+An extremely lively and detailed 80’s Japan
+A terrific and detailed story
+Mini-games are an absolute blast
+Some scenes can be graphic, but pay a deep role within the game
-Combat grows stagnant and repetitive
Yakuza is a series that has garnished itself a cult status in North America and somehow, the franchise remains free of its possibility as successful franchise there. It’s a series that shows the darker side of Japan’s underworld as players join in on the franchises debut on the PlayStation 4. As a prequel to the franchise, Yakuza 0 is a great place for those unfamiliar to the franchise and offers them a way to learn about the franchise without any existing knowledge about it. This means everything you may need to know, doesn’t exist, and it is a resoundingly awesome feature that many games neglect these days.
The game, as my entry title, sets itself in a peculiar place for my first adventure through with Kazuma Kiryu and friends. Much of my game, however, would be given a glance over through both outdated character models as well as graphical textures to the world around the characters. While most gamers these days would take this as a problematic ordeal as combat itself may even seem just as out of date as the rest. Looking away from all this though? The series remains unique as ever with many of its mechanics and changes that haven’t happened, but what may be troubled by a lack of detail, may also serve up as one of this games strongest assets: story, which is craftily executed.
Our story, much as you would expect, is simple. Players will take on the role of young yakuza gangster Kiryum whom just has to wear his heart on his sleeve, and roams through Tokyo with an iron fist. His heart, while gold, serves the yakuza without question. The story revolves around Kiryu having been caught in the middle of a battle between criminal organizations after being framed for an incident out of his control. In our events we meet Goro Majima, a yakuza member who masquerades as a manager of a grand cabaret, and finds himself crossing paths with Kiryu. Sent on a mission to take out an enemy, Majima finds himself knocking a mission that soon puts him on the run much like Kiryu.
As the two stumble into constant struggles with the yakuza, both of them stumble upon their struggles as one another. While both characters will take players by surprise, and that’s not while they are slipping out of harm’s way, the two are often able to show off their clever plans on devising, creating a story o their own. While not playing through the missions, the games story-related cutscenes are anything, but fun. They are serious, and they are ones that make the yakuza itself beyond believable. These scenes show that everything is at stake. Their lives, their friends, their family, and everything they live for.
The game sets a similar tone to games such as Sleeping Dogs where players will weave their way through the world around them. The intricacies of relationships, alliances, and financial gain play n important role as players seek to claim Tokyo as their own. While the game offers up a fascinating story, it also offers up an equal serving of astonishment as players learn what both Kiryu and Majima are capable of when it comes to their talents.
While the games story serves as its ultimate high point, the game conveys its story through Hollywood grade voice acting not normally seen in games, and offers up a rather enjoyable Japanese audio only experience with English subtitles. This helps portray the games energy, the attitude of each character, and even the ferocity of each cast member. This brings each of them to life, especially with each facial expression made, every snarl, snicker, and even grunt that’s made throughout the game. This includes the detail to the games photorealistic facial features, some of the details leading so far as to letting people see the pores on a characters face.
While characters may just seem as real as possible, there’s more to Yakuza 0 than just its story, its photorealistic characters, and details that finish out the game. Instead, Zero offers a prominent sense of trouble for NPCs and non-first-rate characters. Players will notice many of them feel as if they haven’t been upgraded since the franchises PlayStation 2 days. While this is a nuance, it also doesn’t help they move like robots, stiff, not-so-alive in comparison to Kiryu, who seems as alive as ever throughout the game. While the game can be faulted for that, it makes up for the amazing combat that feels fresh, and even more enjoyable since the days of Sleeping Dogs, which was my first experience with such a gameplay style.
Yakuza 0’s combat is quite frankly a delight to go through as players will balance out a few different fighting styles across both Kiryu and Majima. Both fighters both will feature three varieties that differentiate between the two. This helps with the games emphasis on its brawler aspects. Both fighters can be developed through the games training by “investing money on them”. This allows them both to have higher HP, new combos, and new capabilities while smashing through waves of enemies depending on the encounter.
The delight, however, sits with Majima. His abilities vastly variate from that of Kiryu who’s your typical brawler. Majima’s is a true joy as he is one that comes in with a sense of flare. His ability to throw around with a bat or dancing, is a nice change from Kiryu’s introductory chapters, which puts players at around three hours of your more standard fisticuffs. While Majima and Kiryu will both find themselves throwing down against lonesome drunks, a few bikers, lowly yakuza members, and even delinquents that get in the way. While there are others that knock these two around quite well, Kiryu and Majima are a fresh breath of air for the genre that largely needed it.
While the fighting does prove that this game is as brutal as it seems. The game also offers up some leisure time that players can spend by going to dinner, enjoying some karaoke, and various other mini-games. While playing through the game, no matter the scenario, the game makes you want to feel as if you are taking the role of a true member of the yakuza, that you are truly adventuring through Tokyo and Osaka. This means even the option missions that fans will enjoy feel as if they are just as equally as important as the games main campaign, and even offers up a need for players to visit various stores as well as amusement centers.
Yakuza 0 – PlayStation 4
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
All of this goes without saying that Yakuza 0 is a great place for first-time fans like myself. It’s a game that offers a delightful piece of entertainment so that fans can enjoy things such as bowling, throwing darts, managing real-estate, and even enjoying a few old throwback Sega titles such as Fantasy Zone at the arcade. While these events are seemingly shallow, the game offers up quite a bit of enjoyability, and something that will be quite fun. While Yakuza 0 will put fans in awkward positions such as softcore-porn video parlors or mini-games that involve scantily clad women wrestling, the game will keep players busy for hours on end. A near 80 hours that is. If that’s not enough for you, there’s really no alternative to such a title, and or part of the genre to be quite honest.
With all that said, Yakuza 0 is a unique game, it’s one that offers up more entertainment than one would think it could. An absurd amount of enjoyability at that. If SEGA does anything, lets just hope they upgrade the games graphics a bit to make even the likes of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain jealous.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game given to us by the games publisher. For our review, we used a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.