Yakuza 0 Review

Finally, I’ve completed Yakuza 0. At just over 90 hours and with a 67% completion, I’m done with Kiryu and Majima’s early days. This is one meaty game. Where do I even start when reviewing this?

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Ummm, yeah….I knew there was a trophy!

Basics first. Yakuza 0 takes place in 1988 and is a precursor to the Yakuza series. The game is split into chapters and in each chapter to take control of Kiryu or Majima. Both characters are separately embroiled in the Yakuza world but both connection by a string of events. Kiryu is stoic and loyal to his Yakuza subdivision family but soon finds himself to be a target over a dead body in an unfortunate location. Majima is tormented and longing to escape the punishment his Yakuza family has decided for him because of his past actions. He is the manager of a cabaret club, a great prospect for some but for Majima, his own personal prison.

You play as both characters, each with their own fighting styles, substories and locations as they try to unravel their current predicament. As you progress you will unlock new places of interaction and new side content. Besides the main story, both characters have a main substory. Kiryu has a real estate business which entails purchasing properties in areas owned by 5 corrupt real estate moguls. And Majima, has a cabaret club that he uses to conquer the cabaret scene. Again, he has to square off against 5 cabaret club owners and their main hostess’s. Both Kiryu and Majima’s stories also take place in separate locations from the other. Within each city there tons of side activities to try and lots of wacky characters to interact with. And that wackiness is Yakuza 0’s strength.

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The aforementioned Cabaret substory. My pro, Yuki!

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that flits between super serious to baffling bizarre as often as Yakuza 0. I’ve played Yakuza 3 and 4 in the past but I don’t remember this amount of absurdness. Maybe I’ve matured enough to seek out and appreciate the bizarre in these games than I had in the past but somehow I think Yakuza 0 goes above and beyond in its weird world. And therein lies its true strength. From its characters, the side missions and the over the top cutscenes for mundane tasks, Yakuza 0 had me with a smile on my face the majority of the time.

Then you get to the main story and it’s a tonal shift. People get murdered, there are stakes and there is a lot, a lot, A LOT of drawn out conversations. If you struggle with cutscenes and exposition in games, oh boy be prepared. Most of it is interesting stuff but Yakuza games have a tendency to retread topics within seconds of the topic’s introduction. For example:

Person A: We finally found the blank, Kiryu.

Kiryu: The blank, Person A?

Person A: Yes, it was with Mr Black.

Kiryu: Mr Black has it?!

Person A: Mr Black did have it but one of our own was able to retrieve it, Kiryu.

Kiryu: Who has it then if not Mr Black, Person A?

Person A: Person B.

Kiryu: Person B?! He has the blank instead of Mr Black?!

You get the idea. This won’t be an issue for some but for those that like to just play a game, may have an issue with Yakuza 0’s pace. You can click a button to speed up the dialogue but if a character is performing an action, you can’t skip until the action is performed. Personally, I enjoyed Yakuza 0’s story but after a couple dozen hours I found myself speed reading some of the dialogue. Saying that though, of the Yakuza games I’ve played, this story was the best in my mind. Playing as Majima definitely helped that. I really like his character and I think it works as a good contrast to Kiryu.

One thing I never got bored off is the fighting in this game. And although fights happen for the most minor of reasons in this universe, I was never bored with feeling like a fighting legend. Both Kiryu and Majima have enough fighting prowess to be MMA champs! You start to pity the street punks or drunks who challenge you to a brawl, only to lose a dozen teeth and most of their chump change. Yup, when you fight people in this game, money rains down constantly. Not only does the money work as currency, but also as your means of leveling up. So, you have great reason to fight every punk wanting to throw down. The combat itself is very satisfying. As I said, each character has 3 distinct fighting styles. For example, Kiryu has Beast mode which makes him sturdy to damage but slow to move. Majima has Breaker style which turns him into a twirling breakdancer of death. As you get more money you get to unlock more moves and bonuses for each fighting style. Doing that lets you unlock new moves from the masters that you learnt the fighting style from. This upgrade chain keeps things fresh and I haven’t even talked about the Heat actions yet.

