Yakuza 0 is part Japanese soap opera crime drama, part over the top action brawler, and part comedy filler. All of these three elements pleasantly allowed me to soak in which aspect I like most at my own pace, making my 90 hours playthrough fun, memorable, and varied.
Becoming A Legend
Yakuza 0 is an origin story on how two morally ambiguous yakuza members became “legends”. The game is heavy on the plot, never shying away to slowly unveil its intricate story in several 10-20 minute cutscenes and text dialogues. The game is filled with twists and turns, where each chapter ender strikes a satisfying cliffhanger.
Players alternate between Kiryu Kazuma and Goro Majima every two chapters. The game’s first few hours slowly builds up each character’s background as well as the overarching plot.
The story never felt too tasking to comprehend despite Yakuza 0 forcing me to understand how the criminal underground operates, introducing multiple yakuza families, complicating the plot as they all fight over a piece of property, and more. This is a well-told lengthy tale akin to a Japanese soap opera where each detail that gets unveiled is important.
I only realized the story was hellishly complicated after I asked an individual to watch all of the game’s cutscenes in the cinematic viewer. This is in part of the game’s lighthearted sub stories and all the activities players can do in Yakuza 0’s semi-open world hub as it helps break away the tension of going through the main storyline.
Complicated Plot Followed By Gag-Fests
Yakuza 0 has two explorable cities based on Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. Both areas are so detailed that it manages to capture the experience of staying in Japan. There’s tightly-packed convenience stores, expensive sushi restaurants, a disco place, a karaoke bar, a SEGA arcade, casino, and plenty more – each of which players can interact in.
The hubs are also home to an abundant of wacky sub stories that either Kiryu and Goro can stumble onto. The quests are well written enough that it manages to throw in moral lessons beneath all of its self-aware humor. Throughout my 100 hours of game time, I’ve helped a curious young boy acquire a dirty magazine, protected a Michael Jackson-like character from zombies as he performed a moon walk, exchanged written messages with a random girl at a bathroom stall, and plenty more.
Both protagonists can only encounter their respective sub stories in their hub, with each having their own exclusive activities. Personally, the best one is Goro’s cabaret club where players can create their hostess lineup and dress up each of their top hostesses. Goro can also train select hostesses by engaging in a fully voice acted choice based conversation. The main feature of the cabaret club is a Diner Dash-like mini-game where players are tasked to assign a hostess according to the customer’s preferences.
While the sub stories and the main storyline are stellar, the game’s combat system can feel too simplistic despite it offering three combat styles, each one being upgradeable with passive and active abilities. The combat feels clunky– akin to a brawler from the PS2 era. What saves the combat system from mediocrity are the over-the-top brutal moves that each protagonist can utilize. It always felt entertaining to watch Kiryu smash a motorcycle on his enemies’ face or Goro sticking-in the tip of his baseball bat inside his opponent’s mouth and kicking it.
It’s dishonest for me to say the combat didn’t feel mundane, but frequently “investing in yourself” by upgrading your skills with in-game money provides some cools moves that’ll take long before you get tired of seeing. The game also gives you a wealth of options to finish battles faster. From Japanese swords to rifles and hand canons, there’s a variety of usable firearms both protagonists can use to easily knock out their foes. The game also demands from players to suspend their disbelief, as not a single soul dies from Kiryu and Majima’s hands.
Boss Fights in the main story are also plentiful and feel compellingly engaging. There are also quick time events during battles, usually providing a sequence of rad and brutal moves between the two combatants.
While Yakuza 0 feels like a game that you play to enjoy the wacky substories, you’ll want to stay longer in its world to witness the interesting tale unfold. Plot twist after plot twist unraveled throughout the story, reeling me in to see what happens next.
From getting car parts for the game’s trial-and-error pocket racing mini-game to unlocking each protagonist’s fourth fighting style, there’s a ton of activities to do and a wealth of items to unlock and acquire. But what makes engaging in all of these activities worthwhile is the grounded plot of the main storyline, the interesting cast of characters, and the amusing side stories.
Playing Yakuza 0 feels like going to an amusement park. I might not have enjoyed everything it has to offer, but its best parts felt truly memorable, which is a lot. Yakuza 0 gets a 9.5 out of 10.
- Deep, emotional, and grounded plot
- Well-written dialogue for both main quests and side quests
- Flashy combat
- Over 50 hours of play time
- Interesting cast of characters
- Both protagonists shine in their own way
- Great-looking cutscenes
- Goro Majima’s storyline is remarkably engaging and emotional
- Combat system lacks depth
- Gameplay graphics look subpar
- While Kiryu Kazuma’s character development and story is decent, it pales in comparison to Goro Majima’s.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Note: This reviewer purchased the localized version of the game. PS4 copy was purchased by the reviewer. The game is supplied with English texts and subtitles, but there’s no english dub to keep the experience as authentically Japanese as possible. The entire playthrough was done on the standard PS4 console.
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