There I sat, browsing my phone in anger at the speed Playstation Network was downloading. I changed from Wi-Fi to a LAN cable making little difference. I modified the connection so it used a different primary and secondary DNS. I kept testing the connection as I had created this strange superstition it was helping. A 120Mbps download speed should not translate into 24 hours for a game to download. Sort that out!
I would be far less annoyed with this poor speed if Yakuza 0 was not an absolutely phenomenal game. It isn’t the first in the series I’ve owned; I purchased Yakuza 3 just before my PS3 came to an untimely death. But if Zero is anything like 3 I will be going back and giving it a shot as soon as possible.
When it finally downloaded, Yakuza 0 presented a strange mix of serious story mixed with absolute utter lunacy. Hard-hitting narrative is combined with gratuitous over-the-top fighting, bizarre side quests and an overall cheesy arcade style I haven’t seen in years which blend beautifully into a game series I am now hooked on. If you have a PS4 you should very much own this game.
The game sets up a stylised 1988 Japan telling the origin stories of two of the series protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima in Kamurocho and Sotenbori respectively. As Kiryu, you are framed for murder and attempt to clear your name, battling the Dojima Clan and Tachibana Real Estate in the surprisingly cutthroat world of property development. As Majima, you run The Grand Cabaret, the finest club in town as you learn what you will and will not do in your attempts to regain your Yakuza status.
Both of the game’s stories are distinct to each other and well-grounded, with Kiryu and Majima being both cast as the straight man in their serious stories and crazy side quests. Each of them have their own colourful cast of side characters and antagonists each with their own flair to add to the story, played out through various different stylish and dramatic cutscenes.
But what really makes this game fun is the huge array of side quests. Some include pretending to be a boyfriend, fighting various villains for a videogame, teaching a dominatrix how to berate clients and helping save girls from their life of selling used underwear. While there are several more common scenarios, such as arcade games and karaoke even these have their own strange little twists to make then unusual. Yakuza pulls no punches about this strange mix of serious and hilarious which will happily push you to a point of near-discomfort unapologetically.
Offsetting this adventure is a combat system, one brimming in brutality. Each character has four different fighting styles: Two regular fighting styles, one using your weapon and one without; one sacrificing damage for speed and one sacrificing speed for damage. Each of these develop as you build up heat, becoming faster, stronger and opening up powerful finishing moves. Items can also be picked up from the environment to devastating effect especially when fighting large groups.
Defeated enemies drop cash, which you will then use to purchase upgrades for your abilities, healing items, weapons and play minigames. You will never be short of quick cash as a single fight can give you enough money to fill your inventory with healing items easily. However you will need to save up for bigger upgrades; thankfully the fighting becomes boring although you will develop a rhythm quickly for dispatching the small three man fights littered around the world.
The worlds of Yakuza 0 are really small, closer to city blocks than open worlds. But they are drenched with things to do. You have quests, side quests, minigames, shops, and even arcades with full versions of OutRun and Space Harrier to fulfil your nostalgia needs.
On top of all of this there is even some property management involved. Both characters get side businesses to operate, which you will want to invest some time in as they are good ways to earn money for the later upgrades. Kiryu gains properties and collects money from their profits, while Majima employs hostesses at his cabaret club and assigns them to incoming clients.
All of this and it runs and 60fps.
With such an array of fun, it is easy to forgive some of the flaws that Yakuza 0 has. Graphically the game is mediocre, though this can be forgiven as you get a 60fps framerate and some incredibly stylish cutscenes and camera shots. Some of the chance based minigames are frustrating, but the optionality means you can avoid the pain of them.
Yakuza 0 is a magnificent experience. Combining the wonderful action packed world of Shenmue, the hilarity of Deadly Premonitions and a brutal and stylish fighting system. While it takes a little time for the game to open up once it does you are invested in an experience combining new stylish gameplay with an old arcade feel in a way that no gaming series has ever done for me before. Yakuza 0 works somehow and it works well, and is hopefully the start of a good year of gaming where I get to give 10 to plenty of games.
Like this one. This game gets a 10. And now I have to find a PS3 and start catching up on the Yakuza series.
Yakuza 0 was reviewed on the PlayStation 4