For a game with Yakuza exactly in the title, there is little yakuza to do in Yakuza 0.
It’s not just because the “zero” in the title marks this as a prequel to Sega’s long-running drama about Japanese organized crime. By the time the game starts, anti-heroes Kiryu Kazuma and Goro Majima have been involved in organized crime for a while.
Two unrelated events before and during Yakuza 0 however, the pair split from their respective gangs and they soon end up fighting against the blackmailers they once worked for. Meanwhile, a real estate conspiracy in two cities eventually connects the characters’ conflicts – despite neither knowing the other exists.
Yakuza 0 spins a complicated yarn, but that’s standard for the Yakuza series, which boasts of soap opera melodrama in its main campaigns and frenzied slapstick on side missions. Prequel or not, this open world brawl is no different or might even be a bit tamer than the heights of madness the series has reached thus far.
Absurdity in motion
The game is actually still about meandering through a digitized slice of Japan and getting up to all the mundane or outlandish shenanigans you’re in the mood for. That could mean taking a naked man’s advice to watch live-action videos of ladies in bikinis blowing up balloons (and the not-so-subtle implied masturbation that follows) or hitting the arcade for a game. run out (it’s worth noting) Yakuza 0 takes place in 1988).
Definitely you could skip straight to the throwing punches and landscape-munching villains of the main storyline. But that would mean denying yourself the seemingly unlimited madness from Yakuzaminigames and side missions. That includes a mission to escort a moonwalking b-boy and a stealth scene where you have to buy porn without being noticed. Oh, and if you bowl well enough you win a live chicken. Good luck finding all that in another big budget action ranch!
Still, the nature of the game as a prequel means most of that absurdity is limited to the side content. The “required” missions have always been more buttoned up than their elective counterparts, but that hasn’t stopped Yakuza plots of immersion in US military schemes, secret twin brothers and ex-gangsters retiring to run orphanages in the country – only to be pulled back into a world of violence. It’s absurd, but in a melodramatic way that contrasts with the comedy and in a way that provides enough screen time for making Yakuza‘s protagonists look supernaturally cool.
Yakuza 0Its existence as a prequel doesn’t leave much narrative room for that kind of antics. After all, Sega can’t have longtime fans asking, “How was this referenced in the previous games?” So this prequel can look relatively tame at times compared to the shameless J-drama of others numbered Yakuza spell.
When Yakuza 3 debuted on the PlayStation 3, it contained literally hours of basic content to update fans on the story of the first two PlayStation 2 games. The story and character relationships just got more labyrinthine from there.
As a prequel though Yakuza 0 provides a pretty solid starting point for new fans of the series. Here you can just press play without knowing anyone’s name, face or past.
It’s refreshing to have a Yakuza play without all that previous baggage, even if that baggage could be part of the fun sometimes. It’s also a boon for those who want to embrace simulated UFO catchers and hostess clubs, but don’t have spare PS2s laying around. Yakuza 0 have you covered series of newcomers.
Beatdowns with style
It’s not just minigames and plot though. Okay, it usually is that, but you also occasionally hit people in this series, and I’m happy to report that that’s hitting very good This time. It has always been pretty well, what about allowing you to pour salt and hot tea in the faces of motorcyclists as finishing moves. But now there’s more variety than the different improvised weapons you drive into the minds of bad guys.
Goro and Kiryu each have three new sets of fighting styles in Yakuza 0, which can be selected on the fly. Between them, I’d say Goro gets the more interesting end of the stick – quite literally, actually, because one of his views is simply “having a baseball bat.”
It doesn’t matter who you play against in a particular chapter of the story, however, the styles break down into sacrificing speed, damage, or audience control in favor of the other two categories. It is an easy decision at any time, but always one that must be carefully considered. That’s a nice change from the last half dozen Yakuza games where scuffle was much simpler and stale.
Of course, if you want to stick to the basic fighting styles of both characters, the game barely punishes you for it. Yakuza 0 is certainly not a difficult game. For example, if you die more than once during a battle with a script, you can temporarily lower the difficulty until you get through it. As long as you invest some in-game cash (which explodes in a deluge of bills and coins when you take out enemies) in combat upgrades, difficulty won’t be what’s stopping you from finishing it.
If anything about Yakuza 0 a player checks out early, it will be the length. Like most Yakuza games, it takes tens of hours to get through the main story, most of which consists of dialogues and cutscenes. I’m talking hours and hours of seemingly endless character chatter. In fact, if you play through the main story, you’ll probably end up watching Yakuza 0 more than playing. The sheer amounts of dialogue are only occasionally interrupted by close combat scenarios, running from A to B, and, uh, karaoke minigames.
Meanwhile, the Yakuza series knows what spreads the bread of its fans, and their choice is: theater. That means over the top comedy, tragedy and more often an unusual mix of the two. The combat, while unusual and satisfying in its own way, is certainly a supporting role.
That’s fine for what it is. Whether you’re a returning fan or a potential newcomer, chances are you’re here to find out what’s hijacking those crazy people Yakuza guys are until this time. Even if that means in this case: to fight yakuza instead of being yakuza. Oh, what crazy twists will they think of now?
After finishing Yakuza 0I’m still curious about that.
- An absurd world with equally crazy characters.
- New combat styles are shaking things up.
- Wonderful depiction of a melodramatic crime drama.
- The main campaign is somewhat tame for a Yakuza.
- Maybe watching too much and playing too little for some.
the ugly one
- Women are relegated to roles of being killed, kidnapped, or ogled in some minigames.
verdict: Yakuza 0 is a fine, goofy, and bombastic starting point for anyone who’s wanted to see what the hell is going on with this damn Yakuza spell. Buy it.