Yakuza 0, developed and published by Sega, was released two years ago in Japan on the PS3 and PS4. Finally, we saw the sixth installation of the acclaimed Japanese mafia series, seventh in Japan, this year and it couldn’t be better. Well, it could be, but that’s what the review is for. Taking place in fictional Kamurocho, Japan, you play as both Kazama Kiryu, ex-yakuza and protagonist of the series, as well as ex-yakuza and now cabaret club owner, Goro Majima. This game takes place many years prior to the events of Yakuza 1 and gives you an inside look at the lives they led in their early twenties.
This game is very different from your average mafia-esque game, (and by that I mean games like Grand Theft Auto V and Sleeping Dogs), in the way of side-quests and businesses. Each protagonist leads a different life, played out every two chapters, and each life is essentially a story on its own. Kiryu has been accused of murder and asks to be removed from the yakuza in order to preserve the honor of the man who adopted him and his best friend when he was young. After those events unfold, you are left to rot, except a young real estate CEO named Tachibana wants to partner with you to clear your name of the murder and to acquire the lot in which the murder took place. But, in order to do so, you must learn how to work in the real estate business, hence having a business. In order to acquire different managers and helpers for your business, you need to complete different side-quests, only known to you by way of exploration.
The game also focuses heavily on fighting and upgrading your abilities, even offering a kind of reward, (CP), for doing different miscellaneous tasks like bowling and singing karaoke in order to do so. Of course, you don’t have to play darts at your local bar or mahjong with the Chinese, but you should in order to upgrade your stamina and decorate your office. The game also focuses on character develoment and telling the story of Majima and Kiryu through long sequences of heavy dialogue. It isn’t that it’s not fun to read, it’s just that I shouldn’t want to take a break while I’m reading all of the dialogue. Much of it is just useless banter, so it’s distracting to do sub-stories while doing man quests because you aren’t really sure how much time you’ll be spending pressing X to skip.
Despite that, the game unfolds to be a well-written and over the top story about the yakuza and those who oppose them. You get a better look at how Kiryu and people like Akira Nishiki and Daigo Dojima became the characters that they were in the games that they appeared in. Also, if you are a long time player of the series, you can see Kamurocho as it was back in the eighties and check out stores like Don Quixote and the M-Store for that nostalgic feel. Yakuza 0 adds just the right amount of story for this small strip of town and never does it feel redundant or useless.
Fighting, something that has been a constantly changing variable in the Yakuza universe, has been completely revamped and adds three fighting styles to each character. Kiryu has a Beast mode, allowing him to go primal on his enemies, a Bawler styles that employs a fist fighting style, and Rush mode which includes a series of sidesteps and quick punches. Majima uses a Thug style, which utilizes flashy kicks and grabs, a Slugger style in which he uses a baseball bat, and a Breaker style, which lets him break dance all over his enemies. Each fighting style is smooth and respondent, letting you break combos and attack when you need to. The finisher moves are also very well done and gives each fight a very unique feel that lets you be the decider of how much money you get out of each one.
This game puts the harsh depictions of yakuza life and witty, comical moments together to make an installment to a series that should be played by anyone that enjoys getting the most for their dollar. Regardless of everything that was just said, why wouldn’t you play it just for all the other countless superfluous things you can do in this game.
Published and Developed by Sega
Reviewed on the PS4