So just as a disclaimer, I have never played a Yakuza game in my life. I think it helped me enjoy this game a bunch more not knowing what to expect. But damn, did I enjoy this game and damn is it over the top on so many levels.
Yakuza 0 takes place in 1988 Japan in two different locations, following two different characters. The first character you play, Kiryu is focused in Kamurocho and is Yakuza. He gets thrown into proving his innocence as the man he collected money from hours later turns up dead. The second character Majima finds a chance to redeem himself and to become Yakuza again but he would have to kill someone. He decides to protect the target and find out why they are being targeted. That is about as spoiler free as I can make it without ruining the fun story. The story is very serious…yet unbelievable at the same time, but it works and keeps your attention.
This game can be described as a limited open world action game. You have free roam of your area, but are confined in that area as you cannot wander around the whole city. This didn’t feel too limiting wandering around but there were times where I wish I had a vehicle to get across the area but that’s not part of the game. The story flowed decently and played out well through out the streets and areas you were in, I didn’t feel like more exploration was necessary as there were a ton of things to do in both areas.
Combat wise the fighting was fun and unique to each character. There are three fighting styles for each character and you can switch between each stance while fighting. Some are speedy attacks meant to stun opponents, some use weapons, and my favorite…break dancing. Yes you kick ass while spinning around on your hands upside down. Yes over the top…but it gets better, keep reading. So unlike Grand Theft Auto games you cannot just run up to someone and start laying down a whooping. Instead you will get in fights on every street and corner if you run into people looking for a fight, such as other Yakuza, gang members, and ‘Hooligans’ for example. You can run from them, but after every fight depending on how you do you will get money. It’s a very easy way to get money. There are also little events where you can step in and save someone getting bullied or harassed by these individuals. In doing so they will give you an item, some times its a healing item or it could be a more rare item that is worth more. During the fighting, regular attacks will generate ‘Heat’. There are three levels of Heat you can gain and lose if you get hit. At certain times depending on your fighting stance you can hit triangle and unleash a much more powerful move to drop more health from the victim.
You can buy many food items and booze around the game, but using the money to level up your own skills such as new moves and health bonuses get expensive. Each character has a way to run a business. This is not necessary to complete or enjoy the game. But the extra money helps. Kiryu has a real estate mission where you buy businesses and level them up to get more money and purchase more lots around the are. You will eventually need to get aggressive and push out the competition. Majima manages a Caberet club which turns into a ‘Diner Dash’ like mini game where you have to match the girl to the customer and jump in if help is needed to get the most amount of profits from the night. Once you get more powerful with your club your competition will need to be handled with again to get their customers to you.
Now onto all of the extras they have packed into this game. I have easily spent hours doing side missions and playing the mini games instead of getting back to the story. You don’t really need to go looking for the side missions/stories, they will literally cut into the game while walking down the street. Some of the include; pretending to be a TV producer, helping a greaser band become more greaser and tough, pretending that you a girls boyfriend to get her dad off of your back, helping a young girl get toys from the claw game, and even helping distract the public because a street performer needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to break his ‘statue’ pose. Each side story I believe with you whooping a group of people’s ass, and the little twists and shocks they try to throw at you is fun and entertaining. Now the mini games…god damn. These took a lot of my time as they were over the top and addicting. There were simple bar like games such as darts, pool, bowling and such. But then it gets epic, slot car racing, karaoke, disco dancing, fishing, and batting cages to list SOME of the mini games you can just run into a building and start playing. Sega has little arcades around each area you can run in and play some older Sega arcade games such as Outrun or the claw game and get little Sega figures. Before every game you usually have a very over the top anime-like pose. You can see some of these below in the gameplay footage. Now once you complete some of these side quests or defeating so many enemies you unlock CP that can be cashed in at the shrine to unlock more than just skills. Also on top of these side stories, you can befriend some of these people (you can see the friendship meter when interacting with them) and once they are your friend you can use them in your businesses as well.
Overall Yakuza 0 was a blast. The story was entertaining, action was fun, side missions and mini games were amazing. Yakuza 0 is over the top, but damn it I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Check us out at Opencritic!
+ Fun entertaining storyline
+ Two characters helps keep the story fresh
+ Can lose hours in the side missions and mini games
+ Great fighting system
+ Better than expected
+ Love the arcade like gameplay
+ Decent length
- Business missions can be repetitive
- Some things did not translate well into English mini game wise