Producer: Toshihiro Nagoshi
Writer: Masayoshi Yokoyama
Take control of two Yakuza men, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, as their stories meld together in a crime drama about the dispute of the ownership of a piece of land that could empower a family to run the whole town.
Action-Adventure, 3D beat em up, with RPG elements and a focus on story.
30-60 hours depending on how much side activity you participate in.
-engaging main and supporting cast
-tons and tons of activities and sidequests
-great voice acting
-some may find the amount of content overwhelming
-not all mini games are created equal
-the difficulty is low
Though the Yakuza series has been around since 2006, when Yakuza eventually came to the West, it had it’s share of problems. Overrun with horrible dubbing and poor marketing strategies meant that the series never received the fair chance it deserved.
Fortunately for fans of this franchise, the Yakuza series in it’s entirety was a mega success in Japan, so Sega continued to produce more games in their mainline series for the next eleven years. With this expanse of time the game finally found it’s stride, growing in quality, perfecting the storytelling and character development, and really making a name for itself in the open world genre.
While the Yakuza series takes a lot of inspirations from beat ’em ups like River City Ransom, it carves out its own identity in this 3D, open world, story focused action game. Yakuza 0 is the culmination of everything Sega has gotten right with the series, and the best part is, you don’t have to play any of the other games to appreciate this one.
In the timeline of the series, Yakuza 0 takes place at the very start of the whole Japanese crime focused epic, subsequently becoming it’s own origin story. The series always stars the gruff but easy to cheer for Kazuma Kiryu. Throughout the series, we know this character as becoming a force in his Dojima Family clan of the Yakuza. Here we find our favorite beat ’em up badass is much younger, much brasher, and not quite the Yakuza we have come to know and love yet.
Yakuza 0 takes you on a ride with Kiryu as he is set up and accused of murder on a cash collection job gone bad. The rest of the game sees Kiryu attempting to clear his name as his once colleagues turn into enemies.
In a new deviation, the player will share the gameplay time with another main character, a series favorite named Goro Majima. Throughout the arc of the series, the player never learns too much about Majima – other than he has impeccable style, he takes care of business, and it’s always incredibly exciting whenever he shows up. Now the player gets to embody the man at the start of his crime career with the Yakuza.
When we meet Majima in this origin story, he is running the hottest Cabaret in town as part of his exile from his Yakuza family due to a botched job. Though in exile, Majima is given a chance to redeem himself and with a job handed to him by a Yakuza elite, but the job is a hit, and murder just might not be Majima’s game.
The narrative in this series has always been the star of the show, filled with amazing characters and well written melodrama. It plays out in a lot of moments like a Japanese soap opera about crime. Every other chapter has the player switching between the two main characters. With 17 chapters in all and every chapter as long as you want it to be thanks to all the side missions, Yakuza 0 can easily take you over 40 hours to complete.
Yakuza 0‘s plot revolves around a piece of land called the “Vacant Lot.” This piece of land is important to the rival Yakuza families as whoever ends up owning the lot will get a big break in the overarching Yakuza family. This begins a series of back stabs, betrayals, and switcheroos, that will keep you constantly guessing as to who is friend and who is foe. It is a long time before you even realize that Kiryu’s and Majima’s stories will even intersect. They seem so vastly separated that you would never guess that they would meld together so seamlessly by the game’s end.
While the player can take control of both Kiryu and Majima, the two characters play completely differently, both with their own styles of fighting. Kiryu and Majima each have three distinct styles that they can switch to on the fly, and all six of them are important to use at certain times depending on the type of enemies you face. These battle quickly become a dance of calculated stance swaps as you bring the pain to all that approach you.
The difficulty, while never hard, is always fun; especially as you are able to interact with items in the environment to use as weapons. You see a parking cone? Pick it up and slap somebody. Want to go a little bigger? Try picking up an entire Vespa and slamming it into your foes.
The moment to moment action is always present as “random encounter” populates the screen. You’ll notice gang member, delinquents, and men in black all over the streets waiting for you to interact with them, or sometimes they will run up to you and pick a fight. Maybe you actually want to brandish a blade or bat by taking them off incoming baddies or accumulating them through stores and the black market weapons trade.
When you are not fighting, you are exploring the 1988’s versions of fictionalized recreations of Tokyo’s Kabukicho Shinjuku Golden Gai areas, and Osaka’s Dotonbori areas. Kiryu is in the Tokyo area, while Majima is in the Osaka area. Each town feels different and has their own assortment of side missions that are called “Sub-Stories.” These stories have you interacting with a collection of interesting characters, ranging from perverts in their underwear, to arguing couples in need of third party advice. Yakuza 0 is filled with over 100 of these Sub-Stories, and each of them range everywhere from hilarious to heartwarming.
You can also participate in a series of mini games, such as karaoke, dancing in a club, buying and selling real-estate, running a cabaret club, going to a video girl club (as creepy as it sounds), among so many other little activities to lose your time in. None of these things are required to progress the story, but they all offer a nice respite away from all the drama of crime lords.
Sega has a very strong franchise on their hands, and it seems with each passing entry it gets a stronger reception in the west. This is no Grand Theft Auto clone, this is a game series that has made its own mark, and deserves all of its accolades. If you have never played the series, there is no better time than now, as Yakuza 0 is the first event to happen in the timeline. Later this year will see the release Yakuza Kiwami, a completely remade version of the first game.
Yakuza 0 is a fantastic beat em up game, with a bevy of RPG elements that help differentiate it from other open world games. So if you need a strong crime drama story, with excellent action mechanics, then look no further to the Yakuza series, and make sure you start it here with Yakuza 0.