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As you progress you’ll be able to unlock more health and new moves. Careful though, it gets very pricey.

Heat actions are possibly my favourite part of this game, along with the side quests. In combat, either through items or by fighting well, your Heat gauge will rise. As it rises Kiryu will get faster in combat and will have access to more moves. Once you’ve reached a certain point on you Heat gauge, you can perform devastating actions in the form of mini cutscenes. There are tons of these and I’m willing to bet I missed loads of them. Some include, smashing a guys head with a car door, suplexing individuals, using bodies as weapons to throw into enemies and many more. Then there are the weapons. Both characters can wield weapons and most weapons have a specific Heat action too. My favourite is the salt shaker. You pull an enemy’s head back and pour salt in his eyes. So stupid but makes me laugh every time. I never got tired of the combat through my 90 hours of gameplay. Especially because as you level up, Kiryu and Majima become so super powerful that random fights are like taking candy from a baby. Sure there are boss fights and Mr.Shakedown encounters but there is something really fun about being waaaay out of your enemy’s league. Everyone enjoys being Goku, he’s a fighting legend and so are Kiryu and Majima.

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The classic weapon Sailor Man Sign! A staple of every game. Also, moonwalking!

I mentioned Mr.Shakedown and that needs some explaining. Mr.Shakedown is a kind of mini boss that will randomly appear in the 2 cities. There are multiple Mr.Shakedown’s but they all are the same, fight wise. As you walk around town, you will sometimes see the hulking giants. You can’t miss them! They’re like 7 foot tall and build like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And yes, I had to Google how to spell that. They also have a Yen amount above their head. This is the amount of money they currently hold. If they spot you, they’ll challenge you to a fight. If you win, you get all his money. However, should you lose though, he takes all your hard earned cash. As you beat them, they’ll level up and have move health but they’ll have more money to take. I love the fights with Mr.Shakedown and the only times I’ll skip them are if I don’t have any healing items. He’s no joke and can easily beat you if you mess up. But he’s one of the best ways to earn money in the game and just overall is a great idea.

There is so much to talk about with this game that I am actually struggling to remember what I have and haven’t talked about. It is just filled to the brim with places to visit and things to do. As, you do more tasks you’ll unlock Completion Points. These are gained by doing trivial things to precise actions. Walk a certain amount of distance= 1 CP, beat 100 enemies in Breaker style= 1 CP, complete 30 Kiryu Substories = 1 CP etc. You trade these in for added extras to the game. These range from the main Substory components to the ability to run for longer duration. But it’s these CP’s that add a lot of incentive to try all the side content of this game. There is a lot to try too. I won’t go over all of them but there is darts, pool, catfights, toy car racing, dancing minigames and my favourite Karaoke. Besides those there are tons more and a lot of really strange and unique things to do, there is also a wide range of restaurants and bars to visit. Here you can replenish your characters health or learn about some alcoholic beverages. I mean that literally, each time you order a drink in some bars you get a little bit of its history. It’s a nice touch and one that went over my head. Is it rum? Yeah, OK mix it with Cherry Coke, thanks.

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Can’t let him see my *secretary* snooping around. What even is the right choice here?!

Overall, Yakuza 0 is one of the best games I’ve played this year. I think the aspect that sealed that for me was its weirdness. A serious game is great, a wacky game is fun but a wacky game in a serious world just hits that sweet spot for me. Not only that but because there is so much side content, I always had outs if I was getting tired of the serious Yakuza world. Just had a 10 minute long scene of Yakuza talking organisation rules and need a break from the story? Bowling or a visit to Mr.Libido sounds good. Also I’m not going to explain Mr.Libido, one of the highlights of the game and you should see it in all its glory. I highly recommend Yakuza 0 and if like me, you’ve played previous iterations and they didn’t grab you as much as you hoped, try this one. The fact that it’s a prequel to the original Yakuza also means you don’t need to read up on any of the lore. This is a reset point and it’s a fantastic place to start this series.

