Video Games

Review: ‘Yakuza 0’

Gabe Young ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The experience of Yakuza 0 is so enjoyable it’s hard to find a starting place. There’s something for everyone, but let’s start with the story. Yakuza 0 is a Japanese crime drama where you play as two different protagonists; Kiryu, an orphan-turned-yakuza, and Majima, an ex-yakuza forced into exile due to his former crimes against his clan. The story is great and the characters are so complex, interesting, and realistic that it’s hard to compare them to any other game.

Set against the backdrop of the economic boom of the ’80s, Yakuza 0 is rife with themes of corruption, greed, and vice. In this time period, the economy rocketed between magnificent highs and devastating lows, creating a culture centered on pleasure and waste. Kiryu is a young yakuza thug who must prove his innocence in a murder mystery, and Majima is being forced to run the Cabaret Grand as punishment for his disobedience to his yakuza clan when he given the offer to hunt down and kill a man, thereby rejoining the yakuza.

Image Credit: Sega
Image Credit: Sega

From in-engine cutscenes to lavishly animated, highly polished cinematics, Yakuza 0‘s story is top notch from presentation to actual substance. The characters are rich and well-developed, and the game somehow manages to tell an intriguing plot while also developing fascinating characters. While not tackling the main story, you’ll often find yourself dealing with ridiculous side missions. Often humorous and always entertaining, the side missions, side characters, and the whole damn game in general is sleek, stylish, and a joy to experience. The core story has some meat on its bones, with a lot to say about the nature of money, greed, and personal identity in a world ruled by artificial appearances and cheap thrills.

Combat is just as meaty and rewarding so both fans of story and gameplay will have something to grip onto. Combat takes place in a brutal hand to hand fashion. You face off against overwhelming odds and need to hold your own using any tools necessary. Each protagonist has three fighting styles that you can switch between at any time giving a layer of depth and flexibility entirely unique to the series.

Image Credit: Sega
Image Credit: Sega

But how exactly does the theme of money tie into the game play? Well, money literally explodes out of your enemies on each hit and cash acts as both currency and experience. In order to develop your abilities you need to quite literally invest in yourself, blowing ridiculous amounts of cash on skills, abilities, and upgrades. You begin to get into the habit of swinging back and forth between filthy rich and dirt poor, reflecting the economic turmoil of the setting.

Yakuza 0 is a vast game with a lot to cover. There are unfortunately simply not enough hours in a day to discuss the details of Yakuza 0’s extensive line of mini-games, but it’s
got everything you could wish for. RC car racing, pool, darts, karaoke rhythm games, fishing, arcade games, mahjong, poker, baseball, bowling, and much, much more. Whatever you fancy, Yakuza 0 can cater to it. The story is brilliant and compelling, and the gameplay is deep and rewarding. The world, characters, style, and mini-games are all brilliant. Yakuza 0 is well worth your time and a great jumping on point for newcomers to the series.

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