After so many years, and so many entries, other series might stagnate and come apart at the seams. Not so for the Yakuza series, that’s been going strong for many years now. There are some good reasons behind it, and simply put, Yakuza isn’t afraid to get weird or be silly. It’s these things that create lasting impressions and entertaining games. There’s also so much content packed in these games, you won’t run out of things to do.
Yakuza 0 is set in 1988 and is the origin of two of my favorite characters, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. These two are in the middle of a turf war which is between rival gangs. The game is set during a time where our two protagonists were not the wiser, middle-aged men we’ve known them as for some time now. Instead, the two of them are cannon-fodder for the Yakuza and the story is crafted in a way that doesn’t feel like either Kazuma or Goro. Kazuma is a low level enforced for the Dojima family while Goro is running a cabaret club, but he wants back into the Yakuza lifestyle.
The Yakuza series has always been a crime novel brought to console. There’s grittiness in the story, everybody is rough around the edges, and there are lots of people being beaten or killed.
I mentioned the game is set in the 80s, I didn’t mention the game being set in Kamurocho and while the city isn’t big, there’s density to it. This allows for many things to distract you, and boy, will you get distracted by the various things to do. Various NPC’s around the city will randomly bump into you and ask for your help, it’s here where the level of crazy will skyrocket.
The combat presented in Yakuza is the bread and butter of the series. It’s brutal, it’s sadistic, and most importantly, it’s seriously addicting. It’s street brawling and you’ll barrel through multiple enemies. There are multiple styles to choose from, each bringing its type of pain to the thugs of Kamurocho. The Brawler-style is what you would expect from the Yakuza games, Kazuma can also switch to Rush-style which incorporates more kicks and sway/dodging. The Beast-style brings the environment into the fray in such a way that many items become weapons.
Goro has his own styles to choose from, Thug style which also brings kicks and attacking vital parts of your opponent. The Slugger-style has you use a bat, utilizing the bat as a sword and other weapons. The Breaker-style brings dancing into the fold and is flashy, providing spins and slams hurting tour opponent.
The two protagonists also have a skill tree to unlock new moves, additional health, and rely on Yen to provide the boosts. It’s a system that provides some interesting ways to ensure victory against a boss, and the grinding made available because the system is tied to currency, lets you unlock things at your own pace. You can earn money from Kazuma’s real estate side business or manage Majima’s cabaret, providing ample Yen to unlock bonuses.
Yakuza 0 has so much to offer those who want to return to the series or for someone who wants to check out why Yakuza is such a beloved series. The game mixes crazy and serious into a game where I can’t stop looking for the next thing to take my attention away from the narrative. Stepping into the world of the Yakuza series, you’re bound to get sucked up into all the neon lights, hostesses and pachinko slots you would want. Yakuza 0 is the right game to get newcomers on board to the series as there is little that shackles it to the previous entries, leaving the player feeling unburdened by the ever growing established story.