Yakuza 0 is a ridiculously fun free-roam brawler. In addition to its fantastic story, every corner of Yakuza 0‘s world is full of detail and extra content, adding a great deal of length to an incredibly fun game.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review.
Despite being a self-proclaimed Sega expert, Yakuza 0 is my first dive into the Yakuza franchise. I never really had the chance to pick any of the titles up, and knew very little about the franchise, outside of the characters that have appeared in the Project X Zone series. Yakuza 0 is perfect for players like me, as its status as a prequel makes it the perfect entry-point for the franchise.
In Yakuza 0 you play as two characters: Kazuya Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kiryu is a low-tier Yakuza with a good heart, who’s set up and blamed for a mysterious murder. On the other hand, Majima is a former Yakuza who, after a year of torture for disobeying an order, is given a hitjob that will get him back into the family, even though the job goes against his principles. Kiryu and Majima are remarkably empathetic characters, each with their own baggage and problems.
While they’re different in many ways, Kiryu and Majima are both arguably good people who do bad things. Their constant struggles with their Yakuza duties and personal beliefs is compelling throughout the entire game, largely because of how likeable the main characters are. Both characters are given plenty of time to shine throughout the game’s 16 chapters, as their alternating storylines slowly converge.
The main story is tense and compelling. As Kiryu struggles to clear his name, a number of conspiracies and betrayals are brought to light. These twists and turns make each chapter even more exciting than the last, as there were quite a few moments where I was genuinely surprised at how things turned out. Though this may be because of my lack of knowledge in terms of the Yakuza series, the plot-twists are still handled very well, with each chapter ending on a suspenseful note.
The side-missions also have genuinely touching, or wonderfully silly vignettes. The plethora of side-quests have you fighting off loan sharks, helping children, finding a guy’s stolen pants, and even helping pseudo-Michael Jackson and pseudo-Steven Spielberg film pseudo-Thriller. You can even run your own business as an enormous side-quest, which is somehow just as thrilling as combat. Taking over turf in order to make Yen and put nasty billionaires out of business is exhilarating and addictive. Overall, the side-missions add a ton of playtime to an already impressively long game, which is sure to keep you entertained for tens of hours at the least.
Yakuza 0 is host to a bevy of different gameplay types. The main game focuses on free-roaming and brawling. While fighting, each character has three distinct styles, alongside different types of weaponry. Each style is drastically different from the others, which makes swapping between them mid-fight both fun and rewarding. One of Kiryu’s style has you wailing on people with enormous objects found around you, while one of Majima’s styles revolves around break-dancing. Each style is best suited for different situations, meaning you’ll have the chance to try them all out at different intervals. Changing between styles isn’t necessary though, so you can stick to your preferred styles for the majority of the game.
Combat outside of story-fights is triggered by random gangsters and hooligans on the street that run into you. While this keeps things interesting and nets you a decent amount of in-game currency, but it can also hold up the pace of the game. When you’re in the middle of an exciting storyline, getting stopped by thugs or side-quest NPCs can ruin the momentum, making sections of the plot less effective.
The amount of side-missions and mini-games available at all times is nothing short of astounding. Both Kiryu and Majima have a number of ridiculous activities, from playing darts to singing karaoke (a highlight of the game in my opinion). Every single mini-game is shockingly well-made and fun to play, whether you’re bowling, getting toys from a UFO Catcher, or playing surprisingly good ports of SEGA classics Space Harrier and Out Run. There’s always something to do in Yakuza 0, and it all contributes to your yen or other in-game currencies, meaning it’s both fun and useful to play around.
The controls do have some minor issues however. Transitions between movements both inside and outside of combat are janky, in contrast to the smooth visuals. Falling and getting up, switching attacks, and other general actions done while roaming have jarring jumps between poses.
The visuals of Yakuza 0 are absolutely breathtaking. Every street, illuminated by neon signs and fluorescent lights, simultaneously conveys the grandeur and seedy underbelly of the pleasure district of Kabukicho. Classy bars and business buildings are contrasted by shady alleys and gangsters and whores on every corner, all portrayed in stunning detail. The facial expressions in each cutscene are also fantastic, perfectly portraying the variety of complex emotions that each character is feeling. While the faces of random NPCs are less impressive, characters look great overall.
Yakuza 0‘s sound perfectly suits its atmosphere. While cities have plenty of commercial jingles and empty chatter in the background, discussions with higher-ranking Yakuza members and enemies have intimidating themes creep up on you. The combat music is catchy, and really gets you in the mode to smash motorcycles on top of people. Switching combat styles also changes the music to fit the groove of the fight, which is an especially nice touch.
Yakuza 0‘s voice acting is near-perfect. Every voice fits its character, and the emotional range that the main characters have is excellent, especially when put on display in some of the game’s more emotional moments. Even during the silliest side-missions, the voices are spot-on. Hearing Kiryu awkwardly advise a BDSM worker how they can do better, or hearing Majima scold a pants-stealing schoolkid is hilarious, especially in missions where the characters get really into it.
The Final Word
Though some transitions and visuals are awkward to look at, Yakuza 0 is a rousing success. The story, combat, and side-activities are all fun and compelling, especially because of the likeable main characters. Yakuza 0 is worth losing a pinkie over, even if that makes it more difficult to hold the controller.
-MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great