I’m sure many people have said this before but the Yakuza series really is hard to define. It would be hard to whittle it down to just a few genres. Maybe action, adventure, beat-em-up, with rhythm, sports, and err… Dating/shooting in one minigame? Like I said, this series is hard to sum up, and Yakuza 0, the newest entry in the west, is no different.
Usually when asked what the game is about, I just describe a typical hour or two with the game: “Run around a massive city, beat up some Japanese goons, go to the disco, then beat up some more people that are trying to sabotage my real estate business”. And it’s really damn good. Now before I get too carried away, I’ll give you a quick overview.
The game is set in Japan, during its economy’s ‘boom’ in 1988, and follows two protagonists through a dramatic crime story based around the criminal underworld of Japan and their version of the mafia. The Yakuza. Fans of the series will recognise the two protagonists as Kazuma Kiryu, a man trying to clear his name after being framed for a murder, and Goro Majima, an ex-yakuza who’s trying to get back in by earning money through the most popular cabaret in Osaka.
Playing as these two, you will fight your way through hundreds of people, be them yakuza or not, in a brawler/beat-em-up style battle. There are RPG elements to this but rather than a traditional level up system, they’re kept to unlocking new abilities (attacks) with money you earn from beating opponents. Both characters have three main styles that each have their own abilities, and some are just as ridiculous as the fights themselves, which are both incredibly satisfying after a stressful day and funny, exaggerated beyond even the wildest Jackie Chan films.
This is the central part of the game, along with what is described as an open world, and the story, however I’d hesitate to call it the core of the game or series. They are more about soaking up the experience of an extremely well detailed and immersive city and its large variety of things to do through the heaps of side-content to play through, be it the substories or minigames.
The substories play the role of side-quests and many regard them as what makes the series so good. They’re hilarious to watch and often involve either of the main characters in awkward situations, such as trying to stop a high-school girl from selling her underwear or taking down the leader of brain-wiping cult. They’re bizarre yet offer an excellent distraction from the main plot.
The minigames are what add to the sheer variety of things to do in Yakuza 0. You can play rhythm-based karaoke, bowling as it were in Wii Sports just without the motion controls, and even classic Sega arcade games such as Out Run or Space Harrier. Each one has a fair amount of depth and I have yet to even scratch the surface of the catfight betting or pocket circuit racing minigames in my 55 hour+ game time.
Perhaps variety is what defines Yakuza 0? Each element of the game seems to be taken and done well, hitting you with constant surprise as you enter new story sections. This keeps the game fresh at a consistent level and even now, nearing the end of the story, I’m having a great time. Oh, and did I mention each character even has their own business subplot? I seriously recommend to anyone out their that hasn’t tried the game already: Give this game a go. Yakuza 0 is relatively cheap now physical on sites like Amazon and the remake of the original releases on August 29th for a budget price.
Some guy from the UK with a big interest in video games, mostly Japanese ones. Just starting up as a writer so go easy on me, it might be terrible.