If there’s one kind of game that I never really dabbled in, it would have to be “Crime Drama” games. Games such as Grand Theft Auto, The Godfather games, or Sleeping Dogs were never really my thing. I guess I’m just so used to playing the hero in games, to the point where I often shy away from games where a criminal is a main character. I usually prefer games where being a criminal is an option, rather than it being the main focus.
This all changed recently when I got my hands on “Yakuza 0”, a mafia-centric game set in 80s Japan. I had heard many great things about the Yakuza games, but never actually played a single one of them until a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know what the Yakuza games are, they are bunch of games centered around a mafia thug named “Kiryu”.
Kiryu serves the Dojima clan, a powerful group of Yakuza. After giving a routine shakedown, Kiryu ends up being framed for murder and has to clear his name. While Kiryu is only just one of the series’ playable protagonists, he’s the one that most of the games center around. Yakuza plays like an RPG, action game, and beat-em-up all rolled into one. You go around and fight punks, engage in the well-crafted story, upgrade your character, and earn tons of cash.
Yakuza 0 is an interesting beast, as it’s technically a prequel to the whole series. Taking place at the very start of the franchise’s timeline, this game focuses on Kiryu in his younger years. He starts off as an up-and-coming Yakuza member, during Japan’s “Economic Bubble” in 1988. This game (and almost every game in the series) in the fictional Japanese city of “Kamurocho”, and usually revolves around Kiryu being roped into some kind of large ordeal.
Kiryu isn’t the only character you get to play as in this game, there’s also “Goro Majima”. Known for his lack of sanity in later games, 0 portrays Majima as a half decent guy. Over the course of the game, he slowly evolves into the madman he becomes in later titles. The game itself starts with its two playable characters in separate stories, which eventually converge on each other as the game progresses.
The game’s story is probably its best feature, as it is presented extremely well. It features some of the biggest stars in Japan voicing its characters, while also including a ton of original songs to fill out its soundtrack. Both of these features help accentuate the story, which is well handled in general. Sure, it’s your general “I was framed!” story you’ve seen in so many shows and movies, but it’s handled with the greatest of care.
Characters are well-established and characterized, and the game does a good job of selling these characters to its audience. You get the see the inner politics of this Yakuza clan, how Kiryu struggles and tries to fit in, and how he has to literally fight for everything he believes in. Speaking of which, the fighting in this game is also top-notch.
You have tons of moves at your disposal, as well as having three different fighting styles that you can switch to on the fly. You unlock many more moves as you purchase more upgrades, giving you many different ways to pulverize your enemies. It’s not just the combat that’s the main draw here, but also the various side activities you can engage in.
You can go to a local arcade and play old Sega games, go fishing, engage in model car racing, or indulge in the game’s many numerous side-quests. Yakuza 0 offers an insane amount of things to do, to the point where it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Despite this, all these side-activities are well constructed and fun.
I’ve gushed a lot about this game, but I won’t lie and say its prefect. The game floods you with cut-scenes, to the point where most of your time is spent watching them. Combat is still plentiful, though it’s annoying when you have to wade through 30+ minutes of cut-scenes to get to them. Despite this, the cut-scenes are entertaining enough to where this isn’t really a problem. In fact, the cut-scenes were so done so well that I never felt the need to skip them!
Another minor gripe I had with the game is the lack of direction, at least in terms of the side-content. I couldn’t really engage in any mini-games until the end of chapter 1, and the other side-activities didn’t reveal themselves until chapter 2. On top of this, the game doesn’t really give a notifier on when these activities become available. It wasn’t until a few hours into the game that I realized I now had access to these side-activities, since the game didn’t really inform me that I could engage in them now.
Regardless, my current complaints are just nitpicks. I don’t have too many qualms with the game as of yet, since I’m only a few hours into it. Yakuza 0 is definitely a well-constructed entry, and one of the best Sega games I’ve ever played. I’m sure I’ll find more flaws and strengths as I progress through the game, but I’ll talk more about those when I do a full review. For now, these are just my thoughts on the game. Hope you all enjoyed reading them!