Release Date: February 26th, 2020 (Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4)
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
ESRB: Mature (Intense Violence, Strong Language, Blood, Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol)
Yakuza 0 is a game in which the player plays as Kazuma Kiryu, a member of the Dojima branch of the Yakuza. For those who are unfamiliar with what the Yakuza is, it is basically like the Japanese mafia. The player first meets Kiryu in a back alley beating the snot out of some random dude. At first glance, Kiryu seems to be some sleazy Yakuza that would be seen portrayed in the movies. However, as the game progresses through chapter one Kiryu turns out to be probably the nicest Yakuza. He has a strict moral code that he follows, and he does not go out of his way to harm anyone unless his job requires it or if some random hooligan is harming innocents. As the chapters progress the player will find different ways that Kiryu can interact with the world.
When exploring the game world, several different game mechanics are introduced. They are introduced in a way that is easy to follow and NOT overwhelming. For example, the first real gameplay aspect that gets introduced is a beat ‘em up style alley fight. This is mainly how the player will progress through the game, though there will be different fighting styles that will be learned. The brawler style is what Kiryu starts with, and is a well-rounded style that covers all the basics of fighting. This style would be great for beginners. Not long after the start the next fighting style, rush, is achieved. Rush focuses on speed and evasion. The rush style presents an opportunity to stun opponents – basically when a stunned opponent is attacked, they will take major damage. The third and final fighting style is beast style, this style focuses on brute force. The specific highlights of this style are that weapons are automatically picked up and that Kiryu can withstand enemy attacks better. So, with this style Kiryu essentially becomes a tank type character.
Yakuza 0 may have a heavy fighting element to it but by no means is that the only thing that there is to do in the game world. In chapter one a karaoke bar is introduced, where the player can participate in surprise! Karaoke. This may be surprising to some, but karaoke is incredibly popular in Japan. The fun does not stop there, the game also has free roam aspects. This allows for the player to go around getting into random fights, which acquires money for the player. While roaming around there all sorts of fun things other than fighting for Kiryu to do. Some of the highlights are the SEGA arcades, the dance club, a batting center (basically a batting cage), and finally several restaurants. Due to all the things to do, there will be no shortage of things around the map to entertain the player. Like many free roam games, this game also allows the player to participate in side quests. In Yakuza, these are called substories. These can be found by interacting with civilians scattered around the district. They may also be triggered by Kiryu witnessing certain events.
At first, Kiryu was the only playable character, however once chapter 3 is reached, the player gets introduced to Goro Majima. Majima is the manager of “The Grand,” which is basically a night club. Majima and Kiryu are similar in looks and in their morals. Another similarity that these two share is their fighting prowess. Majima also gets three fighting styles that are different to the ones that Kiryu gets. The first style that Majima gets is the thug style of fighting, it is comparable to Kiryu’s brawler style. These two styles do not really differ, the only real differences lie in the way that Majima moves. The second fighting style that Majima gets is the slugger style, it is similar to Kiryu’s beast style. Highlights of this style are that Majima primarily uses a bat as a weapon. The third and final style that Majima gets is breaker style, it is like Kiryu’s rush style of fighting. The breaker style of fighting is based off break dancing that Majima sees in a scripted event.
With each fighting style there are skill trees associated with them. The skill trees are simple to understand, each main branch of the tree effects the style in one way or another. Once branch effects health and heat bars, another branch lets the player learn new moves, and the final one deals specifically with heat abilities. Heat abilities are basically the special abilities each character gets and can only be activated when a certain number of the heat bars are full. Leveling up the skill trees requires money, which allows use of all the abilities that are previously unlocked in street fights which in turn generates more money for the character. Certain parts of the skill tree are locked until enough skills are unlocked. New techniques can be learned from the “master” that originally taught the player the specific fighting style. These characters will be set up in specific locations around the map, however there are certain events that must trigger before you have access to the training.
Yakuza 0 is currently available right now via Xbox Game Pass. However, the game is not a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program so the save data will not be cross platform. This game is better played with a controller regardless of which platform is chosen. This is specified at the beginning of the game by a screen stating that “Real Yakuza use a controller.” Overall, this is a great game! The characters are in-depth and complex, and the player can find themselves entranced by the characters and their mannerisms. The cutscenes are well done to a point where if you were not really paying attention to the visuals you think it was all one big cutscene. The mechanics are all on point with the combat neigh the most enjoyable. That being said, I found that the frequency that you “randomly” get attacked on the street to be a bit high, although this something that will be remedied in chapter 6. Personally, this is my introduction to the Yakuza series and the story was so well done that I found myself entranced by the end of the first chapter. This is a series that I want to play more of and look forward to the chance to do so. Yakuza 0 really surprised me in more ways than one, I do not typically go for game types such as this, but the experience was truly one of a kind if you are new to the series. (Audrey Spencer; Gaming Staff Writer)
Review copy provided by SEGA.