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I love Japan, I’ve even been there once. The culture, nature and people are something very peaceful. Everyone knows yakuza mafia and how popular it is in movies and games — Yakuza series has to be the Father of them all.
There is total of seven main Yakuza games (0-6) and I thought there must be something special about them hence their success. I started off by purchasing Yakuza 0 (龍が如く0 誓いの場所 Ryū ga Gotoku Zero) because the whole story starts from there. Yakuza 0 wasn’t published first in the line, it was much later in 2015 right after Yakuza 5 (龍が如く5 夢、叶えし者 Ryu ga Gotoku 5: Yume Kanaeshi Mono) (for PlayStation 3) when they made very usual ‘how it all began’ —title.
I truly didn’t have any idea what kind of games these were other than something about yakuza i.e. murders, killing, drug dealing, lying, deceiving… that’s pretty much it. I started the game and my first notice was the graphics and how everything was a bit off-putting. The game looked weird somehow, there was something odd about it and it took me little while to figure it out.
The first thing I had to do was to beat up hooligans in the alley. Really, I needed to show them my fists close up and picking up things around me and hit with it — and it felt like a Final Fight (ファイナルファイト Fainaru Faito) scenario. The game thought me how to fight very early because it’s being one of the main themes in Yakuza 0. After long walking and talking to a friend (face to face, this was 1988 what we’re talking about) I had to… sing karaoke. Yes, that was weird but it showed how versatile this game is. I quickly learned I could do bunch of things than just fighting and acting like a gangster.
From defeat to glory.
Yakuza 0 takes place in 1988 Osaka, Japan. It’s a story of a young man Kiryu who is a member of yakuza, Dojima Family, and he has messed up with wrong people and he have to show his loyalty to the yakuza bosses.
The story start with this and it deepens over time and new characters are involved with new places, but one thing stays the same: the “Empty Lot” that has everything to do with the story. It’s a place where Kiryu kills a man and that’s not all of it; all gangsters and yakuza bosses wants that piece of land no matter what.
For me it was very unclear what this place was all about throughout the game but it came clear towards the end, still the whole game and story seemed to be sometimes stretched with a shit. This is a loooooong game with looooong cutscenes and lot of talking. Sometimes I got bored to it but then always something happened that woke me up and I was ready to go.
Other character you are playing is a man named Majima who is a owner of cabaret bar and who used to be a member of a yakuza. He also has a terrible past of being a prisoner of a some yakuza clan and they tortured Majima near insanity until his release. The story might become confusing after playing with each character alternately and with twists and long cutscenes with lot info to take in.
I don’t know what I could tell about the story because it has so many twists and turns and one point we are here with these people and next we are there with those people… It’s like long and super detailed story of someone’s messy and dangerous times in life. It’s like telling a story of your whole younghood and trying fit it in a small sentence.
What I want to tell is that this game is very action based and very overacted 80’s action B-movie-esque that has long story that is interesting to follow if you don’t have ADHD.
These guys are not playing around.
Controls & Gameplay
Fighting is very simple; it consist of punching and kicking and doing combos and changing fighting styles. Playing with Majima and Kiryu was different since they both had different fighting styles and upgrades. What I liked was simple upgrading system of the two characters and not going overboard with it. The characters gain money (which buys new upgrades) and also CP points that can be exchanged to new skills in a certain places.
I still had problems with the fighting itself. Many times I started to do a hit combo to completely wrong direction by not-purpose and when I tried to lock and enemy it still misses hits altogether. This became really annoying and picking up the surrounding objects (such as couch, tables, chairs, garbage bins and bikes) and trying mashing enemies with them was mostly useless. The enemies were very quick and after picking up an object my character became slow and clumsy which gave enemies plenty of time to attack me. Hitting with objects seemed to be more of a gimmick than actually useful thing.
Guns and other killing instruments became available very soon but especially the gun was the most useless one of them all. It was difficult and slow to use and it didn’t took much of enemies health.
The camera got stuck many times and moving it was awkward. When fighting scene occurred the camera took its position and was somehow fixed.
Yakuza 0 includes many other, everyday, things to do. It’s not purely fighting and messing with your life with Japanese yakuza gangs. I could go and sing karaoke, eat street food, play SEGA games in a gaming hall, do tons of funny sub stories or walk around and watch 80’s Japan and its terrible fashion. I didn’t enjoy personally any of the things other than doing sub stories. (I usually never fancy of any everyday stuff I can do in a game. It seems to be mostly frustrating and ‘why are you even eating — you’re not alive anyway’, but that is just my personal opinion. I know lot of gamers actually like to do these things.)
Everything looked realistic from afar.
The skin, man… at some point I figured it out what bothered be in the graphics. It wasn’t the obvious horrible and exaggerated skin they all had (click any face pics and zoom), but the inconsistent graphics. For an example the characters face was very detailed but then neck was like from PS2 era but then clothes was high quality and the hands were from N64 and the plant behind you was PS4 and the wall was PS3… It was a mess but if you looked everything from afar it looked beautiful and detailed. But I played it with 4K TV and everything was awful looking. Walking in the streets of 80’s Osaka was beautiful to look from distance and, at times, realistic.
You could bury it into one of your skin pores.
I didn’t find Yakuza 0 being overly difficult playing it as ‘Normal’. The choices was ‘Easy’, ‘Normal’, ‘Hard’ and after completing the game you’ll get the hardest one ‘Legend’. It began be little bit challenging towards the end when I had to kill many different types of enemies at once. As I said above, controlling the character was clumsy and he usually hit the air rather than enemies. Yes, in the end part I died a lot and had to start again from the top, which was very old-fashioned style of gameplay (this was typical in older games 80’s-90’s era.)
I honestly was prepared to ultimate hardness when starting this game; everything about it visually looks very serious. I don’t run games through, ever, and with this I did sub missions and side stuff to gather money and got my levels up. Also, I did collect and bought health and stamina boost drinks, but the inventory was limited so not everything could fit in there. As of difficultness in ‘Normal’ mode this is surely 5/10 (ten being hardest). The game is heavily story based and it was made notably easier to play.
Lot of killing — yakuza.
I still have thousand questions about the plot and some details, too. It was little bit difficult to follow two different characters with different yakuza clans and other characters and their foreign names. Yakuza 0 is very long game and about 67% (I surely calculated it) of it is cutscenes. The story wasn’t the best I’ve seen as of how interesting or unique it was.
Yakuza game series is made for very specific players and I can see Japanese youngsters being the goal audience and Japan fans all around the world, such like me.
Do I like this game? Yes and No. The graphics was weirdly balanced and the fighting was very monotonous. Even though I didn’t understand everything about the plot it was interesting to watch it grow and change. Everything was overacted like it was in the 80’s movies, which I will give points to. Player don’t have a huge area to discover (which was good) rather small area of Osaka district with full of neon signs and little allies. I can’t see myself of playing this game ever again, but I do wanna play the second game in the storyline Yakuza Kiwami (龍が如く極, lit. “Like a Dragon: Extreme”)
It’s like long and super detailed
story of someone’s messy and dangerous life.