I absolutely LOVE the Yakuza games. However, back in 2016. I didn’t even know that much about them. My first impression of the games was that they were these crazy, stupidly fun games that don’t take themselves seriously.
Now, the part that made me think that Yakuza does, in fact, take itself seriously is the main story. You take part of two narratives that eventually get inexorably intertwined with each other. The story is beautifully crafted and delivered, and the voice work done for the game is some of the best I have seen in the industry. The game is only available with Japanese voices and English subtitles, but the strong voice acting of the cast behind the key character does a great job at conveying their feelings. One of the best parts of Yakuza 0 is the fact that it is a prequel. You need not have prior knowledge of the series or its characters to enjoy the game and the story!
The two main characters are very different, both in personality and in combat styles. Kazuma Kiryu, the regular of the Yakuza series, is a man with an iron first and a heart of gold, while Goro Majima is a wildcard type of character, crazy and unpredictable. Their personalities translate well into their combat styles.
While Kiryu’s three styles are somewhat similar in that he mostly uses his fists to do the talking, Goro’s styles are varied and I felt like more detail went into Goro than Kiryu when it came to combat. However, that isn’t to say that both characters weren’t a blast to use.
Kiryu’s three styles consist of the Brawler style, which is a balanced mix of the two others and has an emphasis on being drunk while fighting. Rush style, which focuses on fast, low damage punches and kicks with tons of counter-attack and dodging options. And finally, Beast style, which makes Kiryu into a slow moving tank that can take as much damage as he can dish out, while the style also focuses on using the environment as your weapons.
Majima’s styles are quite different. His Thug style fits his personality very well and consists of omnidirectional attacks and flashy kicks, along with a few cheap-shot attacks where Goro goes for the eyes of his opponents, briefly stunning them. The Slugger puts emphasis on the use of weapons, mainly the bat, while allowing you to learn how to use other weapons like swords, tonfas and more. The Breaker style, which is by far the most interesting and quirky in the game is what you get when you put break dancing and a natural fighter like Majima together.
To be honest, the combat felt boring, slow and somewhat outdated… at first. Once I unlocked more moves and progressed through both characters side-business stories ( which unlock more moves for purchase ), the games combat became something much deeper with tons of variety included. Some people might find it repetitive and outdated still, however, I haven’t played a game with combat like this since my PS2 days and it felt really refreshing. The game really does a great job in making Kiryu and Majima look and feel like the badasses they’re supposed to be when it comes to fighting.
The Side Content
Yakuza games are widely known for their crazy over-the-top combat, mini-games and plentiful side-quests. This doesn’t change much in Yakuza 0. I was genuinely surprised with the amount of depth the mini-games had to them. It almost felt like if each mini-game game was fleshed out a bit more, it could be a game of its own.
There are a total of 100 substories in the game. That is a LOT of side-quests. Not to mention that not one of them felt generic or MMO-ish. These substories are full of weird, quirky characters ( As you would expect of a Yakuza game ) and it was really fun to see how Kiryu and Goro interact with them. Some of these quests were made to draw out a laugh or two from you, while others were these really touching and somewhat sad stories.
I don’t even want to mention the side-businesses that both protagonists have, which have their own substories and can take anywhere from 10-20 hours to compete ( each ). The only problem I have with the game stems from these two side-business substories too. Namely, you have to purchase new properties to expand your business. These properties usually come in a number of around 10 per area but are not marked on your map. You have to walk by every building in these areas to check if you can buy them, and even then you can miss some of them. This was very tedious to do without a guide of sorts.
While I don’t place much importance to graphics in games, the gaming industry and its audience ( even more so ) have become obsessed with graphics and visuals. I’ll try to be as objective as possible here – The game looks slightly dated and character models look like they were pulled from a PS3 game. The cutscenes are done wonderfully, with almost photo-realistic faces, however. The gameplay mostly consists of janky textures and outdated models. The visual representation of Japan in the 80’s is top-notch in contrast to the old character models. The areas are full of people and packed with stores and other locales dotted throughout Kamurocho and Osaka with painstaking details.
In-game models Pre-Rendered Cutscene
Despite the Yakuza series having flown under my radar for so long, Yakuza 0 did a great job in drawing me into this wonderfully complicated and intricate criminal drama franchise and I’d go so far as to say this is one of the best stories I’ve experienced while gaming. The game is fun and the world is jam packed with side-content that it’s never boring between main missions despite the fact that Kamurocho and Osaka are relatively small areas to explore. The game’s combat feels outdated at first, but at higher difficulties it feels great to use against some tougher opponents and fighters where you’re overwhelmed by numbers.