Yakuza 0

We asked for it and now we finally have it. Yakuza 0 has been fully localized for the US and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve played the Yakuza series religiously since the original release on the PS2, and after putting over 50 hours of gameplay into Yakuza 0 I think I may have a new favorite.  One of the greatest things about Yakuza 0 is its status as a prequel. If you are new to the series, there is no better place for you to start. In this review I’d like to share my thoughts on the game and why you should give it a try.

At first glance Yakuza may look like Grand Theft Auto meets Shenmue. However, Yakuza is actually nothing like either of those games. What I thought was a reimagined Shenmue actually ended up being a much more unique experience. In short, Yakuza is a story-driven, open world, action RPG, set in Japan.  In Yakuza 0 you will play as the series’ lead protagonist Kazuma Kiryu as well as series veteran Majima Goro. Each character has access to not 1 but 3 unique fighting styles that you alternate between during battle. Each style can be leveled up using the funds you acquire after battle. That’s right, there are no experience points in this game. In this iteration, the money you acquire does everything from leveling up your characters to buying you dinner. This change fits into the game’s overarching “money is power” theme – a theme that is heavily explored throughout the game’s main story.

I’m not going to really say much about the story in this review. All I will tell you is that this game’s story builds up slowly and leads into one badass heartfelt finale. I found the story to be very well-written and actually meaningful. Every character had a purpose in the narrative and nothing felt out of place or pointless. The game’s story is told through beautiful fully voiced cut scenes. It should be noted that the game’s voice track is entirely in Japanese with no option for an English dub, so be prepared to read lots of subtitles. My only concern with this game may actually be the story.  I think that because the story is so intricate and thorough, it may bore some players.  Some segments in it feel needlessly long-winded and tend to drag on at times. The characters in this game just love to talk and the cut scenes are long enough to make even Hideo Kojima blush.  I personally love how in-depth the story is, but I can understand that some players may find this type of storytelling sluggish. While the story is pretty straightforward, the game is still paced in a way that allows you to take breaks and explore the vast open world maps.

In Yakuza 0 your time will be spent in 2 large cities: Kamurocho in Tokyo and Sotenbori in Osaka. (These 2 areas are actually fictional representations of real life locations Kabukicho and Dotonbori.) Each area is packed with many interesting mini games and substories. Mini games range from disco dancing, pool, darts, mahjong, shogi, bowling, casino games like blackjack, roulette, and underground catfight wrestling just to name a few. A selection of mini games can actually be played in local multiplayer as well as online multiplayer from the main menu. The mini games are surprisingly in-depth and can suck up hours of play time on their own. I don’t even want to tell you how much time I’ve spent playing the disco mini game… In addition to playing mini games you will also engage in sub-stories with the natives of Kamurocho and Sotenbori. At first these may seem like a nuisance, but please do yourself a favor and DO NOT skip over them! The substories in this game are laugh out loud funny and will net you all kinds of awesome items to enhance the main story. Substories will have you doing things like training a dominatrix, delivering pizza, joining a cult, breakdance battling, locating a soft core pornstar, fishing for sushi ingredients, and many other “typical” everyday Japanese pastimes.  Think of the substories as comic relief with a side of extra EXP.  There are 100 total sub-stories split between the 2 playable characters.  Kamurocho and Sotenbori are just overflowing with fun things to do.

In addition to the stellar gameplay and rich story Yakuza 0 looks and sounds amazing too. Yakuza 0 is by far one of best looking games on the PS4. The character models look amazingly realistic, and it doesn’t stop with the main characters either. All of the supporting cast and NPCs are modeled after real actors. The play environments are beautifully rendered as well and are nearly identical to their real-life counterparts. The soundtrack is equally impressive and really gets you pumped to crack a few skulls.  I was really amazed with the wide variety of music that was put into this game.  You will find everything from jazz, rock, disco, to R&B represented in this game. (The Judgement Karaoke song will be stuck in your head for days!).  I also really love how the music in all the restaurants and various shops is different.  You won’t forget about shopping at the Don Quijote store because of the catchy music.  (This same music actually plays in the real-life version of the store too!) The incredible soundtrack is also accompanied by an all-star voice cast made up of some of Japan’s most celebrated actors and actresses. Simply put, the production value for Yakuza 0 is through the roof.

With its phenomenal character-driven story, beautiful open world environments, pulse-pounding soundtrack, and 100+ hours of fun and rewarding gameplay, Yakuza 0 delivers an optimal gaming experience rarely seen in gaming today. Whether you simply play through the story or go for 100% completion, Yakuza 0 is sure to keep you entertained for days.  Overall, Yakuza 0 is simply an outstanding experience and It comes with my highest recommendation.

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