaning you can score those environmental takedowns much more quickly than if you were sober.
However, being inebriated also means mobs are more likely to pick a fight with you, which isn’t ideal if you’re just trying to get to the next story mission. The best way to sober up is to drink water or simply wait it out and let Kiryu stabilise over time. And maybe don’t go so heavy on the Muqi Shochu next time, aye?
It helps to join the gym
Just like in real life, the idea of regularly attending gym sessions and eating the right meals sounds like a bit of a chore, but it’s absolutely worthwhile if you want to make sure Kazuma is as fit and healthy as he can be. To begin your membership, just head over to the Rizap gym on the west side of Kamurocho and talk to the receptionist, who will set you up with a trainer.
From there, it’s a matter of scheduling regular sessions to partake in a couple of exercise based minigames, before finding and eating the meal choices that the dieticians suggest for you. You’ll need to eat your advised meal before you can eat anything else, and you won’t be able to return for another gym session until you’ve been in at least one fight in the open world, but keep stick to the rules, and you’ll have more XP than you know what to do with.
You can catch up on all the previous Yakuza games (but don’t really need to)
In case the giant number 6 on the front cover of the game didn’t give it away, The Song of Life is the sixth mainline Yakuza game in the franchise, and technically the final game for its main character; Kazuma Kiryu. While the story is a relatively isolated tale that can be followed without any foreknowledge of previous Yakuza games, it still draws from 13 years’ worth of lore that has been slowly cultivated since the original in 2005.
Thankfully, Sega has found a quick workaround to help newcomers catch up with the series so far. ‘Memories’ can be accessed from the main menu, and is a text-based recap of the stories from every main Yakuza game so far, from the very first PlayStation 2 game to 2012’s Yakuza 5, allowing you to see what’s been going down with Kazuma Kiryu before jumping into his last adventure. It’s honestly not essential, though, as part of Yakuza 6’s brilliance is its accessibility as a narrative experience that doesn’t just cater to longtime loyalists.
Remember to carry cat food with you at all times
Seriously. One of the first side-quests you’ll likely come across in Yakuza 6 involves an owner of a failed cat cafe asking you to bring him as many felines off the streets of Kamurocho as you can, namely by seducing them with cat food. But these little furballs aren’t easily pleased. Each cat will demand several tins of cat food before being domesticated enough to join you at the cafe, so it’s going to take more than one attempt to win them over.
You’ll find them randomly lying in alleys and streets of the open world, so you’ll never know when you’ll need some cat food handy. You can buy the food in certain grocery stores, and I’d recommend stocking up early and heavily, to avoid repeat trips for purchasing any more and making sure you always have enough whenever you spot another hungry moggie.
First person mode is more than just a gimmick
Yakuza has had an optional first-person perspective setting across several of its games now, and The Song of Life is no different, allowing players to switch seamlessly between third and first person with the click of the R3 button, so long as you’re not in combat.
That means you can only use the mode when peacefully exploring the hubs of Kamurocho or Onomichi, which might seem kind of redundant, but it’s honestly a fantastic way to really dig your teeth into Yakuza 6’s sense of virtual tourism. You can read every restaurant menu, browse every shop window, peruse each individual items at the grocery store... it’s an experience unto itself that really shows just how attentive Sega has been in crafting an authentic simulation of Japanese urbanity.
There’s local split-screen
Well, to an extent. You’re not going to be able to run around the streets of Kamurocho as a Kiryu and Majima tag team (though I would pay good money for a game like that, Sega), since Yakuza 6’s main experience remains very much a single-player focused campaign.
But some of the mini games outside of the story offer split-screen options for local play with a friend, so long as you have a spare Dualshock 4 controller nearby. This includes former Sega classics like Virtua Fighter 5 and the tile-matching game, Puyo Puyo. The best news is that you can play both these titles straight from the menus without jumping into the base game, making it easy to fire up a round without the hassle of finding the right machine in the Sega Arcade.
You can send emojis to your mobile contacts
Better yet, they’ll often react to them! It’s not exactly a game-changer of a feature, but being able to reply to your text chums with a variety of adorable cat emojis can be exactly the kind of pick-me-up you need after an intense cut-scene or tough boss battle.
Your chosen e-pen pal will reply in different ways depending on which emoji you send, too. Fire off an angry cat face, and they’ll question your temper. Beam up a sad kitty, and they’ll ask you what’s wrong. N’awh, these Yakuza really are a caring bunch of people when it comes down it.