Yakuza 0 Review

Only a game like Yakuza 0 could make a game about an empty property lot in the middle of Tokyo so interesting.

Something that stands out, especially with this game, is how effortlessly it manages to divert back-and-forth from serious to completely bizarre. Playing through the main story is a heartbreaking moment around every corner, as you concurrently play as the lives of two men, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, who are tangled up with the yakuza’s plans to take over business enterprises in both Tokyo and Osaka during Japan’s bubble period of the 1980s.

Over the course of the thirty hour campaign are twists and turns around every corner of every map that you end up visiting – some are admittedly ones that become obvious quickly, whilst others seemingly come out of nowhere and entice the player to continue on to find out what happens next instead of turning off the game to do something else.

Not everything is doom and gloom in the main campaign, there are a multitude of great scenes and parts to play; the introduction of Goro Majima in Chapter 3 comes to mind instantly as his personality, character and background is instantly established within that ten-minute spectacle.

Goro Majima introduces himself.

The glitz and glamour of Goro Majima and his cabaret establishment seem to carry over to his gameplay too, as I found myself playing more as Majima than I did with Kiryu. This isn’t to say Kiryu’s story is bad at all – it’s fantastic – but Majima’s adventure, fighting styles and side activities are so much more fun than what Kiryu has to offer. Kiryu ends up running real estate as his main side activity, which results in a particularly boring set of fetch quests where the “fetch” quest is just buying properties, making sure they don’t get stolen, then buying them again. Like I said, it’s not bad, yet when you look at what Majima’s activity is – recruiting hostesses, building up a cabaret club from small to large with an extremely fun minigame and management system – it’s not a surprise that I wasted so many hours simply doing those instead of advancing the story.

One of the best upsides and downsides of Yakuza 0 is the combat and the boss fights. Each of the two protagonists have three fighting styles each; one focused on strength (yellow), one focused on speed, (pink) and one which acts as a balance as both (blue), giving a total of six fighting styles. For the most part, I used the blue brawler style for Kiryu, and the yellow slugger style for Majima but also used Majima’s pink breaker style for combat that took place in smaller places with lots of enemies. Breaker is one of the most interesting styles to use, featuring Majima using dance manoeuvres to deal with his foes after watching a group of street performers challenging each other on a bridge. It’s fun to make combos with the different styles, however enemies with guns or zappers can end up being a nuisance if you’re not careful, adding to the challenge.

Alongside using your fists and legs to cleverly combat your crime syndicate critics through a variety of martial art-based attacks, the player has the opportunity to use items found around the fighting area to attack enemies with, once they gain enough heat from hitting successive attacks on enemies before the heat bar goes down again. Objects can be found in most places, whether exterior or interior, and the only restrictions on what can be used are usually dependent on the fighting style being used at the time. Besides that, items like bicycles, walls, chairs, tables, signs and more from the surrounding environment are useful in draining health in conjunction with special attacks as they’ll do more damage than the usual special attacks can offer.

Yakuza 0 has loads of environment objects you can use to attack enemies with.

When it comes to the boss fights, a lot of them are very fun to play and require you to be strategic about how you approach them and deplete their health in battle. A majority of the characters that you end up fighting in these fights are fun or great surprises that end up being people that you recognise later on, or will join up with in different ways throughout the story. But there’s one character who you fight five times during the course of the main story. By that point, fighting them felt like a chore and extremely trivial instead of being a big deal like the first two times you fight him. I think this is the worst part about Yakuza 0 – fighting the same boss over-and-over repeatedly makes it less meaningful every time, so any impact is immediately lost once you have to fight them a final time at the end of the game because I simply did not care about fighting them in the slightest.

It’s not surprising that I spent so long playing this game – there’s an abundance of things to do after you’ve completed the story. I’ve already mentioned the two main side activities for each protagonist, however if you explore even more of both Osaka and Tokyo, you’ll discover that each character has over fifty side missions that can be completed. Most are in line with the silliness of the game to allow the player to take a break from the seriousness of the story, however there are some which do keep a serious tone albeit much more lighthearted. Quite a few of these side missions will unlock either items that the player can use, or they’ll unlock a person or property to aid in their business pursuits, depending on whether you’re playing as Majima or Kiryu.

If you’re a completionist, there is a wide variety of things that you’ll need to do to obtain 100%, such as winning a certain amount of money at gambling tables, getting perfect scores in the karaoke and dance minigames, beat the main story on legendary difficulty, and much, much more. Most games tend to not have a lot of content after you finish the main game, yet Yakuza 0 goes above and beyond what’s normally expected and gives you a reason to stick around and continue playing; New Game+, Rival Battles, Premium Adventure Mode (just free roam after the story to allow you to do the side activities and missions, mostly) – there’s no lack of post-story content to go through, easily giving you another fifty or more hours to enjoy the craziness of the game.

Yakuza 0 is a phenomenal game hampered down by how one-sided the interest rate is between its two concurrent stories, but not enough for me to say that it severely ruined my enjoyment of the game – it sets an incredibly high standard for newcomers to the series, especially as a prequel that establishes the characters and explores their origins before one jumps into its chronological sequels, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2. Its humor and serious tone never feels out of place or startling, rewarding the player with a nicely paced story and large abundance of optional activities that perfectly embodies the time period in which it seeks to explore.

9 – Phenomenal

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