Having first spent time with Kazuma Kiryu and Majima back when the original Yakuza was released in the West on the PlayStation 2, complete with English voice over, and then delving into whichever mainline release made it over to England after the first; I was more than ready to dive back into the seedy and honourable underbelly of Kamurocho’s yakuza families with the release of Yakuza 0. Released 2 years ago in Japan, Yakuza 0 is an origin story which lets you play as both Kiryu and Majima, and experience their original journey to becoming major players within the families. Let’s just say, the game does not disappoint.
The story is the best the series has produced: a multi-layered narrative, that shows the story from two protagonists’ perspectives until the stories thread together to a satisfying conclusion. The writing in strong and entertaining in the main quests and the side quests, masterfully managing to shift from the franchise’s trademark seriousness to utter comedy on the fly, without any negative effects on the story.
Yakuza 0 builds upon the core foundations and gameplay mechanics from previous entries. Each character’s move sets are different and vast, the skill tree offers robust customsation options and quick time events are used sparingly only in appropriate scenes.
And what would Yakuza be without its mini games; a new distraction awaits around every corner and inside every nook of the two main locations: bowling, arcades, pool, darts, fighting tournaments, gambling and more await, opening opportunities for even more side quests.
Graphically the game is presented well, with nice lighting that reflects the neon strip lights of Kamurocho onto the rain soaked pavement that really brings the city to life. The only hitch I experienced was slight screen tear in heavily populated areas like Kamurocho’s Theatre Square.
Like every entry after the original game, Yakuza 0 features only a Japanese voice track and English subtitles, which I personally prefer.
If you’re a fan of the Yakuza series what are you waiting for? But unlike previous entries, Yakuza 0 is a perfect place for newcomers to jump on board; it’s the closest thing to the great, Shenmue, until the 3rd of course, or hopefully the rumoured remastered collection. If you need a fun, story-driven game to keep you busy for a good 30 plus hours, there’s no better game than a Yakuza game. What other game in one moment lets you become a real estate tycoon, and then the next sing karaoke in a bar, or play a game of bowling to win a poultry prize? Nobody does it quite like Yakuza. I hope the developers at SEGA keep them coming for many years to come – and maybe just maybe, Yakuza Ishin turns up on Western shores.