See where the Yakuza franchise begins in our early exclusive Yakuza 0 preview and first impressions
Yakuza 0 is the 7th game in the main line of the Yakuza franchise. Yakuza 0 is the prequel to the franchise, focusing on Kiryu’s beginnings in the Yakuza. I am personally not an avid follower of the franchise that has been around since 2005. That is my fault. But I am excited to get right into it!
The story of the game is fantastic. I won’t go as far to say it’s as good as The Godfather, but it has all the makings of a great mob/gangster movie. You have Kiryu, a simple, yet honorable protagonists who would be a relatable and admirable character on any side of the law. You follow his fall from grace, his road to redemption, and the fulfillment of his potential. As well as interact in a world of wildly conniving characters who are vying for power, and are willing to use you and dispose of you to claim it. The depth of the story and its performance is hands down the greatest and most appealing part of the game.
Gameplay is solid. If you’ve already watched the video you might see a mediocre score. The score is not representative of the content of the gameplay, but more so the pacing. It is not interwoven into the game very well. The moments where you get a decent stretch of gameplay are phenomenal, but the spaces in between and the short spurts of simply walking or following a character around the block are infuriating. The action is combo based, so there’s a good amount of skill, then there is the level up system, and ability to play old Sega arcade games. And there’s a claw machine you can actually win! There is a wide range of gameplay to play, and can easily consume players lives by the days if not for the horrible blending of it and the story. It’s like being given a brand new bike with grossly mismatched training wheels. There’s a balance problem because the game is trying to be too safe. As you get deeper into the game it’s less noticeable, but in the beginning, especially the very beginning, it is infuriating.
Which brings me to the mechanics. The game looks good, while not being anything incredibly remarkable, it does a good job of capturing and rendering all of the characters and setting the story. But while the game does have everything needed, it is put together so illogically that it really takes away from the game. The cutscenes go from fully rendered mo-cap CGI scenes to stills with text boxes, to some off combination of the two, then back to CGI-rendered glory, without a gameplay break in between. It makes no sense. Not to mention to the crazy length of story and cutscenes between gameplay. The length of the cutscenes wouldn’t really be an issue if it was all fully rendered CGI scenes, it’d be like watching a movie/show. But the needless mixing of stills and whatever that mix is is frustrating. Then there are moments where you have to walk 2 or 3 blocks just to get to another cutscene. You literally just walk. Having players hold a direction on the thumbstick to change the scenery is not gameplay! Just use a cutscene! That is one of my biggest pet peeves and gaming, and usually enough to get me to drop the game entirely. It is pointless and should never be put in a game again. The extremely unbalanced mix of story and gameplay acts as an early barrier where I can see numerous players drop the game.
However, push through. There is much more to the game than the horribly balanced story and gameplay, and the story is worth following through. Picture part The Raid, The Godfather, and Boyz n the Hood. The first hour is brutal to the impatient, which is what I’m basing this score on. But, if you have the patience, I highly suggest pushing through as there are hours of fun to have exploring the 1988 fictional Japanese city of Kamurocho. There is a lot to do, a lot to see, and an incredible story that just keeps unfolding. Based strictly on the first 48, I give Yakuza 0 a 6.3/10
Yakuza 0 is developed and published by Sega, and will be releasing January 24th, 2017 on Playstation 4.