Sega has finally brought Yakuza 0 to the western part of the world. Check out our full review inside to see how this origin story shapes up.
The Yakuza series has been around since 2005. There have been multiple titles in the series since then with most of which on the PlayStation family of consoles. Some of those titles have come to North America, others have not. Luckily for us, Yakuza 0 has been localized for North America and
I’ve never played a game in the Yakuza series before. It wasn’t a series that ever really piqued my interest. I would see a new game get released and then would quickly forget about it. It’s weird how a great series can get lost in the shuffle just by first impressions. I somewhat regret not playing some of the earlier games in the series if not for just the story alone. The beauty of this game is that it’s an origin story so I still can play through the rest of the series. The question is, will I even want to after playing Yakuza 0? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag.
Yakuza 0 takes place in December 1988 in a couple different places. The first of which is Kamurocho in which you play as Kazuma Kiryu and the second is Goro Majima in Soutenbori. That’s about as much of the story as I’m going into as to not spoil anything. The story itself is incredibly detailed and you’ll spend vast amounts of time reading through the lines and lines of interesting dialogue between the characters. It’s one of the most story-intensive games that I’ve had the pleasure of playing. I will say that it did get somewhat annoying at times because it felt like I was watching a movie more than I was playing a game.
Kamurocho and Soutenbori have a distinctly 80s vibe as do the characters in the game. Cell phones are few and far between and the ones that do appear are huge monstrosities. There are garbage piles scattered randomly around the town. Even logos are styled for more of an 80s feel. They really went to great lengths to make this game feel like that era in time and I didn’t recognize anything that would make me think otherwise. I have a knack for picking up on those little nuances, so that’s a big plus to me.
If the environment itself wasn’t impressive enough with all the little details, the NPC characters really left a nice impression on me as well. These characters were so lifelike and really reacted so well to everything that my character was doing. If I was menacing, they ran. If I was creepy, they looked on with intrigue at what my next move what be. I thought it was worth mentioning simply for the fact that most NPCs don’t have that type of realistic reaction programmed into them.
The combat system is equally as enjoyable as any other part of the game, even if it is a bit over-zealous at times. That seems to be part of the appeal of the Yakuza series. The thing I really enjoyed in this game is that there is a bit of strategy to how you have to fight different foes. If it’s just some random street thugs, you can usually take them out without breaking a sweat, but different enemies require different tactics. This is where the different fighting styles and heat actions come into play. Bigger enemies may be easier to defeat with the Rush style which is an evasive style while smaller enemies are easier to defeat with a Brawler style. There are 8 styles in all to give the player many different options. Heat actions (which are powerful special moves) also seem to be given to the player pretty generously throughout the battle. There’s definitely no shortage of fun ways to get the advantage on whoever you’re fighting.
Money replaces experience in Yakuza 0 and it really makes a lot of sense why in this situation. Money comes from pretty much everything you do. You get money mainly from battles and different side endeavors and it can be used for virtually everything from playing arcade games to distracting enemies. It’s very much true to life in that way. The most important aspect of money is to buy more abilities for your characters. These abilities range from new moves to more health among other things. Make no mistake, though, some of these upgrades are quite pricey and you’ll need all the money that you can get.
The expensive ability upgrades make the side jobs and games a little less optional than in other similar titles. Sure, stuff like the arcade and some of the other smaller games might not serve much of a purpose, but Kiryu’s real estate business and Majima’s cabaret club provide huge income boosts which prove hard to ignore. Furthermore, there are special secrets for getting to the top of those respective ventures that I cannot mention. The incentive is more the amount of money you gain than the amount of fun, but I like the way these side missions tie into your characters and their development.
Yakuza 0 offers online and offline multiplayer for disco, billiards, darts, and bowling. They provide a pretty good distraction from the main game and are fairly enjoyable for what they are. It’s your standard mini-games.
Yakuza 0 was a very welcome surprise for me. I’m not a person who normally enjoys fighting games, but this is much more than that. It’s a living, breathing story and a very compelling one at that. If you’re a veteran of the Yakuza series or new to it like me, I’d give this games a shot. It’s certainly an immersive game with a lot of content to keep players busy for hours.
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Sega for review purposes*