Note: A digital copy was provided by SEGA.
One of the biggest sleeper hits in the gaming industry is the “Yakuza” series. The series has seven main titles and additional spin offs that have captivated many players for the story, gameplay or silly things you can do in the game. In early 2017, SEGA of America brought “Yakuza 0” over to the west, which is hands down the best game in the series so far and should not be missed.
“Yakuza 0” is a prequel game that takes place before the events of the first game in the series. The stage is set during the late 1980s in Japan’s “bubble” era when stock prices were greatly inflated and people were throwing money around like it was nothing.
In the game, you play as younger versions of main protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and fan favorite Goro Majima; they have their own stories about how they became the legends they are known in the later titles. You switch between them every two chapters, and their stories come together as the game progresses.
Both stories are cohesive and perfectly tie together, not only making sense as a game, but as a prequel to the original “Yakuza” game. Newcomers can enjoy the story as their first entry, and long-time fans can appreciate the callbacks and references to other games in the series.
It’s a story that you must see to the end. Both characters go through so many trials and tribulations that it’s satisfying to see how they grow into the characters fans know them as now.
The game in motion on PlayStation 4 runs with a 1080p resolution at 60 fps, but it isn’t graphically intense. The game originally came out in Japan on the PlayStation 3, so you aren’t going to find any groundbreaking areas, but you will have smooth gameplay.
Despite that, character models have a lot of detail placed into them. Some characters in the game are based off the real voice actors playing them, and seeing those beat-up looking faces in an extreme close-up shot during an animated cutscene is a treat.
There is some slight screen tearing when exploring the town, but this is barely noticeable and doesn’t effect the core combat in any way, which is great since I love the gameplay of “0.”
There is a common misconception when people see the “Yakuza” games thinking that it’s some sort of Japanese “Grand Theft Auto.” This is not the case, as the games are more like an open-district game where you explore a small town, partake in fun activities and get into brawls with street punks, thugs and of course, Yakuza.
The combat is so fluid and over the top, and it’s a blast to mess around with.
Kiryu and Majima are each given three unique styles that players can use to take out enemies in glorious spectacle. Kiryu has access to a basic brawler style that is less refined than previous games: a fast-moving style called rush that allows him to bob and weave around attacks and go for counter hits, and a slow but deadly beast style that allows him to pick up heavy objects like motorcycles during a combo and demolish anything that gets in his way.
Majima has a thug style simular to Kiryu’s brawler style, but it has his own perks: the slugger style which takes his iconic bat and puts it to use in very unique ways, and an unexpected but silly breaker style where Majima busts a move and break dances all over everyone in hilarious ways.
I found myself switching between each style during combat to make sure each fight never became repetitive. This allowed me to experiment with each style, and you will need each one for different situations.
When switching styles, the music will change to accommodate the feeling of each one. The music of “Yakuza 0” really is incredible. Every tune is memorable, used effectively and knows exactly when to drop the beat when serious events are going down.
Other than brawls you can get into when you aren’t experiencing the story, there’s an abundance of extra content you can peruse while exploring the town. There are 100 crazy side stories you can get into, such as impersonating a movie producer, shaping tax policies for the future, training a dominatrix or defending “Miracle Johnson” from a zombie army.
There is also an abundance of mini games you will find which include Disco, Karaoke, Baseball or playing arcade classics such as “Out Run” or “Space Harrier.” There is so much to do that even I haven’t found everything!
“Yakuza 0” is a title that I have wanted to play for a while, and it exceeded my expectations. This is a title that I recommend most people to jump in with as their first “Yakuza” game. You will not be disappointed, and you will have hours of fun experiencing the crime of the “Yakuza” underworld and partaking in ’80s style Japanese nightlife.