An Epic Japanese Crime Story – Yakuza 0 Review [PS4]

GameStop, Inc.

The Yakuza series has been around since 2006 and have grown in size and scope with each new game in the franchise. It’s a series that I’ve always admired from afar and have always been interested in checking out. At this stage in the series jumping into the narrative after five main entries and multiple spin-offs was daunting. Now with Yakuza 0, SEGA has given everyone a perfect opportunity to jump in. The first game in the series on PS4 is also a prequel and the perfect point to jump into the series.

My first impression of Yakuza 0 is that it feels like a throwback, and not just because it takes place in the 80’s. As an open world game Yakuza 0 feels a little behind the times. Fast travel isn’t as easy as it should be, but my biggest complaint is the use of save points. There really isn’t a reason that Yakuza 0 shouldn’t continuously save like most modern games. The combat also leaves a little bit to be desired in a world where the Rocksteady Batman games exist. Each main character has three separate fighting styles which give players enough options to find their preferred way to play. The combat is satisfying enough once you find a style or two that work for you even if it isn’t as silky smooth as Batman.

The size and scope of the open world environments are also fairly small if you compare them to something like GTA 5 or The Witcher 3. Both major areas of Kamurocho and Sotonbori are small in size and grid-shaped. There isn’t the same level of exploration as there is in something like a Bethesda game or even an Ubisoft game.

While the physical area may not be as large, that doesn’t mean this game is short on things to do. This game is packed to the gills with extra activities to do. There are numerous side quests and an insane amount of minigames that could occupy your time for dozens of hours without ever touching the main story progression. Many of these side missions are wonderfully absurd. Want to spend some time helping a local politician with his tax plan? How about serving as an emergency producer for a local television production? No? Well, maybe you would prefer to help a dominatrix perfect her craft? If you can’t decide, just do them all! If side missions are a little too focused for you, there is a bevy of minigames to entertain yourself with. You can attempt to rule the batting cages or tussle with the crane machines. If you’re more musically inclined, check out karaoke or hit the dance floor at the local disco. Some of these activities have enough depth to be fun in and of themselves. With the main story clocking in upwards of 30 hours of gameplay you could easily rack up more than 50 hours between all of the side activities and the main narrative.

Let’s talk about that 30 hour plus narrative. Yakuza 0’s main story is a Japanese crime epic that tells the story of two Yakuza members who were each expelled from their respective families. Kazama Kiryu and Majima Goro each have a distinct look and are really great protagonists. Both are classic antiheroes in the “gangster with a heart of gold” mold but each has their own distinct personalities. A large part of this is due to the fantastic subtitles put together by the localization team. The writing is fantastic. Jokes land well. Dialogue feels natural and somehow even manages to fit seamlessly with the Japanese voice performances and animation. The strength of the writing is a perfect complement to the visuals. The cut scenes are gorgeous and amazingly directed. There are moments from fights between different characters that rival any martial arts film. Even the in-game models look great.

Yakuza 0 certainly has its flaws. Some of the game design choices feel old fashioned and not quite up to modern standards. Look beyond those flaws and there’s a mountain of varied and interesting content. Solid action combat and leveling system that allows you to tailor your characters to your style all wrapped in a wonderfully Japanese wrapper is more than enough to make a great game.

Yakuza 0 Playstation 4
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Released: January 24th, 2017
MSRP: $59.99

Yakuza 0
  • 8/10
    Story - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Gameplay - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
7.3/10

The Verdict

Yakuza 0 certainly has its flaws. Some of the game design choices feel old fashioned and not quite up to modern standards. Look beyond those flaws and there’s a mountain of varied and interesting content. Solid action combat and leveling system that allows you to tailor your characters to your style all wrapped in a wonderfully Japanese wrapper is more than enough to make a great game.

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