Yakuza 0 in the test - singing, beating, gangsters
The Yakuza series is strange. On the one hand, the action adventures tell the rather serious life story around small-scale Kazuma Kiryu, a calm man with a pronounced conscience. It is true that he repeatedly gets caught between the lines of gang wars or conspiracies with the local police.
Created in the 80s, it tells of Kazuma's young years and his discreetly insane rival Goro Majima - and is therefore the perfect introduction for series newcomers and PC gamers who have long been curious about the console Yakuzas. Both characters have their own storyline that continues alternately. In the last chapters both flow together.
On the other hand, Yakuza Zero is also this completely crazy game with tons of cool ideas that are in total contrast to the serious plot. The main locations are the fictional districts of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, through which you move like in a classic action adventure. You fulfill fetch quests, talk to various NPCs and fight with other small crooks on the open street.
Or in buildings, because many of the shops and offices in the districts are accessible. Leisure activities such as karaoke or dance games are also hidden there. Goro can even set up a cabaret club, while Kazuma can run a brokerage office - small business simulations within the game. And that's just scratched the surface: fishing, slot car races, women's wrestling, baseball, phone sex - these are all little mini-games that are sometimes surprisingly complex.
Even completely emulated Sega classics such as Outrun or Space Harrier are in the arcades. There's a lot to do in the neighborhoods, and all of these activities are portrayed in a wonderfully exaggerated "video game" way: eccentric sound effects, epic camera angles, sometimes even grotesque humor.
Fighting as permanent employment
This also applies to the numerous fights. Many of these are optional and the player can avoid them. But why should you? The brawling action is so to the point, even on consoles you hardly know it better. Kazuma and Goro can choose between different styles during the fight, there are countless combos for free spins and most importantly: everything has the right oomph!
The normal attacks are heavy, but once you trigger a special attack (heat action), it hurts to watch. The hero includes the environment and a bicycle is rammed into the crotch, heads are smashed against windows or teeth are knocked out with billboards.
Crazy: Although this violence is celebrated in slow motion, not a single person dies. At the end of the beating, the opponents just crouch on the floor, moaning and regret getting out of bed today. But thanks to video game logic, they get away with one, well, two blue eyes.
time is money
That quirky mix of fighting, long cutscenes, and mini-games has worked with the Yakuza franchise for ages, and Zero is no exception. The game takes its characters seriously and tells heartwarming, engaging, human stories, but still doesn't forget to be an entertaining video game.
But although there are many phases with a lot of free space later in the game, PC gamers will have to bite through the long introduction at the beginning. Japanese console games often have long prologues that can last up to two hours. That's how long it takes before Yakuza Zero finally unfolds. At the beginning there is a lot of action, lots of tutorials, and lots of holding hands. This is a good thing, especially for beginners, but you should know that you can't just "look inside for ten minutes".
In general, the game takes time if you want to get the most out of all the activities and skills of the two yakuzas. The currency here is simply money. You get this for almost everything you do in the game. These can then be used to buy new fighting moves for Kazuma and Goro, or healing food in the numerous supermarkets and restaurants.
The side activities can be played and expanded until they become a lucrative source of income. Suddenly Yakuza Zero feels like an RPG. Of course you can also roam the streets endlessly and beat up gangsters all the time, that also brings money.
Clean PC porting
The PC port does its job well. A major weakness of the console versions is the lack of anti-aliasing. That makes the neon billboards very restless from a distance and some textures like those of a brick wall blur after a few meters. This problem does not exist on the PC, as up to 8x SSAA can be switched on. A mid-range PC can stumble a bit with maximum graphic details, but the picture is pleasantly calm even with 4x SSAA.
As such, the polygon objects are not particularly detailed. The geometry is deliberately kept clearer to give preference to textures and that works quite well. You can see this in places like supermarkets, where every object looks detailed on the shelf. Sure, there are some scenes that seem rather simple by PC standards.
For example in some dialogues in which the characters only sit in front of a flat wall, but the overall picture is convincing. The lighting is extremely atmospheric during the day, but especially at night, in order to wander through the lively Kamurocho or Sotenbori at this time. In short: we are surprised at how good the game originally developed for Playstation 3 (yes, PS3!) Can still look.
In addition to a number of graphics settings that allow the game to run on weak computers, there is support for all possible screen resolutions. For the brute brawling action, the control options are also pleasing: We tried out the Steam controllers from Valve, the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One and the Pro controller of the Nintendo Switch and it was all great to play with.
You can configure the key assignment yourself, and the game can even be operated with a mouse and keyboard. These are ideal prerequisites for entering the Yakuza series on the PC.