Yakuza 0 is an action-adventure video developed and published by Sega. It’s the sixth main entry in the long-running Yakuza franchise and a prequel to the original game. It released in 2015 for PlayStation, 2018 for Windows and 2020 for Xbox One. Better late than never right? I’ve known of Yakuza for a long time. Due to exclusively playing on Microsoft consoles, I never had the chance to play any game in the franchise until recently. Thankfully, every Yakuza game is coming to Game Pass at some point in the future. Yakuza 0 was my first experience and what an introduction it was.
Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima find themselves involved in the power struggled surrounding the so-called “Empty Lot”. It’s a vital piece of land for all the dark organizations across Japan. They both seek to find out the truth behind such a power struggle. Additionally, the wish to maintain their own innocence and safety. This sets them on a collision course as they investigate all the events surrounding the Empty Lot incident.
Yakuza 0 is set in an open world environment and is played from a third-person perspective. It takes place in fictionalized recreations of area’s around Tokyo in the 1980s. The player controls series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and recurring character Goro Majima. You alternate between the two at predetermined points during the story.
Players can freely walk around and interact with people they meet to trigger side-quests. Also, you’ll battle enemies or play one of several mini games. These include fully playable versions of Sega arcade games such as Out Run, Super Hang-On, Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone.
Kiryu and Majima have side businesses that they run during the game to earn money. Kiryu invests in real estate and Majima runs a cabaret club. Completing side-quests can result in characters they meet offering to help with side businesses. This allows them to more easily and quickly progress. Progressing in side business sequences or training with specific masters will unlock additional abilities for purchase on the characters’ skill trees.
There is so much more that I could write about the story and the game as a whole. However, I’ll just get to my opinion on the game.
Yakuza 0 is one of the best video games that I have played this generation. Firstly, the story had me engrossed in a way that few games manage to. Be warned, there are frequent cutscenes and some are very lengthy. This is a game that isn’t afraid to make you sit and watch for several minutes. Still, it’s done with the right idea in mind. They want you to feel invested in the story and its characters and it achieves the desired effect. This won’t be for everyone. It can drag somewhat in places. Although, I was so engrossed I just didn’t mind for the most part.
The story has plenty of complexity. There is a huge array of characters involved. Thankfully, the basic premise isn’t too hard to follow. Still, I can’t lie in that I found certain character motivations confusing. I know there’s honour involved but it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble if they had just shot and killed Kiryu or Majima. To be fair they do throw a lot at the two but they survive just about everything. In fact, at one point Kiryu gets shot twice and is up and about in a day or two. Not to mention that they both regularly fight off armies of enemies. It’s highly amusing but the game as a whole has that vibe.
Yakuza 0 has a delightful sense of humour that had me chuckling at its absurdity. However, there’s an equal amount of emotionally charged moments that are really touching. This is helped by the impeccable voice cast and their performances.
It’s been a while since I found myself this addicted to the side activities in a video game. I loved buying up all of the real estate as Kiryu. Additionally, running club Sunshine as Majima is great fun. Then there’s the dating simulator, racing, bowling and of course karaoke & dancing! There are 100 side quests that take place at specific chapters in the game. These lead to some of the most entertaining moments in the game. I experienced each and every one of them and I encourage you to do the same.
Yakuza 0 rarely forces you to do something that you don’t want to. You don’t have to explore these cities but I implore you to do so. The crowed, neon filled streets are a delightful taste of 80s Japan. The hustle and bustle gives the impression of a living, breathing city. A shame that there’s only a day/night cycle and no weather system. It would have been amazing to see the place all lit up in the snow or rain.
Visually, the game is really nice to look at. The character models are insanely realistic. You can see just about every pore and fine hair on their faces. Eyes are extremely expressive. This has the most impressive drinking/smoking animations I’ve ever seen in a game.
The combat is solid. Having a few different fighting styles at your disposal helps mix things up. I loved the brutality of the finishing moves. It can get really repetitive as the game goes on. Getting the silent shoes and money throwing ability is a must if you want to make it across the city without being dragged into an encounter. I wasn’t a huge fan of the stamina system when running. It can be upgraded but it just felt more annoying than anything.
If you’re looking for easy money then grinding against Mr Shakedown with a zap gun is the key. Be warned, doing this can make the economic side of the game feel trivial. Also, it’s frustrating that a couple of the mini-games can boil down to RNG.
Overall, Yakuza 0 is one hell of a video game. If you only have an hour or two per day to play games then this may not be for you. It all depends on what you’re looking for. The gameplay between cut scenes lasts as long as you want it to. At times, I would spend several hours doing side activities before progressing in the story. Regardless, the value for money cannot be understated. I didn’t even pay for the game and I put 93 hours into it. There was still much more to see which is amazing. This is a game that I will certainly fondly remember for years to come. I look forward to checking out the future instalments soon.
The Final Score - 9/10
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