Review: Yakuza 0 (Computer)

Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Sep 23, 2018
Sep 23, 2018
  • Release Date (NA): August 1, 2018
  • Release Date (EU): August 1, 2018
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Genres: Action RPG
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Hailed as one of the defining series for PlayStation consoles for over a decade, Yakuza is finally making some timid moves towards PC gamers. Yakuza 0 marks the first title in the franchise to release on PCs and is somewhat appropriate as it dives into the past of its main cast. So let’s put our mean Yakuza faces on and see how this PC port holds up!
Prans Dunn

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About Time...

As someone who has never played any Yakuza game before, I really looked forward to the PC port to finally delve into this acclaimed franchise. As such, when SEGA provided the opportunity to review the game, despite it being some time after its release, I happily picked it up to see for myself how the game holds up.

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Showtime!

Yakuza 0 is an appropriate way to kickstart the franchise on PCs because it is actually the prequel to it all, setting the tone for upcoming entries and helping the player get acquainted with the main cast. The latter has deep character development segments, the two playable protagonists Kiryu and Majima standing out. You will get to learn a lot about their background, their motivations, and their actions in separate arcs which eventually converge. But even the other recurring characters have their fair share of screen and story time to flesh them out.

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Actually, Yakuza 0 feels almost like an interactive action-crime-drama-comedy movie. The main story is set around a feud between yakuza families in a late 80s Japan, revolving around themes of betrayal, revenge, commitment and friendship at its core. I'm not going to write much about the plot here because I think it’s something better experienced first-hand, it having a certain flow to it throughout its 35+ hours of main storyline. But you can take my word that the writing is top-notch as you experience first hand Kiryu quest to get to the bottom of the plot to frame him; and Goro’s persistence to rejoin the yakuza. From there it gets deep into the machinations of power and influence from various parties intertwined in a melodramatic bigger picture.

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Despite its darker premise, the plot also has a lot of lighter moments with its countless and diverse side quests called substories. Ranging from karaoke parties to posing as a movie director to helping damsels in distress, SEGA officially counts 100 substories With so much to play outside of the main quest, you'll often find yourself enticed into the game's optional content, constantly breathing life into the game and building a real sense of immersion. There are also easter eggs hidden in the arcades of the game, featuring fully playable SEGA classics!

It’s flabbergasting to experience how the game merges serious life-or-death situations in one moment, and in another engages the player in absurdly over-the-top quests like dismantling a high school panty-selling bully’s business. This is Yakuza, a serious game that doesn't take itself too seriously.

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All of the quests and side-quests are done in a semi-open world fashion in different areas of Tokyo and Osaka. Semi-open world in the sense of being free to roam anywhere within an area, and enter some specific shops and arcades; that’s basically all you can do. You can’t enter any building or talk to anybody or pick up a fight with anyone, unless prompted to take on a side quest, or get into a random street brawl, or entering combat mode by progressing the story. This isn't game-breaking as such, but the limited actions while exploring a segment of the city often feels restrictive with you carrying the character from Point A to Point B until something happens. Don’t go in expecting GTA-style freedom. Nevertheless, the world of Yakuza 0 is always vibrant with lively cities full of people chatting, commuting and cursing at you when you bump past them. The cities breathe a life of their own, albeit automated, brightly lit by the sun during the day and flooded by neon lights at night.

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The other feature that defines Yakuza 0 is the combat. You'll find yourself brawling with strangers in alleys, the hotshots of yakuza families, and everything in between during the game's side missions. There is a particular aspect to the over-dramatization of every single battle and mission that I have grown to adore.

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Rather than relying on button mashing, there is actually some depth to the combat system. While you upgrade skills in an RPG-style skill tree fashion, you also unlock new combo moves for some flashy actions. There is also the option to switch between three fighting modes on the fly to give swift punches, stronger but slower ones or take a more balanced stance. Of course, should you need to block and dodge, those actions are available as well. Kiryu and Goro have different attack styles; a welcome feature that adds some personality to each character.

You can also pick up surrounding items like glass bottles, trash cans, and bicycles to aid you in the battles and deliver spectacular finish moves. The more varied and combo-heavy battle style is, the more dough you will rake in; dough that can in turn be used for upgrades and recovery item purchases.

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To further accentuate the cinematic experience, the voice acting is professionally done as well as some fine animations in the ever-recurring lengthy Metal Gear-esque cutscenes. The characters’ in-game textures feel a bit bland even on a 1070 GTX when compared to the pre-rendered cutscenes, but I'm not one to complain much about graphics if the gameplay is solid as it is here. The port otherwise plays flawlessly and even runs at 60fps on the highest settings.

Oh, and be weary about the lack of auto-saves! You will have to drag your character to a nearby phone in order to save your progress. Again, not game-breaking but a slight let down for I would expect the ease of auto-save in such a big game.

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Pre-rendered Kiryu v.s in-game Kiryu

There are also some online and co-op modes featured in this title. The "Online Mode" pits you against other players in traditional board games like Mahjong, Cee-lo and Poker but if the server doesn't find enough interested opponents (which is usually the case) you will face computer-generated opponents. A "Climax Battles" mode is present for the more competitive players who can relive battles from completed chapters for the best score and ranking. The local co-op mode allows you to compete in minigames including disco, bowling, darts, and pool, and is somewhat more fun than the online board games. These modes aren't much to write home about but are nice to have nevertheless.

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Verdict
Pros
+ Deep and well written plot
+ Strong character development
+ Tons of side missions
+ Classic SEGA mini games
Cons
- Dated character textures
- Limited available actions while exploring
- No autosave
8 Presentation
The whole game is a delight to experience with the professional voice acting, motion captures, and deep narrative with a peculiar yet gripping serious-hilarious balance. I only complain that the in-game textures don't look as good as the pre-rendered cutscenes, even on PCs.
8 Gameplay
The PC port runs fluidly at 60fps and as the main screen advises you, "real yakuza use gamepad". Heed to the good word and the experience will be even better!
9 Lasting Appeal
The main narrative itself lasts more than 35 hours but if you factor in the literal hundred of substories, you can impersonate yakuzas for considerably more time!
8.3
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Serious, hilarious, serious, hilarious. Yakuza 0 segues between those two adjectives surprisingly well in a poignant narrative with fluid gameplay. It is the perfect opportunity for PC gamers to finally invest hours of their lives in the world of Yakuza.


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