A video game focused around a combat-based gameplay loop, with a gripping main plotline and dozens of side quests and activities? Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? I fell in love with the “idea” of Yakuza 0 long before I even bought it. I’d heard so much praise online, especially about the side content. So when I decided to make a binge buy during the last Steam sale with one of the usual “I’m never buying another game until all these are done with” oaths – I decided to finally give this game a go.
The game starts off pretty interesting, and I was definitely soaked into the premise. But as I began putting in the hours, the flaws of the game were so on my face that I couldn’t help notice them – standing tall in plain sight. Like all my reviews, I’m going to dissect the game and try to talk about each aspect individually, rate them on THIS 10 point scale and give out my final words in the end.
Gameplay – 6
Good. That’s pretty much the word I have for it. Wasn’t exceptional, but not bad at all. The combat isn’t great, though it does its job (more about that in Mechanics). There is definitely some mission diversity, although I don’t know if that’s always for the best. I remember a mission where 5 guys or so tell me what alcoholic drink they want and I was supposed to walk around town just trying to find their drink. Some people might dig that sort of thing, but I don’t enjoy such time-filler missions especially in the main story. Also, you can’t walk for 10 seconds on the road without having some random goons attack you of nowhere, with ZERO context required and ZERO incentive for them to be picking a fight with the guy who has just beaten 6 dudes to the ground wheeling a cycle to their faces with his Hercules hunk arms. Hey, maybe that’s what the ZERO in this game stands for!
Then there’s going to be some hobo on the side of the road who is also a martial arts god because why not, and then you’re stuck in an unskippable cutscene with them going through their convoluted training system, and allies who are definitely good enough to impress you but not enough to help the hobo out with ‘that problem’ he’s having – which he’d very much like you to fix. Even the hobo living beside (or inside?) the school compounds in Bully: Scholarship edition made more sense than this.
Getting more into the fundamental gameplay loop of the game: it mainly revolves around beating the pulp out of large groups of enemies. And while it’s fun to do for a couple of hours – the game leaves no stone unturned in giving you the combat when it’s required, and of course when it’s not required – make it feel very repetitive very quickly. This is why the character of Majima was a welcome change as he brought a “non-violent” force to reckoned with – but as soon as you go into the world as him – guess what? More goons attacking you out of nowhere. But enough of that complaint. Let’s get into other things.
Narrative – 7
This is the best part of the game in my experience so far. I like the two main characters – Kiryu and Majima. Especially Majima, because they were able to get a diplomatic character into an action game. His introduction at the club was interesting for sure, if not a little too over-the-top and cheesy. And to be honest, I could say that about everything. In Kiryu’s story there is this one underboss who looks like he could be trouble and he’s already sorted in the seond chapter. There are a lot of cheesy bits in the plot, even though the setting and plot are definitely interesting. One major complaint I have is that it is inconsistent with how it tells its story. Sometimes you get HD cutscenes, a second later they turn to character cutscenes with the visuals of the game itself, and then in the side mission right after you’re reading the dialogue as characters basically grunt their way in. That is another gripe I had. I would have preferred not to read subtitles all the way through for a game that is supposed to be 50+ hours in length. I don’t mind watching foreign films but for this long a duration – that too with most of it being grunts – it would be irritating to follow.
The inconsistency in quality is very very apparent, and even if you end up loving the game – you’d have to move ahead with that acknowledgment in mind. But if I ever go back to finish this game though, it would be because of the story for sure.
Visuals – 6
Good, I’d say. The HD cutscenes were well-realized and the world design looks impeccable, yet with time all of the areas began feeling like the same thing. I’m not sure if Kiryu or Majima’s city is supposed to be a different place; they definitely look pretty much the same. I like when there is a visual personality and individuality to different areas of a game. And not just that, the game is very inconsistent with its cutscenes – as I pointed out, with HD cutscenes one second and gameplay cutscenes another, and character grunt read-ups during the mission. If you’re looking for a refined, consistent experience, this is not it. To me, the visual design of the game is an important sign of how seriously the developers are taking the project. Some people would say the budgets of these games are smaller. Personally, I’d rather have 2-3 great Yakuza games with unique non-bloated gameplay and consistent quality than have to see an overwhelming amount of them – all of which are made with the same budgetary restrictions.
