How well does this prequel stack up to the other titles? Find out in our Yakuza 0 Review!
If there was every a time to start investing in SEGA‘s Yakuza series, next week would be a great time to do so. Since 2005, Yakuza titles have garnered love and admiration from its fans thanks to the robust stories, tons of gaming content and enjoyable gameplay that puts the fans in the shoes of a Japanese gangster. The latest entry to release outside of Japan, Yakuza 0, is a prequel to the entire series involving mainstays Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Without question, Yakuza fans will want to get their hands on this game and the same could be said about potential new fans too; a prequel to it all means witnessing the connected stories from the beginning.
Yakuza 0 Review – Let’s Jump Right To It
As someone who jumped into the series at the fourth game, there’s much about Yakuza‘s lore that I’m not familiar with. Each game ties into its predecessor as many events and key characters from previous titles were are revisited upon. With Yakuza 0, I am able to see the origin point for events that are coming in later installments. Like I stated before, Yakuza 0 is the best time for newcomers to become acquainted with Kiryu-San. Oh and let’s not forget about Majima-San either.
That’s right, the prequel offers two playable protagonists throughout the game’s storyline. This marks the third time where a Yakuza title offered more than one playable protagonist; one was Yakuza: Dead Souls, a spin-off to the series, followed by Yakuza 5. Players will step into the bloody shoes of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, respectively known as ‘The Dragon of Dojima’ and ‘Mad Dog’. Well, this takes place before they earned those nicknames but we get to finally see how they acquired the monikers. Yakuza 0 focuses on these two characters as they weave their way through deceptive business with their Yakuza family, The Tojo Clan and other family rivals.
Now, the Yakuza series is well-known, or at least, should be well-known for having a deep lore. Just like with all organized crime, different families and factions reside under one roof. Kiryu and Majima belong to the same organization but under different families. Even as the first game in chronological order, Yakuza 0 drops numerous important names to remember. The Yakuza series, as far as my knowledge takes me, has always been about the characters, deep plot and wildly addictive gameplay. With that said, this prequel is absolutely no different. This series should easily become the new crown jewel of SEGA since Sonic’s tremendous fall into obscurity.
Glamour, deception, money, and power… they’re all a part of the gangster life and I feel SEGA nailed those points.
The story works on two fronts, focusing on both Kiryu and Majima’s trials as they navigate the tricky and deadly world of being Yakuza. Obviously, I won’t put spoilers here for the sake of fresh fans reading this. Just know those who love to watch crime movies, especially Yakuza films, shall have no problems here as Yakuza 0 scratches that itch in proper fashion. Glamour, deception, money, and power… they’re all a part of the gangster life and I feel SEGA nailed those points. Even down to the when enemies are hit/defeated, huge wads of cash burst from them as if they were money-filled piñatas. It’s the little things I tell ya, the little things!
Speaking of money, there are a ton of ways to get rich fast in Yakuza 0. One of the more worthwhile ways is through the characters’ unique business opportunities. These side quests rake in the big dough for leisurely fun while also moving both characters closer to their respective nicknames.
At some point during Kiryu’s story, players gain access to a real estate business. Players won’t have to make any cold colds but keeping tabs on owned properties is an around the clock business. The ultimate goal is to acquire more money and property than the competition. As with most things, doing so requires able bodies to get the job done. Hiring managers and security for properties is all done through an in-game menu, where players aim to collect money. Property value increases when investors are sent to look at said property, allowing players to feel like a pseudo-real estate agent.
The real fun actually begins when the club opens for business.
Occasionally, Kiryu will have problems to deal with as any respectable real estate agent would. Issues like this are known as ‘Cash Battles’. These battles can be handled with fists if a rival sends thugs to harass property or by literally engaging in a cash battle. This is done by pouring huge amounts of dough into the targeted property. Unfortunately, real estate more or less boils down to a foot tapper though. Outside of sending workers to specified properties and getting into the occasional fight, a majority of this side quest is simply waiting for a gauge to fill. Mildly entertaining at best but the best is yet to come.
Majima on the other hand, has the better business to run in my opinion. This one-eyed thug becomes a cabaret club manager after some events transpire. I much preferred the club side quest, though not for the obvious reason (it didn’t hurt however). Taking control of this club allows players to accomplish a multitude of manager-like duties. Scouting for new hostesses, looking for business partnerships, helping the women become better hostesses, customizing their appearances – all of these are decisions made by the player.
