Yakuza. It’s a series I’d never gotten into, but is well loved with other staffers here at Nintendo Okie. You can’t go a few weeks without someone talking about it and for good reason. Yakuza 0 is the most recent game in the series and if you’ve never explored the streets of Japan as a heavily tattooed man who commits crime, but is ultimately a good person then now is the best time to do so.
Yakuza 0 tells the story of two different members of the Japanese yakuza, Kiryu Kazuma and Majima Goro. At the beginning of this game Kiryu is framed for a murder that he didn’t commit. Ultimately he’s kicked out of the family and tries to redeem himself and prove his innocence at the same time. Majima is a cabaret owner who was exiled for not following orders years earlier. He too is looking to better his name. These two men’s stories will intertwine with each other at different points.
Littered throughout the two characters stories are various side quests that you can undertake. The best way to describe any of these side-quests are heartfelt as more of them than not end with the characters involved learning a valuable lesson about their lives. These can range from a kid who had his new video game stolen leading to you beating up his dad who had stolen the video game to give to his kid or breaking up a ring where girls sell their underwear to men after the leader is nearly attacked by a rabid stalker. These quests are all generally short in length but are all so well written and so well paced that you really should seek them out and do as many of them as you can.
The game’s fighting system is fast and fun. Each character has three different fighting styles that can be changed on the fly and allow to you fight in very different ways. For example Kiryu has a style where you can pick up objects surrounding him such as bicycles and street signs and use those as weapons. He can switch to another style that basically allows him to hulk up and become incredibly powerful. He doesn’t take quite as much damage, but he’s very vulnerable to attack and slow. Add to that a style that makes him incredibly light on his feet and he can easily dodge enemy attacks while dishing out a flurry of blows in return. Majima has more ‘unique’ fighting styles such as his ability to pull a bat more or less out of thin air and just wail on enemies or bust out his best dance moves using the newest dance craze in Japan, break dancing, to beat up on people around him.
All of these fights will have you showered in cash. The game takes place during the 1980’s where Japan’s economy is booming. Technology is on the rise and has just begun to invade everyday life. One guy is carrying around a bag phone and will show it off to anyone that’s interested in hearing about it, even though the battery dies after one phone call and takes hours to recharge. This cash you earn is used to level up Kiryu and Majima. Each character has a separate skill tree that allows them to use that cash to earn new skills and power up existing ones. It won’t be hard to find you’ve racked up millions of yen at any one time and you’ll need it because these skills don’t come cheap. There’s even one character, called Mr. Shakedown who you’ll see wandering around the streets. If you fight him and win you take all the money he has at the time, which usually numbers in the tens of millions of yen. However, if he beats you (which may happen often) he’ll take any money you have. It’s a nice risk/reward system that will allow you to earn cash very quickly if you’re willing to take the chance.
There’s so much to do in this game outside the story itself. If you need a break from the events of the story you can head to the batting cages and blow off some steam. Maybe bowling or pool are more your style of relaxation. Not only are these mini-games that you can do, but they’re fully fledged experiences, with the exception of the batting cages which is just swinging a bat at a ball for a while. Bowling and pool both have complex physics systems that rely on you knowing a little bit about how those actual games work. If those aren’t your cup of tea maybe you could head over to the karaoke bar and bust out your best singing voice. There’s even a disco parlor where you can show off your best John Travolta impression. These two mini-games are similar to other rhythm games where you hit button prompts in time with the music. Even still you could head out to one of the gaming parlors and play mahjong or other card games. I’m not finished yet. There are even fully functioning arcades that will let you grab things from the UFO catchers or play full arcade games like Space Harrier or Outrun. The story will take you around 25-30 hours to see it all, but you could easily find yourself spending hundreds of hours in this world just sort of living out the life of the two main characters and never touch the story.
Yakuza 0 is a great game that’s filled with so much content you may never see it all. The characters are incredibly detailed and while many of them are based around one trait they’re so well written you don’t even really notice that. It’s a game that’s about crime, sex, and money, but I feel these characters are so much more human than any other game of this type. The two main characters, in particular, are so likable. It’s hard to find a flaw with them. If you’ve played many games in this series before it will be nice to see them at an earlier point in their lives. If you’re new to the series it’s absolutely the place place to jump in and see just what the series is all about.
Review copy of the game provided by Sega
Played through the main story, still many sidequests to complete and runs to make in Outrun.
Total Play Time: 33 hours