The Yakuza game, it’s not like boxing.
Welcome to the world of Yakuza 0, the prequel and first to the Yakuza series. For those uninitiated to the series, Yakuza is a wild ride from start to finish. It is an action-adventure, open-world, beat-em-up arcade brawler jam-packed with tons of mini-games. Nurtured and released by both Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku, this game guarantees to add class, quality and a great time.
You do not need to worry about playing any of the previous titles as everything will be established here. Yakuza 0 takes place between December 1988 to January 1989, instead of 2005. It is set in the districts of Kamurocho and Sōtenbori, fictional recreations of Tokyo’s Kabukichō and Osaka’s Dōtonbori areas respectively. Players will follow the stories of Kazama Kiryuu and Goro Majima, two 20-year-old men living in Osaka & Tokyo. Both are similarly trying to make it in this organized crime syndicate that is “Yakuza”. I admire the game’s ability to take itself seriously one moment and then going crazy the next. You will spend your time laughing, crying, obsessing with mini-games, and admiring how well-written the overarching plot between the two protagonists.
The guy who can’t tough it out to the end, he’s the one who loses.
At its essence, Yakuza primarily follows a beat-em-up style of gameplay but isn’t shy to experiment with various minigames and different mechanics. The campaign itself is single player, however, you do have the option at the start menu to select multiplayer games with others. If you’ve played the older titles (Kiwami I and II), you’ll be happy to hear that the fighting UI is much better, and that cash drops are more generous when taking down an enemy. In addition to this, the difficulty is evenly distributed and provides enough of a challenge no matter what you choose to do. If you were curious about some of the minigames that Yakuza has to offer, it includes some the following:
- Running a cabaret club, real estate
- Playing UFO Crane Catching, Arcade Games, Gambling Games, Pool, Casino Games, Darts, Batting Cages, Bowling, Catfight Bets, Pocket Circuit
- Participating in Shogi, Mahjong, Card Collecting, Telephone Club, Karaoke, Disco
- Fishing, sneaking challenges, training sessions.
For levelling the character up, the development team chose a rather interesting approach of using the copious cash gained to spend on “improving yourself”. The self-improvement skill tree is very easy to interact with and very intuitive. Another way you can boost gameplay experience (and not only limited to fighting), is through frequent visits to shrines. Using completion points [CP] from side quests, you can give your character various perks.
One of the many aspects that make Yakuza 0 shine above all else, is its overall presentation. They really did a good job with capturing the mood and expressions of each character, right down to the last pore on their face. What’s more, it really doesn’t take long to load assets or characters whenever you enter a new area. This is thanks to the Dragon Engine, which is also found in Yakuza 6. Though the open-world is “small” for some, it really feels alive, and vibrant. The cinematic scenes you will encounter will leave you feeling like you’re watching a great movie. And the mid-battle cutscenes? Those are absolutely wild and make for a fun experience.
The music has to be one of my favourite things about this game. Not only are there many songs that appropriately match the situation, but there are songs that will have you singing and bopping mid-play. There are a few guilty pleasures I do have with respect to my favourite soundtracks. While I’ll not say them here, I’ll leave you to think about what they could be.
So what did I think of Yakuza 0? It quickly became one of my all-time favorite games. I won’t stop playing it anytime soon, and there’s always something to do in-game. Don’t worry about money for value with this game! It’s worth every penny content and quality-wise, and it goes above and beyond with making a memorable experience. Get it, I tell you! I promise you won’t regret it!