Yakuza 0 review - big draka in a small neighborhood

Author: Jordan Dębowski
Date: 2017-01-19 18:00:00
The review was based on the PS4 version. Also applies to the PC version

Ryu ga Gotoku or - if you prefer - Yakuza is a series that has had seven installments of the main series and numerous spin-offs in Japan, where it is quite popular. Sega's gangster play, however, never convinced a wider audience in the West and was of interest only to the greatest fans of strange Japanese works. In the prequel called Yakuza 0, Sega develops a pattern of gangster fun that has been polished over the years, offering an addictive mafia soap opera in an open world full of side quests and twisted characters. Will the successful new incarnation of the Yakuza be able to convince a mass audience and give the series a second chance in the West? Everything indicates that it is.

The origins of the Dragon and the Rabid Dog

Yakuza 0 begins in 1988 in Japan during the bubble economy period, when nightclubs were bursting at the seams from customers, nouveau riche people indulged in champagne fun every night, and criminal groups were thriving in the shadow of all this. The plot of Yakuza 0 consists of two intertwining stories set in fictional districts: Tokyo's Kamurocho and Sotenbori, located in Osaka. Initially, we lead Kiryu Kazuma, a member of the Tokyo-based Dojima family involved in the murder of a property that has long been pursued by two quarreling families.

After a fairly linear prologue, we quickly move to Osaka to meet the second protagonist, Majima Goro - the manager of a prestigious nightclub, desperately trying to get back into the favors of the mafia family from which he was once excluded. Such a narrative procedure works great in the new Yakuza and allows you to show different parts of the criminal underworld, and we, jumping alternately between the stories of Majima and Kiryu, discover a larger intrigue over time, which results in a spectacular finale , neatly combining the threads about both of these gangsters.

As befits the Yakuza series, the menacing Kiryu and the charismatic Majima are not the only characters worthy of attention - in the game we also come across a lot of supporting characters belonging to the title Yakuza, with their own motivations, dislikes and terrifying secrets. The story in Yakuza 0 is presented through long cutscenes that resemble the Metal Gear Solid series , as a result of which less vigilant players may get lost in a story that resembles a soap opera at times . However, I would not consider it a minus - Sega's writers reward us with patience over time, serving exciting dialogues and unexpected twists that do not allow us to tear ourselves away from the screen during the main plot lasting about 20 hours.

GTA: Tokyo?

Yakuza is often called "Japanese GTA " , which is not entirely true - yes, the series focuses on the world of gangsters, but the real genre mishmash it represents is hard to compare to any other production on the market. When we do not watch numerous cutscenes, we can freely visit these districts, engage in dozens of side quests and try quite absurd mini-games.

The core of the game in Yakuza is combat - like in classics like Double Dragon or slashers, where we encounter random clashes in which we must efficiently use the elements of the environment and three combat styles unique to each of the heroes. In the case of Kiryu, we have a standard style with quite balanced attacks, a quick style (my favorite), which allows you to dodge more massive opponents, and a "beast" style, which - as the name suggests - gives powerful blows, but makes it much more difficult to dodge and move efficiently in the arena of street fights. I was much better playing with Majima, whose spectacular fast style contained elements of capoeira, while the strongest one, the so-called slugger, he relied on attacks with melee weapons.

Various fighting styles are closely related to character development, which allows the cash earned in the game, serving both as currency and as experience points for which we acquire new abilities. While it would be easy to pick one style and perfect it quickly, the game rightly encourages experimentation , as each combat style has its own strengths and weaknesses and works best against specific types of opponents.

The Witcher in Tokyo

While exploring the open world of Yakuza 0, we meet dozens of NPCs who entrust us with various missions. These are not extremely complex tasks - they often come down to a dialogue sequence or obtaining a specific item, but they are usually so funny and skillfully written that after completing them, we quickly look for more to see what the inventive scriptwriters came up with this time . In this respect, the sidequests in Yakuza resemble the carefully developed side quests in the third Witcher , where it was very easy to forget about the main plot and focus on additional missions, which were often humorous and unusual.

As for the title of Sega, I will not forget for a long time, for example, a task in which you have to deal with a mean grandmother shoving into the queue at the bazaar, or another, in which we help a boy recover a stolen pre-order of a long-awaited game, or a specific course of being a dominatrix, which I gave to a complex employee of the BDSM club . If you like imaginative side missions that play with convention and deviate significantly from the serious tone of the main plot, Yakuza 0 will have your hands full with over a hundred so-called sidestories.

The life of a gangster is difficult

Accustomed to a certain standard of AAA games, a Western player must be understanding when starting a new Yakuza . The production, which also debuted on PS3, looks poor at times, and many characters are creatures with such an appearance that they would lose in the beauty contest, competing alongside NPCs from Oblivion or Fallout: New Vegas . Of course, the same cannot be said of the refined models of more important characters, directed movies or many polished places. Despite the fact that the locations appearing in this production are quite small and the game looks like better PS3 titles, the attention to detail is sometimes so great that even after a dozen or so walks along the main promenade, I still couldn't take my eyes off the dozens of neon signs or signboards that illuminate crowded night streets.