Yakuza 0 [PS4] – Review

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2 years have passed since Japan was graced with “Ryu Ga Gotoku 0” (aka Yakuza 0) in 2015.
Since then, Japan has received a total of 3 Ryu Ga Gotoku titles to enjoy on the PS4.

Only now, in 2017, have we [finally] received Yakuza 0.
A result of popular demand, for the game’s localization.

The prequel to the original PS2 beat-em-up, is Yakuza 0 a fashionably late entry?
Better late than never or…

Story

Surrounding the events of Japan’s economic boom of the late 80’s, we are introduced to a pair of familiar, [not-so] baby-faced troublemakers, 7 years prior to the events of the first Yakuza game.

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Kazuma Kiryu, for someone 20 years young, is as good a Yakuza as any, except both he along with the rest of Kamurocho don’t know it – yet.

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Meanwhile in Sotenbori; Goro Majima, the eccentric counterpart, isn’t quite the “Mad Dog of Shimano” of today.

Thankfully, prior knowledge of the Yakuza series is not required, as our character’s earliest beginnings are unraveled here.

In a race for power and wealth, Kiryu and Majima are stacked up against Japan’s most ruthless, and are forced to prove their worth in the world of Yakuza.
Both start their journey on different tangents, only to quickly find themselves both central to criminal underground’s upbringing.

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Similar to most Japanese gangster movies, Yakuza 0 is filled to the brim with twists and turns, much like a bowl of ramen.

Unlike previous titles, limiting the story to the pair of heroes makes for a better structured story. Cliffhangers weren’t as much of a gimmick, and the story was more smooth than disjointed.

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It helps that the cast features some of Japan’s finest talent, such as Ken Watanabe (Inception) and Keiji Fujiwara (Initial D’s Shingo). What I found visually inconsistent (switching between quality cut scenes to gameplay models and then some) was often saved by the emotive voice acting of said talent.

Unfortunately, all good stories must come to an end, and it was a bittersweet one -especially for Majima-san. Versus Kiryu, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Majima. His journey was more emotionally driven and better explains how his wild nature eventually developed.

(Bonus points if you managed to figure out the Tojo and Omi Clan hierarchy.)

Gameplay

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While most of the story is driven by the cinematics, the game’s pace is really up to the player.

Outside of the story, player’s are free to take to the streets of both Kamurocho and Sotenbori.

Some might argue Yakuza 0’s substance isn’t in the story, but in the open-world setting.
A statement I found pretty hard to fault, and a world extremely easy to lose yourself to.

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Try the local cuisine. Express yourself through song and dance. Entertain yourself with the “latest” in arcade gaming. If you haven’t got the cash to spare, you can help run errands for the locals. Otherwise, try your hand at real estate or running a cabaret club for a bigger pay check.

There is an option to play a few of the mini-games online, but I can’t imagine many would revel at a game of online mahjong amongst friends.

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You might run into some strange characters.

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Familiar faces too.

These activities serve well as comic relief to the serious nature of the main story.
Y’know, like how Majima Goro contrasts well with Kazuma Kiryu.

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For the most part, the intricacy of Yakuza 0’s open world is impressive to say the least.
The neon-streets of Japan’s 80s are well represented, with detail of the highest level.

From convenience stores (Don Quijote, Poppo, etc.) to the items available (Suntory, Mountain Dew, etc.), it all makes for a super realistic experience.

What’s not so pretty are the NPCs that fill the streets. Most look like recycled models from older games, and don’t exactly contrast well with the detail of the main cast.

If it’s any consolation, the game was released for the Japanese 2 years ago…

Combat System

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Shared between the main story and the open-world, is the ability to solve [almost] any problem with your fists.

With what seems like an endless amount of “Heat” actions, from fists to a well-crafted blade, or an outdoor ornament, can lead to beautifully-gruesome results.

Ignoring Heat actions, Yakuza’s archaic combat system isn’t as pretty.
For earlier titles the variety of moves outside of Heat actions have fallen short.
Thankfully, Yakuza 0 is a bit different.

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Instead having one fighting style unique to each character, opposite to previous titles,
Yakuza has given both Kiryu and Majima the ability to learn multiple fighting styles.

Like the “revelations” of Yakuza 0’s predecessors, both can learn up to 3 fighting styles to use during combat – simultaneously.

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Balance (Brawler/Thug), speed (Rush/Breaker) or power (Beast/Slugger) are well represented through each of the fighting styles and can be upgraded using in-game money. This allows for more damage, health, moves and Heat actions, available through a Final Fantasy-esque “Sphere Grid”.

Using whichever fighting style is really based on preference. You might get comfortable with a particular string of buttons (the case for Yakuza titles prior), or the application of another style might better fit the situation *cough*fighting Shibusawa*cough* you may find yourself in.

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It’s not quite DMC or Bayonetta, and the animations are still a bit rough, but it’s definitely an improvement over Yakuza’s combat systems of the past.

Verdict

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What’s usually described as Japan’s take on GTA, and successor to Shenmue, I feel aren’t as accurate as people claim.

Sure, it’s borrowed elements from said games and the more obscure, but the Yakuza series provides a sensory-overload much like Japan itself, and unlike any other [game].
Yakuza 0 is the series best representation of this. Quality.

Speaking of which, the story alone is worth a single playthrough, and what better time than now to get acquainted with the “Tojo Kai”.

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Yakuza 0 allows players to jump into the series from the story’s absolute beginning, better preparing players for “Kiwami”, the original Yakuza remake.

I’ve already poured 70+ hours attempting to Platinum the game, and that’s mostly thanks to the substories and activities. I haven’t even touched “Legend” difficulty yet.

So, yeah…
Better late than never.

review

– Dust

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