Since its debut in 2005, the Yakuza franchise has sold over ten million units, won critical acclaim and inspired film adaptations. Sega released Yakuza 0 for PS3 and PS4 in Japan back in 2015, brought it to the United States two years later, and released it on MS Windows in August this year. The game has garnered nominations and awards, and well-deservedly so, given how different it feels from other action-adventure melee combat games.
Yakuza 0 – Storyline
Set in 1988, Yakuza 0 is an origin story with protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima – the characters you control – who are caught in a power struggle between Japan’s dark organizations. The fight is over an ‘Empty Lot’ that the two must investigate while taking on the bad guys and clearing their name.
The good news is that you don’t have to stay on top of the five storylines that Yakuza 5 featured, rather, focus on Kazuma and Goro – who are both each other’s allies and enemies. The plot packs a lot of action in the form of lady loves, blackmail, scary mob bosses, car chases and ticking time bombs, and those are just some interesting components of the main storyline.
Yakuza 0 – Gameplay
Yakuza 0 is faithful to the Japanese game style and that’s a good thing. The game intricately details the fictional districts of Tokyo and Osaka. As far as visual appeal is concerned, Sega has nailed the brief. The mornings are bright and colorful, the nights mimic the feel of an older movie of the film noir genre, and there is glitz and decadence everywhere!
Here’s the thing to note: Yakuza 0 is heavy on dialogue and exposition. As the game’s creator Masayoshi Yokoyama has written an excellent plot, the long lag between a dialogue and the subsequent fight will not test your patience, and you will like learning about the game’s characters. So, don’t expect to be swarmed by enemies in quick succession – there’s a lot to appreciate in the finer details of the carefully crafted setting and story. The characters speak in Japanese, so you will have to follow English subtitles, but that is part of Yakuza 0’s unique DNA.
Of course, you can skip cuts if you want, but that will only diminish the game’s extent of greatness from your overall gaming experience.
Interesting side quests further elevate the game. They are both ridiculous and funny, ranging from flipping through porn magazines, meeting weird people and playing arcade games to dancing, bowling, karaoke, punk bands and more. Side quests offer comic relief and juxtapose nicely against the serious main plot.
The voice acting is top notch, which isn’t surprising given that top Japanese talent have lent their voice to the game.
Yakuza 0 – Combat
The combat does not meet modern melee standards but it offers up a lot of fun. Kazuma battle styles are Brawler (the default), Rush (fast-paced attacks) and Beast (wide sweeping attacks to target large crowds at the same time). Goro has Thug (the default), Breaker (OTT and flashy breakdancing moves) and Slugger (raining blows on enemies with a baseball bat) attack styles.
The heavier you beat up the guys and lesser you get hit, the more your enemies will drop cash. But you can also lose cash if faced by a powerful enemy called Mr. Shakedown. Basically, you earn or lose cash by beating the enemy or getting beaten.
Yakuza 0 – Review
Yakuza 0 is more about story and less about gameplay, yet promises 30-40 hours of exhausting fun (there are more than 100 side quests). First-timers, in particular, will relish the game.