Yakuza 0 PS4 Review

Yakuza is a series that often avoids mainstream success in the West but has gained quite a cult following. If you haven’t played a Yakuza game, such as myself, this Yakuza 0 is the most logical place to start. It’s the grand series debut on the Playstation 4, serving as a prequel to the first Yakuza game. This allows the player to enjoy the ultra fun street fights, entertaining side characters, and the many diversions along the way without having preexisting knowledge of the principle characters. Most importantly, the game seamlessly weaves a cohesive story that mixes an even amount of drama and comedy, resulting in a must-play origin story.

Story

Yakuza 0 divides its story between two main characters. Kazuma Kiryu is a young yakuza from Tokyo who is an amazing fighter with strong morals, and Goro Majima is a former yakuza masquerading as the manager of a grand cabaret, frantically making money to gain access back into the crime syndicate’s good graces. Both are unwillingly thrown into a power struggle between criminal organizations fighting over a valuable piece of real estate. Also, both are scorned by their respective crime families, with their paths crossing by the title’s end.

The main storyline is a crime story that includes no shortage of dangerous mob bosses, hostage situations, extortion, and blackmail. You name the crime, this game has it. Fortunately, it is told extremely well and it is not afraid to show a lengthy cutscene for the sake of character development and proper plot advancement. Never was there a time where I wasn’t emotionally invested in almost any of the characters presented to me, thanks to the strong vocal performances of the actors and the vigorous yet steady writing.

Both Kazuma and Goro are interesting enough to warrant their own games, avoiding harm’s way by demonstrating their hidden talents, masterminding clever plans, and reaching heroic status along the way. However, it is their allies who prove to be most valuable to their advancement. As the story progresses, a complex web of relationships and partnerships form, creating a fascinating story from beginning to end. By the game’s conclusion, the player will have to realize who their real friends and enemies are while also seeing what Kazuma and Kiryu are capable of.

Gameplay

There is a lot of praise to be given to Yakuza 0 both technically and aesthetically, but it does show some dated problems. The core of the gameplay is a beat-em-up style similar to the Arkham Asylum series. Both Kiryu and Majima offer three drastically different fighting styles that can be changed at any time. For example, my favorite style for Majima has to be the breaker style that transforms him into a human helicopter, performing a series of kicks that can demolish a crowd of enemies. His slugger style is a better selection for one-on-one boss fights where he can smack an enemy’s skull with an indestructible baseball bat. The fighting system in this game is absolutely fun to perform, with brutal finishing moves that allow the player to launch an enemy into the air and slam him in the pavement.

In terms of aesthetics, the game is absolutely beautiful and successfully captures the retro setting of ’80s Tokyo. The neon streets show the lavish grandeur of the Tokyo streets, the people walking all seem unique and not bland like the vendors handing out pocket tissues for no reason and the drunken patrons stumbling along the streets. Yakuza 0 comes nowhere near the large settings provided by games such as Grand Theft Auto and Watch Dogs, but the quality and the dense amount of detail and content within the two small cities will have you lost in Yakuza’s world.

The heart of the game doesn’t come from the main story but from the massive amount of time spent on the side quests. The insane amount of mini games includes classic Sega games and performing dance battles with the locals. Each game is difficult in its own right and has a sense of accomplishment after completing each one.

Another set of sidequest are the side stories that both Kiryu and Majima will encounter. Think of them as filler for your favorite anime but more tolerable. Most of the side stories have you fetching quests, but they are actually fun. The player can sink many hours just looking around to help locals like helping a little boy purchase adult magazines to helping a man cross a bridge without getting beat up. Even though these missions are absolutely ridiculous, they serve as an enjoyable reward for successfully advancing Yakuza’s darker story.

Final Reaction

I have never personally played a Yakuza game before, but I can proudly say that I regret that. The extraordinary amount of things to do in the game surrounded by a compelling and intriguing crime story will wow any new player into this series. Since this is a prequel, being unburdened by the complicated backstory of the previous games make this a more approachable game for newcomers such as myself. From tight melee combat to absolutely fun side quests, Yakuza 0 bashed its way to my heart hitting far more than it misses in its bustling, dark crime underworld that is Japan.

Rating: 5/5

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