Yakuza 0 Review – Written by Jose Vega
Purchased product for the sake of this review.
In 2016, the Yakuza, or Ryu Ga Gotoku, series would go on to celebrate its 10th anniversary. SEGA then makes the announcement that to commemorate this event, two Yakuza games would be released. One would be a retelling of the original Yakuza called Yakuza Kiwami. The other would be a prequel to the first game putting its focus on not only Kiryu but also Majima. A prequel focusing on the game’s two most memorable characters… is Yakuza 0 worthy of telling the series’ very beginnings?
Yakuza 0 takes place in Japan in December 1988, 8 years before the events that would set in motion the first game. The plot centers on an empty lot and that whoever obtains the deed would decide the fate of Kamurocho. It centers on two characters: Kazuma Kiryu & Goro Majima as they try to not only get to the bottom of this but also contend with their respective predicaments.
In Kamurocho, Kiryu’s charged for a crime he didn’t commit and must not only prove his innocence but contend with his former clan who are after him due to his connection to Dojima. In the town of Sotenbori, Majima is in charge of a nightclub called Grand but in truth, he is under constant watch due to his exile. But he then takes a hit that would guarantee him back only to find that the target in question is a defenseless blind woman. Hoping to find answers, he decides to protect her while having to deal with the wrath of the Tojo Clan.
The game’s story is just amazing. From start to finish, you see how their tales go and how they reach their conclusions. Since it is also a prequel, we see the main characters being very different from what they are now and the decisions they make would shape them into being who they are today. I love it. There will be moments that’ll fill players with emotion but by the time it’s over, you can’t help but feel bad for some characters as the later games detail their inevitable fates. That’s what happens in a prequel game after all.
If you’ve played any of the previous Yakuza games, you will feel right at home with Yakuza 0. It’s an action RPG game where you pretty much do whatever you like, depending on what happens in the game. Most of the time will be spent going through missions to continue the story. But during those instances, you’re allowed to explore and do various activities. Sub-stories make a return where you can help people with their many issues. At times they reward you with items and money. Side activities are aplenty such as mahjong, baseball, bowling, and even you can go to arcades to play games such as Outlaw and Space Harrier. And if that isn’t to your liking, you can still take the chance to beat up bad guys that cross your path. Most of Kamurocho is still accessible for you to explore but some stuff like the Millennium Tower isn’t there.
Yakuza 0 offers a lot of new additions to the game. One of the biggest is a secondary protagonist: Goro Majima. In later entries, he’s pretty much an anti-hero with an obsession for fighting Kiryu. Here in this game, he’s different and this is before he became the Mad Dog of Shimano. He has his own hub to explore, Sotenbori and his own problems to contend with. In addition, he has his own set of fighting styles that offer a different experience. Both characters each have three fighting styles they can use in battle. Kiryu still has his styles from the first game but Majima’s are new. Thug is similar to Brawler, being balanced. Breaker focuses on breakdancing to deal damage to enemies and Slugger specializes on using a bat or other weapons to give foes the smackdown. It’s a nice change of pace and it does help set the two apart. Both of them also have a fourth unlockable style but that requires a lot of work to unlock it for each of them. Like the first game, the yen is the game’s currency and since this is Japan in the 1980s, the people spend it like there’s no tomorrow… literally. The yen is not only used to help buy items and supplies but also to level up your characters. Fortunately, the game gives you plenty of ways to acquire yen to make it possible. In addition, there are several mentors that will assist Kiryu and Majima in unlocking new abilities and attacks they can use in battle. Want to be the best? Seeking them out and learning from them is the best choice.
Another addition is the special side activities. Real Estate has Kiryu going around, buying up land in Kamurocho in the hopes of raising money and driving rival gangs out. Cabaret is all Majima and your job is to make your club the best in Sotenbori by not only making your guests happy but growing your ladies to ensure they make it possible. These activities require some skill to complete but the rewards are worth it.
Yakuza 0 offers a lot to do in one game. With two protagonists, the game’s length can get ridiculous. To be fair, if you plan on just beating the game, it’ll take you roughly 15-20 hours but to complete everything raises it to around 70-80 hours. Replay value is high since after beating it, you have access to Premium Adventure and Legend difficulty aka New Game +. As for progression, the game lets you control Kiryu or Majima for 2 chapters. After 2 chapters, you shift to the next character with a recap that details what happened in their story. It’s a good way of getting players up to speed on the story. There will be times you will switch between the two characters but eventually, you will have the option to switch between them whenever you like. It’s useful in case you missed out on some things with the other character. There are a ton of other activities you can do such as collecting tapes that can unlock some softcore videos, places where you can phone chat with girls that can lead to dates if you’re lucky, singing karaoke and others but yeah… stuff like that is one of many you can do in this game.
This game looks good. For a PlayStation 4 game, it’s awesome. SEGA did a fantastic job showing Japan in the late 1980s, during a time when they were in an economic boom and it reflects on it. The characters look good in cutscenes and can be really expressive but when you go to the game itself that leaves a bit to be desired. It also has a stellar soundtrack and what’s more is that in battle, the music changes depending on what style you use. But the game also has some tunes that happen in the more important bits like in boss battles. There are boss battles aplenty and it’ll get you on the edge of your seat with some being awesome. Yakuza 0 is also on PC and personally, if you want the best experience, the PC version is a recommendation.
For all the good that Yakuza 0 has, there are some negatives. Most of the presentation seems a bit dated but I feel it makes sense. Yakuza isn’t about how good it looks, it’s about how good it plays. Not that it’s a bad thing. Also, the game can be unfair in some instances with enemies carrying stuff like firearms. It kills the momentum at times… like in Yakuza Kiwami.
Overall Yakuza 0 is a welcome addition to the series, being that it’s a prequel that helps set up the first game. Two protagonists having two stories that intertwine into a plot revolving an empty lot, gameplay that is good with a lot to explore and do and so much more. Despite some minor hiccups, it’s a solid game. Very solid. What else can be said that hasn’t already been said? If you wish to experience how two legends got their start, this is it. Every series has a starting point and this is that one. Just be ready because this is one journey you don’t want to miss out on.
I give Yakuza 0 a solid 8.5 out of 10. It’s worth your money whether on PS4 or PC.