Now, when we think of crime in games or any form of media it’s covered a lot of areas from the gangbangers of LA, to both the Russian and Italian Mafia and many Drug Cartels and the Chinese Triads. In the west, we’ve had all these in many games which you probably should know by now, however, one area of organised crime that doesn’t get a lot of attention these days are the Japanese Yakuza. One game series that keeps this flag flying is the game series by the same name “Yakuza”, which has been a Playstation exclusive mostly. Lately this title has started to appear on other platforms like PC and Xbox One, and as I’ve been interested to give them a go for a while. So, let’s have a look at the first in the series (narratively speaking), Yakuza 0.
The story of Yakuza takes up to the late 80s, where vulgarity and being ostentatious was king and people had more money than sense – but enough about the Trump Family. The story follows 2 members of the Yakuza: Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Both are embroiled in a conspiracy involving a dispute over a redevelopment project in Kamurocho which multiple segments of the Yakuza are fighting over. Aptly named the “empty Lot” dispute. Kazuma Kiryu is framed for a murder on the empty lot, and that his boss, Sohei Dojima is offering a promotion to right-hand man for the person who acquires that lot for the family. So, that offer is like catnip to the greedy shit heads out there. They go after Kiryu, but he does get help from other interested parties in the empty lot.
Then we have Goro Majima who had a fall of grace…sort of. After past fuck up as a member of the family and expelled as well. In an attempt to get back into the family, Majima has been given the run of a Cabaret Club (not exactly the perfect rags to riches story). But then is offered a way back if he performs a hit on someone, but I think Majima was away when that class was in session. He ends up protecting the same person he is actually trying to kill. Initially, both storylines start very separately but then in the later stages of the story they start to become interconnected. (Disclaimer: I haven’t finished the game yet). Mainly because there is A LOT to do in the game with side stuff, but the story has done more than enough for me to keep me going.
Both sides of the story have kept me hooked throughout. While there are some subtle hints in whos the main bad guy in all of this if you know where to look. The story is good and incredibly enjoyable and can be rather quirky and very funny at times – particularly with the substories. Which range from becoming a wannabe film producer to helping government tax policy and even giving a dominatrix advice in doing her job. Although, one thing that did take some getting used to is reading the subtitles as all the voice acting is in Japanese so spent more time reading subtitles than what was going on, it doesn’t run into any localization issues at all. Its humorous moments and dictation of tone work as they should.
Now, we come to the gameplay side of things and this is where it gets fun. Both characters have 3 fighting styles that you can switch between in combat. One slow and heavy, one fast and weak and one that sits in-between them, and choosing the right one can help or hinder you. It’s great cathartic fun and completely over the top. Mainly because you can also use stuff like rubbish bins, bicycles, mopeds, shop signs anything can be picked up and twat the nearest fucker. All the while building your heat up which will allow you to perform special moves that would make the likes of John Wick wince. It’s madly over the top and I love it for it. At some points, I am surprised given at some stages you’re snapping people necks or acts of violence that would straight be killing the guy and then seemingly walking away from it does seem weird, and you also get paid for it so it’s the perfect game for the violent pacifist.
The upgrade system is financially based, so as you earn dosh through fighting or legitimate business stuff (more on that later). Or gaining them through grind never really felt overpowering. Also, the upgrade tree is tied into the business management side of things as well so it is much more than just a money maker.
That not all on offer as you’ve got the streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori to run around with side stories, picking fights, and avoiding a big dude called Mr Shakedown who looks like the lovechild of Ivan Drago and Guile from Street Fighter who hits hard and will take your money, but if you do beat him you can take all his cash. Which at first seems imposing and has a risk/reward balance to it. But when most fights in Kamurocho and SotenBori can be avoided by keeping up a brisk walk undermines this, even more so when Mr Shakedown pursues you with all the effort of an asthmatic ant carrying some heavy shopping.
