Bone cracking, head smashing, ass kicking… disco dancing, wait what? – only in Yakuza 0.
It’s a prequel guys, a bloody prequel! Meaning I now no longer have an excuse to shrug off the fact that it would have taken me forever to catch up on the series. Yes… fine, let me set the metaphorical record straight before we get into this. Other than Yakuza 0, I have never played a Yakuza game in my 26 years of existence and I sorely regret it. I can already feel the resentment that you (and our very own reviewer John Betts) has for me right now – but that’s a fact! Fear not dear reader, after playing this monster of a video game I can assure you I will.
Yakuza 0 is a wild and wonderful action crime game set the late 80s in Tokyo, Japan during an economic/real estate boom. The story has two protagonists, Kazuma Kiryu; an up-and-coming member of the Dojima Yakuza clan, who is framed for the murder of a man he was extorting money from and is forced to leave the clan to clear his name, and Goro Majima; who was expelled from the clan after failing a task/mission he was given and has to earn a shed load of money to pay for someone to plead his case to help him return to the clan.
The games weird side stories and activities are where I found most of my fun. Buying nudie magazines on a fairly crowded sidewalk, helping a band maintain their punk image, Kiryu’s encounter with a dominatrix in a children’s playground that we probably shouldn’t talk about, the time Kiryu bumps into a woman selling her underwear… and then the less seedy stuff like fishing and playing in Sega’s classic arcade.
For me, the combat system seemed a little restricted at first but as you progress it opens up and introduces more ways to cause pain! Both Kiryu and Majima gave three different fighting styles that can be swapped as you please. Kiryu has Brawler; which is Kiryu’s basic, up-close and personal smash-your-face in style of combat, Rush; focusing more on speed than power, enabling you to stun enemies with faster attacks and finally Beast; a fighting style that sacrificing defence for sheer power and brawn.
Majima’s fighting styles have a bit of variation than Kiryu’s. You’ve got Thug; Majima’s basic fighting style, it’s quite like Kiryu’s Brawler but based more on grabbing and dodging. Slugger; allows Majima to wield and unbreakable baseball bat beat down his foes and then there is my favourite… Breaker; Majima dives into a multitude of breakdancing moves that get faster and faster as you build up Heat.
In Yakuza 0 terms – Heat is essentially energy that you build up during combat that allows you to pull off abilities that you wouldn’t normally be able to do if you hadn’t raised the bar. The more Heat you’ve got, the more powerful you become, but as soon as you take damage you start to lose it – so use it or lose it, sister. You’ve gotta be strategic about it, because if you use it too much, then you’re clearly underpowered and you should invest if yourself more – something i’ll talk about next.
Kick some ass in extravagant ways, get paid and repeat! Money gives you options and the rule of thumb for Yakuza 0 is that you’re getting nowhere if you don’t invest in yourself. Yakuza 0 travels down an unconventional route by making your source of experience (to level up) the same resource that’s required to purchase clothing, food, weapons and other items.
Making cash in Yakuza 0 really isn’t an issue because you can’t walk down the street without everyone and their mother attacking you, so money is also an endless supply but it doesn’t mean you can go around spending it willy-nilly. The upgrades for the individual fighting styles start off fairly cheap but can grow to somewhere in the region of 500 million Yen.
There are also a tonne of minigames you can play (both on your own and 2 player VS) during your Japanese adventure. How about a spot of pool or a dance at the local stri…night club? There are arcade games and fishing as I mentioned earlier or invest time in the bigger ventures like running a cabaret or delving into the real estate game with Tachibana Real Estate Group.
It’s worth noting that the game’s only real flaw is that some of the minigames are not great and some of the bad ones are not optional but the excellent ones make up for this.
Yakuza 0 is insanely beautiful and crafted in an 80s sort of way. The game’s story is told through lengthy cut scenes (after a few battles, your knuckles and heels need a break anyway). For newcomers to the series, it’s hard to understand all the wackiness when it first kicks off but all in all this game is solid and a tonne of fun to play.
If you’ve got any thoughts on Yakuza 0 then tell me in the comments section below and feel free to spread the love to your friends on the interwebs!
Yakuza 0 is available now as a Playstation 4 exclusive.
Review code provided by Sega