The real fun actually begins when the club opens for business. Players are giving a limited amount of time to build up as much money as they can. Guests file into the club and pairing them up with the right hostess equals more moola. Knowing the women’s strengths/weakness and what the customer wants is key to milking their wallets. Pay attention to the club’s vibe as the flow constantly changes within the time limit. Just because a hostess was great with one guest, doesn’t she’ll hit it off with another. Hostesses can be swapped between paying guests and could call upon the player’s assistance. By paying attention to the lady’s gesture, players choose what service to provide for the paying guest. After all, a happy guest is a money cow.
As a beat em’ up brawler, Yakuza 0 offers much in the way of a combat system.
I greatly enjoyed this minigame more because of the increased hands-on approach. The cabaret club actually feels like a minigame compared to Kiryu’s real estate; there’s more enjoyment to be had when scouting and customizing the hostesses.
While it’s a ton of fun being a suave business man, hands still have to get dirty. As a beat em’ up brawler, Yakuza 0 offers much in the way of a combat system. This is the first title where the playable protagonists can swap between different fighting styles mid-fight. Both Kiryu and Majima gain access to at least three different styles of fighting throughout the game. These styles operate differently and effectively changes how the player would approach a fight. I’m not going into these styles because spoilers; I feel the player stumbling upon them unknowingly only adds to the fun.
When the fighting starts, players can utilize the environment around them, in addition to providing a good ol’ knuckle sandwich. Various items ranging from tin garbage cans, bicycles and even shop signs can be used when fighting foes. These makeshift weapons have a limited durability but are sure handy in a pinch. Heat attacks make their return as well and thank goodness too because these moves show a brutality that can only come from a gangster. Pile-drive a guy into the pavement head first or smash his head repeatedly into a brick wall, Heat Attacks can be used at the player’s discretion whenever the Heat Gauge builds.
Kiryu and Majima can have their styles upgraded by figuratively pouring money into them. Forgoing the standard experience points for currency, players can take earned money and channel the funds into growing both characters. There’s even special training to unlock other moves if these two grow enough. Of course, money can also be spent on frivolous ventures such as gambling, frequenting clubs or, dare I say it… lewd activities. Regardless of what players spend money on, an abundance of it is required and luckily, Yakuza 0 delivers numerous ways to make bank.
What players can expect from Yakuza 0 in terms of gameplay structure is… Well, it’s lot to be honest. Now, there are two kinds of ways to play this game, one optional and the other mandatory. Obviously, the goal for anyone who plays games is to complete said game. A person could easily choose to neglecting the world and just do mainly story missions. This is the quickest way to scratch the game off a backlog list.
The other, and more enjoyable way to experience Yakuza 0 (be damned with backlogs) is to engage in all the world has to offer. Main missions, side quests, leisurely activities, gambling, mini games and that’s not even everything. This is easily a time sink game where putting in 60+ hours can become a definite possibility.
Players will run through all sorts of bizarre and hardcore missions as they progress through the game. Having not completed Yakuza 0 yet but still well over the 40 hour mark, I’ve had to win dolls from an arcade crane machine for a timid little girl, fight my way through narrow streets with hordes of enemies in hot pursuit and, ahem…bet on underground catfights. In short summary, there’s plenty to be done in Yakuza 0.
I have no problem with the translation job either, though some of the dialogue does come across as a bit cheesy. It’s hard to imagine Yakuza being threatening when they refer to a person as “yer boy”. In fact, just saying “yer” makes me shake my head. I can’t be too picky with something this minute because a majority of the dialogue does fit the bill for what a Yakuza would say. Doesn’t have to be 100% word for word from the Japanese language, just enough to be realistic and not cringe-y like I’m watching Catwoman all over again.
Besides the odd translation here and there, in addition to the mediocre real estate quest, I had a hard time narrowing down issues with the game. Of course, I didn’t dwell too hard because issues should be quite apparent upfront, not dug up for the sake of doing so. To me, Yakuza 0 is a game with little gone wrong. Some may not like the talky nature of cutscenes but it’s no Metal Gear Solid. Yakuza 0 is by no means perfect but my time here served as a reminder for why I love this series.
Whenever I review one of the Yakuza titles, I always run into the same problem of filling my review with so much information. My Yakuza 0 review is no different. Even with all that info, Yakuza 0 offers so much more that I can’t possibly covered everything under one spot. The game is massive and has enough depth to keep mostly anybody interested.
An arcade style beat em’ up that offers as much wacky nonsense as it does serious crime drama, this prequel fits in nicely with previous installments. With Yakuza Kiwami (a remake of the original) hopefully arriving this Summer, Yakuza 0 can easily be called the perfect entry point for the series.
That wraps up my Yakuza 0 review; anyone who’s ever been slightly interested in the series should take notice of the game when it launches on January 24th.