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Hmm he looks oddly familiar but I can’t quite work it out. He looks like that director from the film, Billy and the Cloneasaurus

Thank you for reading this review and if you want a more in depth analysis into Yakuza 0’s side content, I have 2 other articles to view: Yakuza 0’s Cabaret Is Taking Over My Life What Was Your Side-Quest/Mini-Game Purgatory?. Feel free to share your views on Yakuza 0 or the Yakuza series in the comments.

P.S. Yakuza Kiwami which I believe is the original Yakuza remade, is currently available for this months PS Plus members. If you fancy a Yakuza sample. Just be aware that it takes place after Yakuza 0. Maybe minor spoilers.

What Was Your Side-Quest/Mini-Game Purgatory?

We’ve all had one! Some random NPC gives you a quest in the opposite direction of the main game and now you can’t return until you complete this trivial matter. Only, it’s not trivial, is it? What seems like a light, airy piece of cake is actually an overpoweringly rich and heavy slice of Belgium trip choc. Not as easy to consume but still you persist. I’m off tangent a bit, talking about cakes but it doesn’t matter because off tangent is Yakuza 0’s domain and my personal limbo.

Yes, I’m sure regular readers of my ramblings will know that I’ve been at Yakuza 0 for months now. Well, good news everyone! I’ve cleared it. I’ll be posting a review in a few days but I just wanted to talk to you about something that withheld me from completing the game in a speedier time. You see, I wanted to complete both Kiryu’s and Majima’s main side quest. Majima’s I got done pretty easily. Kiryu’s though…..that’s where my demon resided. And it wasn’t gruelling combat or lack of money to proceed. It was bowling. Slight spoilers for a Yakuza 0, it’s only a sub story but that’s your choice if you want a sub story spoiled. If you are intrigued by the Yakuza series, I would read on so you see why it’s so loved.

Anyway, bowling! The sport of kings! And I was a jester, flailing around, hoping to succeed. But first I’ll introduce you to my troubles. For Kiryu’s side story, you need to buy and upgrade properties owned by 5 real estate kings. Basically 5 sub bosses. I wanted to own all the properties and defeat all the kings. And I did do. Except when all was said and done I still had one property that I didn’t own. I tried in the past but to no avail so I put it on the back burner. I was determined to acquire it before I closed the book on my Yakuza 0 playthrough. My problem was Emiri. Emiri was the person who would allow me to acquire the bowling alley, However, I needed to max out my friendship with her. No big deal, I just bowl and it goes up over time. Except for the last pip of the friendship meter. Emiri informs me, with a misleading smile I might add, that there is a competition ongoing. Whoever scores a turkey first, wins a turkey! For context, the game is set around December so a Christmas turkey isn’t so far-fetched. See that Yakuza 0, I’m saying your nonsense isn’t nonsense!

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OK, a turkey, 3 strikes in a row. Can’t be that hard once you get a system going. Except, I couldn’t do it. I would get 2 strikes and then choke the turkey………that’s that expression right? For the life of me, I couldn’t do it. And this went on for 3 days! 3 real days of on and off Yakuza 0. I did other tasks but getting that turkey was my gaming priority that week. And then this happened, this is what made me write this article because at this point, it felt like the game was laughing at me.

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That’s all spares, 2 strikes and a big failure! 9 frames and I consistently hit 8 pins down and then followed it up to make a spare. I even tried to change the angle and power and I would still get that. I couldn’t get 3 strikes in a row but 9 spares? Sign me up, I’m the Spare King! And then on my last possible chance to get 3 strikes in a row in that game, I got 2 strikes and then 8 pins again. I was more gob struck than disheartened. I couldn’t do that again if I tried. Downtrodden but never broken, I told Emiri to reset them again! Eventually, I did it!

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I got 2 sets of turkeys that time! Those 3 days wishing for a turkey and I got 2 at once. They’re like buses apparently. You wait forever for 1 and then oh hello, 2 show up. But whatever, whinging over, it was time to collect my prize! Emiri talked it up that this was a turkey to die for so surprise me with that tasty bird!YAKUZA 0_20181009161927

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………OK then. Who cares?! I did it, yay is me! I’m not even bothered that it’s a bit sadistic what Kiryu named his new chicken pal. I got the bowling alley as a property AND a manager chicken. You can’t argue with a deal like that. And so ended my trial. I’ve had many times where a side quest has taken over my life or even ones that I have given up but still think about as the ones that got away. I’m looking at you Final Fantasy X’s dodge the lightning migraine. So what are some of yours that stick out for you. Or maybe you just have one in particular that was the thorn in your side for a time. Feel free to share in the comments, I’m eager to hear your pain. Thanks for reading.

