- Developer: Sega
- Publisher: Sega
- Platform: PS4
- Release Date: January 24, 2017
While Sega’s hit Yakuza franchise has gained a huge following over the years, I have to admit that outside of a few missions of Yakuza 5, Yakuza 0 is my first time playing on of the games in the series. With Yakuza 0 serving as the prequel to the rest of the series (and the remastered edition of the first game making its way to the U.S. soon) I figured this would be the best time to dive in.
Yakuza 0 is an open world action game that I initially thought may play in a similar style to GTA and I was very wrong which is great. Nearly every open world game follows a similar format to the blueprint laid out by the GTA series and Yakuza does its own thing. It is very heavy on story and very heavy on combat.The game takes place in 1988 in fictionalized areas of Tokyo and Osaka.If you have ever been to Japan then you will really appreciate the attention to detail that went into the environments. There are takoyaki stands, specialty shops and even Sega arcades with actual playable classic Sega arcade titles.
The narrative follows the events surrounding two different characters: Kazuma Kiru and Goro Majima. Each has their own connection to the Yakuza and the power struggle that is taking place within the city. You will take control of these two characters in different parts of the game’s story. The paths of Kiru and Goro eventually do cross in the events that play out in what turns out to be an extremely engaging story.
Like I mentioned earlier, there is a heavy focus on combat in this game. There are various enemies randomly popping up all over the city that will bring your exploration of the city to a halt. Both Kiru and Goro will end up with three unique fighting style (and one weapon style) to dispatch foes with. These styles can be changed on the fly but I am positive that you will find one that you love and stick with it. During fights you earn cash that you can use throughout the city in tons of activities/places such as arcades, karaoke, dancing or just general shopping. Money can also be earned by gambling or running one of the businesses that both Goro and Kiru manage. Cash is also used to level up your character on a sphere grid similar to Final Fantasy X. Money management becomes important as you try and strike a balance between leveling up to become the perfect warrior and spending money to watch live-action softcore videos in an adult video store.
While the games open world does offer the types of things you would expect to see like the usual fetch side quests, everything plays out differently than you would expect going in. This is even more true for players that have never experienced another game in the series. Side quests can actually span multiple chapters as you will often encounter characters again later in the game if you explore enough. You will also find even after finishing the main story, that new quest giving NPCs will appear in the city even in places you have visited multiple times.
Overall Yakuza 0 does everything it attempts to do well. The constant combat may be a bit of a turn-off especially for those that want to simply explore and do some karaoke. Fortunately the different fighting styles keeps the battles from getting stale. While the main story is excellent, many of the side quests are over the top and teeter on the edge of outright corny but in a very fun way. If you have ever wanted to try a Yakuza game then 0 is a very good place to start.
Final Score: 9/10