I’ve seen way smaller games from indie studios which have the workforce the size you could count on your fingers deliver games with more consistency in terms of visuals, gameplay and…
Content – 7
There is a LOT of content in this game, for sure. Side missions. Mini-games. I did try a lot of them. Mini-games like playing baseball, pool, and gambling. And a couple of side missions like acting to be this girl’s boyfriend or helping some awkward band look cool? I don’t know, they were definitely more fleshed out than bad games but not enough when I compare it to, say, The Witcher 3? Also, it doesn’t help that they were a little too cheesy for my taste, maybe which is why I never really got into anime either. I talk to the girl’s father for 5 minutes acting to be her BF – and the guy naturally realizes we’re acting, but still wants me to be her BF. After knowing me 5 minutes? Not to mention the dad looks like he’s a freshman in college and the girl is DEFINITELY underage. No one has a problem with this middle-aged man looking older than the girl’s dad dating this girl, at all. I don’t know, this kind of thing might appeal to some very special people, but not for me, mate.
Overall, I would have preferred lesser content, more of which were high quality than whatever story they could concoct, made into a quest at every turn. There was another where you meet a bunch of losers who somehow have fans due to them being a music band. Thing is, they’re not as badass as they fool people into thinking (no shit), and now I need to tell them what to say. This was definitely interesting, alas, the whole immersion is thrown down the drain when I can’t even HEAR THEM SAY IT. It’s one of those cutscenes where I only read what they’re saying, and how the audience is feeling. Shit like “(says nervously)” “(audience cheers)” is not my thing. Maybe the game could just have 10 good side quests which are well acted rather than dozens of them, all of them executed in a half-assed way?
Mechanics – 5
The camera is wonky. It rapidly moves around from end to end at times, taking as much control away from me as possible. I can either be looking at my players ass, or just go right or left, I don’t have control over what angle I want to see things from. It especially shows its shortcomings in smaller areas during combat. The movement is responsive, but the camera definitely poses an issue for me. The fighting mechanics aren’t bad at all. Still, I’d expect them to be better in a game that expects me to clock in close to a hundred hours, with a majority of the portion of it being the combat. That is the core gameplay element, and while they do add these different modes and all, with their separate skill trees – I don’t know if one core combat system would’ve been better?
I hardly find a difference between them because they feel awfully samey. Besides, the combat isn’t very hard to get right anyway. Maybe two completely different fighting styles for the two main guys would’ve been more fitting? Kiryu could’ve been the more strengh-based combat system with Kiryu focused more on dexterity. It would have been a change of pace to toggle these play-styles every couple of chapters.
Challenge – 5
I set up the hardest difficulty. And apart from the portion where you have to get to the underboss guy in Kiryu’s story and beat his henchmen in one room – I didn’t have any issue breezing through the combat at all. After a point, it begins to feel tedious; I wish it had a little more depth. It always boiled down to grabbing people, filling the meter, picking up things to hit. Maybe it gets better down the line since I haven’t finished the game yet? I don’t know.
Diversity – 5
There is definitely a lot of diversity in the game with its numerous side-missions, mini-games and other things you can engage in the world. It has different modes you can choose from in the combat. But IMO, they should have gone for the quality instead of the quantity. Nevertheless, credit where it’s due.
Mapping – 6
The town looks great. It captures the setting it wants to pretty well. But roaming around as Kiryu or Majima felt the same. As if it was literally the same town I was striding around. They should’ve done something to make things stand out. Overall, I’d still say the world mapping and level design was good. Also, I hated that there were so many invisible walls in every corner of the world. It’s a hub-style design where you need to take taxis to different parts. In my opinion, you should go either for a full-fledged open world design if that’s the kind of freedom you’re aiming for, or just have a contained experience. Running into invisible walls so many times was not my idea of fun.
Soundtrack – 6
The music was good. The voice acting seemed to be done well, but it’s a major gripe of mine that there was none done in English, so I can’t give it more than a “good”. There are foreign games out there that have had phenomenal voice acting in English. It’s not incomprehensible or unreasonable to expect, but I’ve watched foreign films in their original language while thoroughly enjoying them. But I guess I would have preferred English itself, when it comes to a 50-60 hour game?
Interface – 5
The interface was pretty clunky. Whether it’s the settings menu, me trying to buy something in a shop, or even the fact that saving a game requires you to do 3-4 clicks every time. This all could’ve been made so much convenient. The quality of life features leave a lot to be desired out of this game.
Pricing – 10
The pricing for the amount of content in this game is pretty great if you can get into it, which clearly, I didn’t.
Performance – 8
There weren’t any major performance issues with the game, apart from the usual slow way of entering and exiting from buildings or the save system, etc. I’ve complained about it already. It’s well-optimized as well.
Replay Value – 4
I’m not able to finish it even once for now. I don’t imagine it’ll have replayability once the story and interesting side missions are done.
Final Rating: 6.1
I’ve said all I want to about Yakuza 0. This was exactly the kind of game I would have loved to get into, but still couldn’t because the flaws overpowered the merits for me. And I’d just like to say in the end what my ex said to me last month, “It’s not you, it’s me.”