The Power Of Game Hype In The Workplace

Just over a year ago, I moved from my city of birth to my current home. I’m about 4 hours away from the place that helped to shape me into who I am. I spent over a 1/4 of a century in that city and nearly a decade in my job there. Personally, I believe myself to be quite introverted and hitting a reset button on friends and colleagues isn’t an easy task for me. I don’t make friends quick or work chums as easy as I would like.

Part of this is my own personal preference and my own fault. I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work. But if I know the person I’m working with, I’m more than happy to talk. Unfortunately my current workplace is more, older generation staffed. Very few new staff get brought on and so not only is the majority of the workforce 2 or 3 decades older than me, but those cliques are already established. Then you have the fact that I live in the UK and I don’t have watch football. Nor do I watch soaps. I know, shoot me now! Not much of a Brit and definitely not hip with 90% of my co-workers. I could watch football, I could make the effort for the sake of conversation…..but I don’t want to. I find it boring and I can’t fake an interest in it. If you’ve heard Moss from the IT Crowd talk about the ludicrous display, then you have an idea of my footie patter.

So imagine my intrigue when I heard mention of mouse and keyboard play. 2 staff who were hired a few months ago were chatting about upgrading a computer when I was asked by a manager to help their station. I had talked to these newcomers before and got along with them fine but outside of casual work banter we never touched on anything more personal. The conversation quickly changed after that mention but it stuck with me as a future topic. I know a lot of people play games so I shouldn’t be surprised that they were gamers, but finding someone in my workplace to talk to about games is different. Like finding a diamond in the rough.

So last week, was the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2. To be exact, it was out on the Friday which was the next day. I just so happened start my job with those 2 staff members. I needed to talk to someone about Redemption 2 as I had been keeping my excitement at bay since its announcement but now with the game so close, I was overflowing with giddiness. So I asked (fake name time!) Mr Black if he was getting Redemption 2. ‘No but Amanda Hugginkiss is. She’s going at to the shops at midnight to collect it.’. What followed next was hours of chatting about games. All 3 of us sharing our history with gaming. Talking about our excitement over Redemption 2 and the possibility of being *sick*  for work, starting consoles, favourite games, hours spent on Call of Duty 4, Runescape memories and loads more. The time flew by and since then we’ve been talking about our own progress on Redemption 2 and how we’re playing Arthur Morgan. Not only that, they’ve told me of other people in work who game and so I know now who I can geek out with.

I had a range of friends and co-workers where I previously lived and we were all big gamers. When I moved, my connection to them dropped. I still talk to a lot of them but it’s not the same as seeing them constantly. But that is life. Co-workers leave and friendships dissipate sometimes. I’m aware of that. However, that excitement over a new game or film, I haven’t felt that in a long while. Not since moving. I was excited for Redemption 2 but no where near the level I was for previous games. And I realise now that that was because of my environment. There is something infectious about hype among colleagues and work mates. When you have a bunch of people who are counting down the days left to the next Battlefield or a new trailer for a game getting shown around the break room. When it’s home time before you even realise and the only realisation you have is that you just spent 6 hours talking about E3. I missed that. I didn’t realise how much I actually missed it until I experienced it again after so long.

It’s amazing what talking to the right people about the right topic yields. I had known both of those 2 for a good few months. Not extensively but on good terms. Within a day, my knowledge of them easily eclipsed my previous knowledge of them. I now have someone I can easily talk about something I love with. And even though that still only equates to about 1% of the workplace I know to be gamers, it still feels good to have someone who enjoys what I enjoy. There are people I can talk to comfortably and that alone makes my job so much more enjoyable. It’s still work at the end of the day but now I have people to talk to whilst we share that misery. Yay!