Yakuza 0 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 19.01.2017 1

Review for Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4

Kazuma Kiryu, a young and still very green member of the Dojima family, has been framed for the murder of a debtor. Goro Majima, formerly of the Shimano family, has endured the loss of an eye and years of torture, and now idles away his time as the manager of a cabaret. The fates of these two are linked to "The Empty Lot." This humble shred of land, barely large enough to serve as a parking space, will become integral to a massive upheaval in the Tokyo underworld. Yakuza 0 chronicles both the rise of the Dragon and the unchaining of the Mad Dog.

Everything that makes Yakuza 0 such a fantastic entry in the series comes down to one word: refinement. This is a game that keeps its ambitions in check and focuses on the elements that fans and newcomers alike will enjoy. The stories of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima are flawlessly executed. A number of intelligent decisions are made with regards to the plot and characters. The intertwining storyline is self-contained but also consistent with the series lore. Fair warning, though: there are a few quirky moments that fly in the face of this otherwise serious Japanese crime drama.

Screenshot for Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4

The core of the Yakuza franchise has always been its fighting system. It's mechanics and design are reminiscent of the SEGA 3D beat 'em up Spikeout. The controls are simple but satisfying, like the arcade brawlers of yesteryear. Through the use of the "Heat" meter, the protagonists can employ vicious finishing moves to wipe out the hapless opposition. This entry further refines that core by implementing a style select sub-system. Both protagonists have access to three different fighting styles, and can freely switch between them in mid-battle. If need be, they can also choose to wield a purchased weapon. The styles are designed for a myriad of situations, and are upgraded via large investments of cash.

What makes this sub-system so great is its blend of diversity and strategy. No one style will carry the heroes through the entire game. If they're having trouble with an opponent, it might be necessary to switch tactics. For example, Kazuma's combo-oriented rush style is great for handling large adversaries, but he'll have a lot of trouble getting a hit in if he's surrounded. Thus, he should switch to beast style to shake off minor blows and clear away the crowd. When Goro needs to get some breathing space, his breaker style can knock down several enemies at once, though he might want to switch to the slugger style if he needs to end somebody in a hurry. The variety of moves exclusive to each style account for innumerable possibilities, giving the protagonists all of the tools they need to win any fight. The styles also have their own movement and defensive properties. Learning their intricacies is necessary for success on the harder difficulties.

Screenshot for Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4

In order to master these impressive fighting styles, the heroes are required to seek legitimate careers. Kazuma will eventually become the president of a real estate agency, while Goro takes on the role of a cabaret club manager. Working as a real estate agent is about as exciting as it sounds. After obtaining a few properties, Kazuma can hire investors to raise its value, and then employ managers and security officers to protect his investments. For the most part, real estate is a "hands-off" affair. Kazuma is free to wander the streets and pursue other activities while waiting for the dosh to roll in. All in all, working in real estate is fun, but only in the sense of acquiring loads of money in a relatively short time.


 
Alternatively, working in a cabaret club is far more involved and entertaining. Despite the name, there aren't any burlesque shows or anything of that sort. In actuality, cabaret clubs are more akin to what are now known as hostess clubs, places where men go to drink and enjoy conversations with attractive women. As the manager, it's Goro's job to hire the ladies, obtain sponsoring deals, and most importantly, actively participate in the night-to-night club business. After deciding on a line-up of eight ladies, Goro earns money for the club by seating men, finding the right woman to appeal to their interests, and keeping a look out for any problems that must be addressed. As the hostesses earn money, their skills level up, making them more appealing company to the richest customers. It's also possible to participate in "special training" exercises with a few of the workers, such as having a nice chat or going out for karaoke. With some tweaks and a handful of additional features, Goro's turn as a cabaret club manager could be its own full-fledged game.

Screenshot for Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4

In keeping with series tradition, there are plenty of other minigames to partake in. Yakuza 0 goes above and beyond by giving them all just a little more depth. There's always a reason beyond killing time. For example, Kazuma being good at Outrun can lead to other benefits such as more real estate property to invest in. If he wants to become a pocket circuit racing champion, he'll have to look around Kamurocho for the best parts. Completing side stories can also lead to more employees for his real estate office. It's the same deal with Goro. Materials acquired from quests or by other means can be used to build equipment. He's also bound to find more employees for his cabaret club if he thoroughly explores Sotenbori.

It can't be stressed enough; this game understands the importance of great side content. All too often videogames, open world or otherwise, make the critical mistake of having too much fluff. After a long enough period of time, the player has to force themselves to accomplish menial tasks, just to put checkmarks in boxes. Everything that happens in the towns of Kamurocho and Sotenbori has at least some significance attached to it. The side stories tend to be amusing, but they can also prompt emotional responses, and the rewards are usually interesting. This content is also appropriately placed. Unless a side story is discovered, it won't show on the map. The player will have to pay attention to their surroundings and investigate any suspicious incidents. Keep in mind though that it's easy to get distracted. A playthrough focused entirely on the storyline should run just north of twenty hours, but that number can easily triple thanks to the plethora of fantastic side quests.

Screenshot for Yakuza 0 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Yakuza 0's focus on refinement over ambition proved to be the right decision. This game features a very well-told story that's filled with an assortment of great characters and memorable moments. It's also a breakout moment for Goro Majima. He tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to characterisation, but here, Majima really comes into his own. The style select sub-system is a fantastic addition, because it allows for a level of flexibility that hasn't been seen in any of the previous entries. The expected massive amount of side content also benefits from an increased level of interdependency. Pursuing the multitude of amenities around town is rewarding in so many ways. This entry raises the bar for both the Yakuza series and action RPGs.

Also known as

Yakuza Zero

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Looks and sounds awesome, as expected of a Yakuza game! Been hearing some disappointing things about Yakuza 6, so great to see this one really hits the top level.

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