What is it?
Yakuza Zero is an action adventure game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega in 2015. It was ported to the West in 2017, and on PC a year later. Set in the late eighties, Kazuma Kiryu finds himself expelled from the yakuza after being framed for murder. With limited time on his side, he sets off to find the truth while being hunted down by his former comrades. Meanwhile, ex-yakuza Goro Majima is given a hit on a seemingly-innocent woman in order to get himself back in the organization again. Both plotlines escalate with numerous shocking twists and turns.
- Gripping plot with excellent localisation and writing, which juxtapose with the ridiculous moments during side-quests and mini-games
- Lots of great distractions, from karaoke and disco to cabaret club managing and arena fights
- Many upgradable moves for each fighting style, with plenty of weapons and special attacks to try as well
- Great soundtrack; hearing the protagonists sing karaoke is simply breathtaking
- Mini-games like car-racing and baseball are boring
- Reuses a lot of the same animations during in-game dialogue exchanges
- Random encounters with weaker enemies on the street can get tiresome
- Will take a bit of a while to get into the meat of the game
Tonally, Yakuza Zero is such a Japanese game. To clarify, it perfectly balances out a thrilling plot with genuinely surprising twists alongside some dopey, ridiculous dialogue exchanges. Despite rehashing animations at times, it’s still a good-looking game, and is paired up with a pretty damn satisfying soundtrack. There’s lots of fun to be had by beating the snot out of goons and mobsters, though having to fight through the weaker ones repeatedly gets tiring quickly. The combat and RPG mechanics gel together nicely; each character has three unique fighting stances with numerous skill trees and additional abilities to unlock. Racking up enough cash for these may take a long while, though.
When all that gets tiresome, you can distract yourself with some mini-games. Be patient on your first playthrough, as you’ll eventually be allowed to free-roam as you progress. Bowling, darts, dancing and karaoke are some of the top choices. Running business with real estate and a cabaret club will offer big cash rewards, too. Some of these can be played competitively against other players online, as well. Topping off the package are a selection of Climax Battles with pre-set enemies and rules, most of which are fair but challenging.
While far from flawless, Yakuza Zero offers a vast world filled with fun fights, amusing distractions, and a fantastic story.