Yakuza 0 Review

Yakuza 0 Review

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Yakuza 0 was the definitive Yakuza experience. It had everything I loved about the series and then some. The cultural touches, the wackiness and the over-the-top violence was all there with a fresh coat of current generation paint. I took a six year hiatus after finish Yakuza 4. I still loved the series but I always felt it was losing a bit of its identity the further it marched forward in the timeline. Yakuza, to me, was and will always be a late 80s to early 90s series. This prequel was right up my alley then.

Tackling a prequel isn’t easy. How can you tack on a meaningful story when you already know the major outcomes? How can you introduce characters that were never referenced before? It turns out there’s a lot to mine and flesh out in the Yakuza series because this was one hell of a drama.

Kiryu Kazama, Goro Majima, Akira Nishikiyama and many others would go onto become bigger players in subsequent games but they all got their start somewhere. There was a time when Nishikiyama and Kiryu were oath brothers and actually loved one another. Kiryu was just an up and coming yakuza member doing small time jobs like debt collections. Nishikiyama was still aspiring for bigger and better things and Goro Majima wasn’t as wacky as he eventually became yet.

The game has its gripping crime drama but it also shares the story of Japan in the late 1980s. Side stories offered insight into various areas including the temperature of the people and taxes, the weird nature of telephone clubs, the influx of big money, and some citizen’s love of American culture. Of course, they are side stories and thus you can ignore the bulk of it but they add a lot of flavor and texture to what makes this franchise great. It’s not unusual to find myself racing slot cars for hours and then find myself running away from murderous yakuza types.

Coming from Yakuza 4 and its four characters down to just two in Yakuza 0 may seem like a downgrade at first glance but I found the focus on two of the series’ mainstays gave the story strong direction. Four characters also offered four different playstyles giving each character slightly different spins on how to dish out brutal punishment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they shoved four playstyles into Kiryu and Goro giving a total of eight distinct playstyles to toy around with. They’re all viable options for the random throwdowns on the mean streets of Tokyo or Osaka but every so often, it behooved me to switch to a specific style — especially important against the likes of Mr. Shakedown.

Mr. Shakedown? Giant men who roam the streets of Tokyo or Osaka looking for Kiryu or Goro to beat up and steal money from. I wish these giants could be seen shaking down other NPCs. These men were the game’s trickiest opponents. They had the most health and hit the hardest. I eventually discovered It was primarily a test of patience. If I was too bold or too greedy, I was in a world of hurt but since money was so easy to come by, losing to Mr. Shakedown wasn’t the end of the world.

I love the ridiculous side content of this game. They varied in size and scope but they all fed into the atmosphere of the game. Some of it taught life lessons that wouldn’t be out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. Others were long drawn out games within a game where I’m managing a hostess club or real estate development firm. A lot of it though, were genuinely funny.

I was introduced to host and hostess clubs through this series. I gleaned more and more nuggets of Japanese culture in subsequent games but it’s been a while since I learned something significant. In Yakuza 0, I was introduced to telephone clubs and the precarious dating situations that they present. Some of it is still relevant today and online dating scene.

Yakuza 0 is at its best when it’s imparting knowledge, makes me laugh, fills me with suspense, and entertains me with hard hitting action and drama. This prequel fills in the back story of many of the series characters and lays the groundwork for things to come. At the same time, they’ve opened up the idea of getting into the story of Shintaro Kazama and Masaru Sera and how they built their legacies. I also feel they ended Yakuza 0 with one of the sweetest endings in games let alone the series.

It’s been days since I wrapped up Yakuza 0. It took me a lot longer than I it would but that was because I was delving deeper and deeper into what this game had to offer. I still have a lot of side stories to complete but Nier: Automata was calling and I had to go. However, there were moments when I considered revisiting Kamurocho. I should wait though: the Yakuza: Kiwami is just around the corner.

Verdict:
I loved it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Too Many Games Too Little Time Edition

Checkpoint: Too Many Games Too Little Time Edition

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We’re 3 months into 2017 and I already have a surprisingly long list of games that I want to play:

  • Resident Evil 7
  • Nioh
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda

I had Horizon and Mass Effect pre-ordered but I have cancelled them in order to clear way for other titles like Yakuza 0 (which I’m still playing), Nier: Automata, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 not long after.

And I still have this pressing backlog to get through that includes:

  • Pokemon Sun
  • Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
  • The Witness
  • Firewatch

There are just too many games.

Checkpoint: Cool Guy 80’s Edition

Checkpoint: Cool Guy 80’s Edition

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Yakuza 4 was the most recent game in the Yakuza timeline that I played. I thought he was a cool bad ass in Yakuza 2 but with each subsequent instalment, his coolness wore off and traded cool bad ass for grizzled old man who keeps getting into trouble. Yakuza 0 winds that clock back to his early days as a yakuza and restores what I love most about this series: Kiryu kicking ass and looking cool as hell doing it. He’s not ferociously recording moves on his cell phone, he’s just absorbing inspiration with his mind employing it in battle straight away. He’s not texting ladies in the 1988’s, he’s receiving coded messages on his pager. He’s also attacking karaoke with shameless youthful zest that I can only pull off after a couple of drinks. 

I haven’t finished Yakuza 0 but I already have this feeling that it may be my favorite in the series.

I started Pokemon Sun. I don’t have much to say yet because I didn’t even get my first Pokemon yet. I have no idea who to choose as my starter but it’s currently between Litten and Popplio. I have nothing against the seal but a cat named Litten is pretty awesome. This will be my first Pokemon game since Gold in 2000. I’ve kept tabs on several games and took peeks at them when my brother plays them but I have yet to complete one for myself in 16 years. 

Checkpoint: Solid Perspective Edition

Checkpoint: Solid Perspective Edition

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I don’t mind soup or congee but while I was out sick, I sorely missed the ability to eat (and keep down) solid foods.

Shortly after posting last week’s Checkpoint commenting on my good physical health, I fell ill. At first I believed it to be food poisoning but by day 3, I realized it was a stomach virus. I lost about 6 pounds and a week of work but I came through in the end feeling somewhat refreshed. I’m not 100% back to normal but there’s nothing like a physical ailment to shake off any mental doldrums. 

I had started Inside on New Year’s Eve but after picking up that virus, I didn’t spend much time doing anything besides sleeping and visiting the bathroom. After the worst was over, I managed to finish Inside. I will have a review up this week but for better or worse, it’s the sequel to Limbo that I expected. 

While I was out, I received review code for Yakuza 0. I just wrapped up chapter 1 and you know what? It’s good to be back visiting Kamurocho again. I didn’t play Yakuza 5 (I may remedy that in the future) so Yakuza 0 feels fresh to me. I was given a copy of Firewatch and I have The Witness waiting in the wings but Yakuza 0 will take precedent. 

I’m almost done Dragon Quest VII. I’m nearing the 85 hour mark and I’ve fought the final boss once already. I lost because I didn’t prepare my item equipment loadout properly and perhaps I was a little under-leveled and under-equipped. Once I wrap up those loose ends, I should be able to just put this game to rest.

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