by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
How did I not do a review of Yakuza 0? I completed it on Playstation 4 and have a fairly close to 100% file. I’m still getting there in NG+. But I have reviewed several of the Yakuza titles and fell in love with the series on the first one I played (Yakuza 4). Since I either neglected 0 or simply cannot find it, let’s talk about the franchise as a whole and this particular iteration. I was worried that controller support would be an issue because Yakuza demands to be played with a controller. Sure, keyboard and mouse controls are there, and they are good on Yakuza, but it’s so much better with a controller in hand. I used a Switch controller and a Playstation 4 controller on Steam and personally, the Playstation 4 controller only did better because I was used to those buttons, and didn’t have to swap them around because of feel/controller shape. If you can use a controller, please do. But it’ll be fine if not.
Yakuza 0 takes place in the 1980s in Japan and is a prologue to the Yakuza franchise. It follows two characters, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kazuma Kiryu (the main character of the franchise) who is a solid, powerful man who joins the Yakuza, but isn’t a sleazy scumbag. He does what is right in most situations and is a pretty cool dude ™. Goro Majima is more of a badass, lanky, smooth, and for some reason, he has an eyepatch (it’s explained in the game what happened to his eye). Goro Majima runs a Cabaret (Night Club) but desperately wants back into the Yakuza life. Their paths will intersect over the years, but this is the first time they will come across one another. If you’re familiar with games like Shenmue and Sleeping Dogs, Yakuza will definitely be your cup of team. The story is centered around “The Empty Lot”, a plot of land that seems to be unowned in Kamurocho, and is the key to financial dominance. Death, betrayal, love, this game has it all. And money. So much money…
This takes place during a financial boom period in Japan and everyone seems to be absolutely loaded. You spend money to increase your powers, from health to new techniques across the skill board. You also have side quests to learn new powers and abilities too, across Kiryu’s stances, which vary depending on what you want. There’s a speed stance, aggressive stance, balanced stance. The two characters play very differently, with Kiryu being focused on more standard, acknowledged martial arts, and Majima being a thug. He switches between a baseball bat, punches/kicks, and a capoeira/break-dancing style. In the 1980s, a legend is born, and his name is Kazuma Kiryu. Speaking of money, each has their own way of making dough, other than completing side quests and pummeling people into custard. Kiryu gets into Real Estate (which is more boring, but bigger money faster) and Goro runs a club (which is way more interesting, but not as much money quite as fast). They can also, once you fulfill the requirements, send money between each other through a financing/investment system. It can feel really annoying to grind for money, until you learn these systems. Then it will be desperately trying to spend it all.
The Yakuza franchise is built on four things: Each game has an incredible, unforgettable story filled with drama, loss, and emotion. The twists and turns are very real, and the stories are among my favorite across video games. Then you have the extra content, the side games. From classic SEGA arcade games, hostess clubs, disco, karaoke. This stuff plays into the game in some way or another, and are all fun. They are fitting to the era they are in at all times, up to Yakuza 6 having online chat with gorgeous JAV stars (akin to modern day camgirls). This content tends to tie into the third point, which is the side quests. Side Quests are held by people in town that need some kind of help, and many of the side quests are absolutely ridiculous. They’re comical stories that Kiryu/Majima get tied up in, and it’s a nice way to break up all of the drama in the main story. Plus it’s a great way to get new items/money (like the Trouble Finder, easily the most useful item in the game).
Combat is the final part of this recipe, and the most important. Most of the items in the world can be used as weapons, from bicycles, trash cans, signs, car doors, and metal railings. You can equip weapons sure, but it’s more satisfying to lift someone up and suplex them into a metal guardrail. Trust me, it’s better. The combat is a little repetitive with the combos you use, but it’s always fun to drop the beat down on Yakuza, random thugs, drunks, or whomever is unfortunate to decide they want to shorten their lifespan by picking a fight. And I have to say, it all works beautifully on PC. It looks better than it does on my Playstation, and the only thing I saw that was weird was occasionally Kiryu’s walking animation during cutscenes is really jerky and weird. But the gameplay is smooth, beautiful, and it’s just as good as the console version. I was really worried, because I’m always worried about ports, but it’s clear that SEGA is putting care and love into the Yakuza franchise.
It All Begins Again: 5/5
I only had one or two minor qualms with this otherwise excellent port. Keyboard/Mouse controls are great, but camera turning in combat is weird and clunky, and it’s so much better with a controller. The game does warn you of that if you aren’t using one though. The only other problem I had was the volume. I did not see an in-game volume control and wound up changing the balance of the audio, creating a weird monoaural sound. I can control it out of the game and that’s fine, but I’m just glad that Yakuza is finally on PC (and it’s long overdue, in my opinion), but it came out beautifully. Yakuza Kiwami is next on PC, and it’s my sincere hope that we continue to get remakes. I’ve heard that Yakuza 2-5 are going to get remakes or remasters in some fashion, and the real question is “Will we get them?” Lord, I hope so. I still have a Playstation 3 for Yakuza 4 and 5, but it’s not the same. I’d rather have it on my Playstation 4 and/or PC. Anyone who has read my reviews knows I don’t care for sandbox games; having too much space to roam around in makes me nervous and choice paralysis happens. However, Yakuza has a smaller area than say, GTA, but it does more with space. Every inch of the town has something useful, and it’s packed with people, places, and things. It does more with the space and does not feel like a tiny town by any stretch. Yakuza 0 is true to the area it calls home, and true to the era. I have a close friend who I introduced to the series who informed me that he’s been to/seen many of the places that are depicted in-game and to me is just wonderful.