If you want a break from twatting the cast of West Side Story there are a whole lot more to do. Bowling without the annoying cousins, Darts, Arcades featuring some of Segas finest Outrun and other stuff. Karaoke and plenty more. And some of the mini-games are 2 player as well which is nice. There is some “other” stuff that you can partake in. *cough* collecting and watching softcore porn *cough*. There is an achievement for doing so but I don’t think there is a delete function in achievements/trophies, so have a warning. Doing any of these mini-games or wanking into the last tissue on earth will earn you some competition points which can be used for upgrades. So it’s worth to take a load off in-between fighting the extras of Saturday Night Fever.
The main feature of the side content is side businesses, as Kiryu has his Real Estate business. Which is the easiest of the two to navigate. But the property, make cash, and if folks cause an issue, say hi to Mr bicycle and Mrs curb stomp. Pretty simple right.
Then we have Majima’s Cabaret Club business. Which is very different from what we’ve had in the west, a Cabaret Club is a Hostess club, where people go off to get drunk and chat to pretty girls. Fairly harmless for a “criminal organization” but then again casinos, eh? But anyway. This is a lot more hands-on than Kiryu’s (not like that…) so you have to manage and choose your lineup of hostesses. And their appearance from hairstyles and clothing to suit a particular customer niche (seriously considering burning the hard drives now), before opening for business and welcoming customers wallets with welcome arms.
Out of the two (regrettably for my sake), this is the more engaging. Mainly because it feels completely different from the norm of drop kicking Mr Miaygi’s 4th cousin into the 4th dimension because it’s getting in the way of your real estate stuff, and there is more to do. But I would seriously recommend doing this as one it earns large amounts of money. Secondly, it will unlock the more expensive upgrades for your fighting styles after knocking off your rivals from their money trees.
Overall, there is plenty to do in Yakuza 0 from the main quest, side content, and the abundance of mini-games and side business to keep you entertained. And the combat is very good fun and violent. So far I’ve put about 30hrs into the game for this review and I wouldn’t be surprised if I hit 50hrs by the time I’ve finished up everything. As it’s been out a while and sold for a reasonable price on the Xbox Store. It’s very good value for money if you’re willing to take the plunge into the Yakuza series for the first time.
Other stuff to mention, the camera can have a mind of its own at times. Where going into shops or near shops will fix into a fixed camera perspective which seems alright but when you can’t be arsed to deal with the goons. It can get rather frustrating when the camera gets sentient. Also, combat can get fairly cheap when guns get into play whoever is using them, mainly the goons which can get rather tedious. Also as mentioned beforehand with the side business stuff you can by property/advertising which there is a list but doesn’t mention this on the minimap. Which makes it needlessly awkward as you visit every building to see if they can be acquired. For Xbox owners, in particular, it does have rare occasions where the framerate chugs more than the spectators at a cricket test match. Other than this graphics and art style are top-notch and as well as the audio.
So the verdict – Yakuza 0 is a very good game and a great starting point for newcomers to the series like me. Combat is visceral and madly over the top, even the UFC would wince at the violence. There are plenty of quirky side missions and lots of mini-games and the side business. That will keep you going for hours and hours, and the story will keep you hitched till the end. There are some issues as it hasn’t been perfectly ported to Xbox with some framerate niggles but a solid effort nevertheless. The camera can have a mind of its own and combat can get cheap when guns are in play. Oh and not a major issue by any stretch but as the voice acting is in Japanese, so you will need to be at full attention unless you want to miss some vital plot points. But it doesn’t dampen what is a rather excellent game.
Yakuza 0 is a great starting point for newcomers to the series. With its madly visceral combat, quirky side content and an abundance of side content to get through there is plenty of things to do. Slight drawbacks with optimization, camera bugbears and when guns are in play which felt cheap. It’s a great game, now if you excuse me there is more disco stomping to be done.
- Combat is madly over the top
- Plenty of things to do with side content
- Good story
- The camera can be troublesome
- When guns are in play
- Not perfectly ported/optimized
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0