Full disclosure, I’ve never played a Yakuza game before this one, however I was intrigued by the unique yet complex game series. So after playing for 50 hours, I can say that Yakuza 0 on Xbox One and Windows 10 is amazing.
Starting off, PC players will want to have a controller, as the primary gameplay is speedy third person brawling. Yakuza does not limit itself to just street fighting. Despite taking place in a singular 1980s Japanese city district, the game has an incredible depth. Yakuza’s multitudes can be easy to get lost in. There’s even a fully fleshed out arcade featuring several Sega classics. Even though Yakuza 0 isn’t the most recent entry in a decade spanning series, it feels as fresh and inviting as an initial offering. Several times throughout this review I ended up going back to play more.
The story of Yakuza 0 requires very little background, as it’s a prequel to the other games. You play as Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, members of the Japanese Yakuza, as they go about life on the streets. They end up becoming involved in a shady land deal, from which all Hell breaks lose. The story and gameplay take on an almost magical realism setting very early on. While being a realistic game, it does have an over the top tone. Even with the gritty feel, Yakuza manages to balance silly fun with crime action in a way reminiscent of western counterparts like GTA and Saints Row. Personally, Yakuza’s episodic format and cinematic approach to such a small story makes it stand out from the other titles.
Yakuza 0’s varied control scheme can sometimes feel overwhelming to a beginner. The combat can become easier through the use of “stances” or preset control schemes that boost certain attributes. You can upgrade your stances through money, as well as upgrade points at shrines. Players can purchase businesses, food, and items with money at stores. Interestingly, the stores and restaurants also serve as educational tomes. Every meal features a realistic interpretation and flavor text describing it.
Yakuza’s immersion benefits by choosing to include as much of it’s gameplay in the game world itself as possible. Players can save at payphones and taxis help you fast travel. Some may find the attempt at immersion as unimpressive, however the game’s atmosphere feels perfectly crafted. The graphics reflect this polish, and Yakuza 0 looks gorgeous in 4k. Many small details are present in the design, such as fabric details and diverse environments. Even though Yakuza 0 is a PlayStation 4 port, the passion put into this experience shows.
Throughout my journey with Yakuza, I found few glitches, most having to do with a texture or two not loading in. The most egregious being the controller inputs were briefly switched to Xbox from PS4. Lag and pop in were noticeable in a few isolated incidents but a simple save rollback cured them all. The games options menu is slightly lacking on PC, and felt more designed for a console, however it did contain all the functions necessary. One gripe I have seen fans have is a lack of customization in text size, though personally I had no problems with it. Some people may find the lack of an English dub off-putting, however it does nothing to distract from the remarkable experience.
Since starting this review, I am on track to doubling my hours spent in Yakuza 0. I also plan on purchasing the remastered titles. Even a first timer like me can fall in love with this series, and I look forward to future Yakuza titles.