With Yakuza 0, SEGA’s popular Japanese beat-em-up series goes back to the beginning on the PS4, chronicling the events that led to the original PS2 release. Featuring two playable characters – including series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and frequent rival Goro Majima, flashy, brawling action, and plenty of fun things to do and see in the large fictional cities of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, this is the best Yakuza game yet.
Developed and published by Sega
Available on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Sega.
Yakuza 0 takes place 17 years before the events of the first game. Kazuma Kiryu is a newly minted member of the Yakuza and part of the Dojima Family, and is doing debt collections work on the side when one of the people he was sent to collect from turns up dead. Accused for the mysterious murder, Kiryu is forced into a deadly power struggle as the Yakuza and external parties vie for control of a region known as the Empty Lot, and he must fight to prove his innocence and find those responsible for framing him.
To say that Yakuza 0‘s plot is great is an understatement, as it weaves a highly cinematic and mature tale that will have players glued to their controllers as they fight their way through mobs of enemies, and find out the true nature of the Empty Lot and how all the major players fit into place. There’s plenty of twists and turns to keep players guessing, and it’s entertaining throughout the various chapters with excellent action sequences and softer moments of introspection that flesh out the amazing and varied cast of characters. It’s also got plenty of tense moments, genuinely funny scenes, and testosterone-filled action, and it will keep players questioning throughout the lengthy, episodic experience. The localization of the dialogue is also great, keeping the concept heavy plot simple and fully understandable.
The visuals are fantastic too, thanks to the excellent and fluid animation – both in and out of combat, highly-detailed environments that perfectly recreate 80’s Japan and bring its electric nightlife to fruition, beautiful character models and superb cinematic direction. The attention to detail is crazy, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the wonderful minute details.
The gameplay is where Yakuza 0 really shines however, bringing forth a sandbox action adventure that allows players to channel their inner badass as they take on hundreds of thugs on their quest for redemption. Yakuza 0 plays similarly to previous entries in the series, with players free to explore the city of Kamurocho on foot as they head from story mission to story mission in order to progress through the story. Once Kiryu or Majima catch the eyes of baddies however, the game switches over to combat mode where players will get down and dirty as they smack down enemies with brutal, visceral and truly enjoyable melee combat.
The combat mechanics are as solid as ever, with players punching, kicking, breaking bones and brutally slamming multiple opponents to submission in closed off arenas. Players can attack, dodge and defend, as well as use special Heat actions to deal loads of damage in spectacular fashion. They can also grab environmental objects and use them as weapons, or equip stuff like swords, guns and more bought from stores or collected through quests to get an edge in battle. The biggest addition to combat this time around is that players can switch between various fighting styles at any moment to adapt to any situation. There’s styles that are straight up street fighting, while others concentrate on fast attacks and movement or using weapons as effectively as possible. Skill trees are available in order to improve the various styles and add even more skills and abilities to the mix in exchange for money earned through minigames or collected from fallen foes. Combat is fast, fluid and highly addictive, and will have you feeling like a beast as you defeat punks and a variety of cocky opponents. It’s really good stuff.
Then of course there’s all the side activities you can participate in, which is something that the series is known for. Yakuza 0 does not disappoint in this regard, as there’s an incredible amount of stuff to do aside from completing main missions, such as a ton of side missions that will take both Kiryu and Majima all around town brawling and doing both menial and fun tasks like fetching items, playing mini-games, and protecting civilians, as well as some truly funny and surprising stuff that’ll have players chuckling. Then there’s also tons of mini-games like bowling, karaoke, slot car racing, pool, classic Sega arcade games like Outrun and Space Harrier, dancing, various Japanese gambling games and more. These mini-games truly surprise with their depth and replayability, and it always seems like there’s more to check out around the corner. Each character also has a business mini-game – one of which a real estate management game and another a Cabaret Club where you assign hostesses to clients – that will earn players tons of dough but require quite a bit of time invested to reap the benefits. The game can easily take players 80+ hours to go through and complete most of the side quests/activities, so expect plenty of stuff to do here and have your time completely consumed.
The game also comes with separate multiplayer options, allowing two players to compete in a couple of mini-games from the main game for fun, or giving players a chance to test out their gambling skills online. These options are limited and there’s not much to do here, but they’re nice additions overall.
Yakuza 0 is nearly perfect, but it’s not exempt from flaws. Among the issues are battles that seemingly spawn in your path while exploring town, making it a chore if you want to explore without having to fight your way through everything, and seeking businesses to acquire for the business mini-game is tricky, as the in-game map doesn’t show you where they are and all the storefront signs are in Japanese, so it’ll take constant map checking, exploration and occasionally luck to find them all. These are minor gripes however and don’t really detract from the overall experience.
When it comes down to it, Yakuza 0 is a perfect start to 2017, with a highly entertaining and cinematic plot, solid and flashy combat, and a varied and highly addictive selection of minigames to discover and play through. It’ll engross players from beginning to end, and it doesn’t disappoint. If there’s one game to check out this month, you really can’t go wrong with Yakuza 0.