Saturday, March 2, 2019

Open World Action RPG Review: Yakuza 0

This review was originally posted on the McMurray Internet Channel website on December 6, 2018.

Yakuza 0 is a prequel to Sega’s popular Yakuza series, which follows the regular series protagonist Kazama Kiryu and the regular series minor antagonist Goro Majima near the beginning of their Yakuza careers in the late 1980s.

The game takes place in 1988 as both characters are expelled from the yakuza. Kiryu’s expulsion is done at his request to protect the man who ran the orphanage he grew up in, Shintaro Kazama, after being accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Majima’s expulsion, on the other hand, is involuntary and comes after being tortured for two years for not going against his oath-brother as demanded by his patriarch.

Although the two never interact directly in the game, both stories are intertwined with each other, with each character getting more playtime after the other’s story has been told in two chapters. Each character’s respective Yakuza family wants an empty lot in Kamurocho that is worth one billion yen.  Someone is using both characters to accomplish this, and it’s up to Kiryu and Majima to find out who is pulling the strings and why they are manipulating them to do so.

The story is held up by the excellent voice acting, which remains in Japanese with English subtitles, and the cinematic music that is used in the game’s many cutscenes.

As with most games in the Yakuza series, the game is an open-world action adventure that takes major cues from both the Shenmue series and the Streets of Rage series. The latter is apparent in the combat, which is accomplished in martial arts through hands, feet, and weapons, as well as from objects around the city which can be picked up and used as makeshift weapons against enemies. Both characters have four types of fighting styles, each of which can be leveled up by gaining experience from fighting, eating, and completing side-quests.

The game takes place in two cities, Kamurocho, a fictional district in Toyko based on the real-life Kabukicho, and Sotenbori, a fictional district in Osaka based on the real-life Dotenbori. Both cities are quite vast, detailed, and have a lot to do. This is where Yakuza 0 really shines. There are a bunch of events where the protagonists must do quests for people which more often than not resorts to the use of martial arts. However, there are also a bunch of mini-games that can be played, ranging from Sega arcade classics such as Space Harrier, Outrun, Super Hang-On, and Fantasy Zone, to UFO Catcher crane games, to parlor games such as darts, billiards, and bowling, to gambling games such as poker, baccarat, and blackjack. The localization team even went so far as to provide detailed games on how to play Japanese gambling games which are not as well known in the west such as koi-koi and oichu–kabu.

Yakuza 0 is not only one of the best games in the Yakuza series, but it is one of the best games that Sega has ever made. The story is fantastic, especially the half focusing on Majima, which gives a lot of depth to this usually two-dimensional character. The Japanese voice acting with English subtitles helps keep the uniquely Japanese feel of the game intact, and the cinematic music helps to set the story nicely. With tons of fun side-quests and mini-games, this is also a title that has tons of replay value even after the main story has been completed.

Final verdict:

5 out of 5

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