The Yakuza series from Sega, if not for anything, has been one of the most consistent franchises around. With a long list of games to play in the series, newcomers may feel a bit too intimidated to start the series now as the feeling of missing too much of the past games may lead to the eventual disinterest in the game. What a time to be alive then as Yakuza 0 acts as a prequel to the twists and turns of the long running franchise! Recently released for the Sony Playstation 4, fans and newcomers alike can finally trace the history of the characters we have come to love and if you are having doubts as to whether the Yakuza series is any good, join us as we take a look at Yakuza 0 and focus at answering the usual questions that gamers may ask that could make you consider a pickup!

This review will be very newcomer friendly and will take on an angle of a first timer playing any Yakuza game. As such, we will keep it spoiler free and will focus more on the game mechanics and frequently asked questions when buying a game rather than plot points to help you decide on whether you should get this game or not. 🙂

Not again!?

Upon first booting up Yakuza, I had a bunch of ideas as to what to expect – men with missing fingers, nightclubs, booze, fancy shirts and cars, and many other extravagant things. For the most part, I was not mistaken. If anything, the game wonderfully depicts the life and workings of the Yakuza as an organized group and the politics that makes the wheels turn. Being a prequel, we see how our mainstays, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, start out and eventually find themselves entagled in the web of lies and deceit within their ranks. The game has a habit of showing you long cutscenes and cinematics and take that how you will whether good or bad, but it is something that is integral to the development of the game. I personally felt my eyes drooping on multiple occasions due to these numerous cutscenes (I found myself saying “not again” more times that I would have liked) but more often than not, I was hooked because I was genuinely interested in learning more about the Yakuza. With that said, the story is what really holds the game together for me, as it was well thought of and depicted nicely.  You can see how honorable, albeit very ruthless, Yakuzas can be and it will show in the backstory of both Kiryu and Goro. If you’re a gamer who loves a good story more than anything else, do yourself a favor, stop reading this review, and grab yourself a copy right now.

His skin is beautiful, must be the water!

Graphics are kind of a touchy subject to most people, as some may perceive things to look “good” while others may see it as “not good”. I’m not a graphics whore by any means, but I can appreciate something that looks good and Yakuza 0 is kind of an in between for me. If we’re talking about the cinematics, then Yakuza 0 is a GREAT looking game. The character detail is superb, and you can even see the pores close up during those intense scenes. The in game graphics could use a bit more work, as it isn’t looking like a PS4 game to be honest. The backgrounds look so so, although I’ll admit that the game does paint a pretty picture of Japan in the late 80’s. Character animation is… hmm, ok? They aren’t the most fluid, but it’s passable. If you love your graphics, you may want to look the other way, but really, when has Yakuza been an ultra graphics sort of game? Never. Instead, Yakuza hooks you in with an intriguing plot with enough twists to make you think you were watching Season 1 of How to get away with murder.

Let’s get it on! and on! and on and on…

Throughout the game, you will encounter multiple fights along the way and these fights (among other things) will give you the cash you need to level up your skills. Skills can be unlocked by throwing money at them and these skills differ depending on the type of fighting style you choose to use. I love sphere grid / ascension type systems ala Final Fantasy X / XV and for Yakuza 0, each character has 3 fighting styles with different move sets for each – Kiryu has Brawler, Rush, and Beast, while Goro has Breaker, Thug, and Slugger. Think of these styles as a separate grid, with unique bonuses and skills for each one. Based on your preferences, you can choose to just stick to one style and work your way through the whole game with just that and while it is possible, you can make your life a lot easier by changing styles depending on the situation. I find that this makes the battle system so much fun, seeing different styles being put to use, it just makes each fight refreshing and interesting. There are also “finishing moves” that greatly adds drama and intensity to each fight, and although you might get tired of using it again and again, it’s something to enjoy especially when trying to see what finishing move you can pull off depending on your surroundings, like smashing the baddies into a urinal, over a table, into a wall, and many more.

Cash me ousside how bow dah!

If fighting isn’t your thing (too bad, you have to fight A LOT), then there are a TON of things to do in Yakuza and when I say “a TON”, that’s really a gross understatement of how much there is to do in the game. When you aren’t strolling the streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, you can find yourself channeling your inner Filipino in a Karaoke bar, throwing money away in gambling sprees, and enjoying fun activities like bowling and darts. Apart from these, there are also a lot of side missions that, although tedious to do, are very “interesting” (you’ll eventually see what I mean when you play through it) and reward you with useful stuff which makes it feel worthwhile than it is a chore. This is a great way to distract you from the main story but designed well enough that it all ties into your character, allowing you to feel progress and development towards your end goal. You can choose to stick to the main storyline, and that’s all right, but you’re definitely missing out if you don’t walk around and enjoy the night life that the streets and establishments have to offer. You can easily spend upwards of 50 hours and not even really notice the time pass you by.

Pros:

  • Insanely good storyline, cannot stress this enough
  • If you run out of things to do in this game, you’ve probably wasted 80 hours or more already.
  • Fighting system could be more fluid, but the different styles add a whole new dimension to the fights.

Cons:

  • Graphics and animation could be better
  • Sure you can place it as story development, but I just with that the game doesn’t take the control away from me too often to play a cutscene or cinematic.

Verdict:

Simply put, Yakuza 0 is a must play, if for the story alone. Even as a novel, this would have been an excellent read because of the wonderful storyline. Kiryu and Goro have interesting back stories and this game does the rest of the series justice. Graphics could be better, especially for a PS4 game, but you’ll find yourself immersed in the politics and web of the Yakuza that you won’t even bother to admire how good looking Kiryu is. Ungeek gives this game a well deserved 8.5 geek stars out of 10!

Check out more of our game reviews as we look forward to what seems to be a very strong first quarter of gaming!