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?

YAKUZA 0_20180909223506
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.

YAKUZA 0_20180922124902
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.

YAKUZA 0_20180831014814
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.

YAKUZA 0_20181006155224
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.

YAKUZA 0_20181006140407
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.

YAKUZA 0_20181006154427
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.

Yakuza 0’s Cabaret Is Taking Over My Life

What’s more fun, being a rugged ex-Yakuza brutally beatings thugs on a quest to solve a mystery…..or dressing up women and saddling them with rich men for an hour? A few days ago I would have said being a roguish gangster but Yakuza 0 has proven me very wrong. In Yakuza 0 you play as 2 characters. Stoic Kiryu and the dangerous Majima. I’ll probably review the game one day so I won’t get into too depth of a description. Once this blasted mini game releases me from its sweet, alluring embrace I’ll get round to finishing it. After you do a certain story mission you switch to the other character and you begin a new chapter. I’ve been playing on chapter 8 with Majima for over a dozen hours. I’ve nearly forgotten how Kiryu’s distinct fighting styles play. At a certain point in the game Majima inherits a cabaret club. Now for the uninitiated, a cabaret club in this universe, revolves around men paying for the pleasure to have a woman sit and chat to them for a bit.

As Majima your job is to recruit the girls around your district and utilise their natural charms to appease the local male clientele. Each lady has stats. HP, Talk, Love, Party, Skill are what govern each individual girl. Every time you open your cabaret doors to customers, you choose a team of 8 women. As you progress through the game you will unlock new clientele targets, which will have certain tastes and will prefer particular stats over the other ones. There are different kinds of customers too; Poor, Average, Wealthy and Mega-Rich. Obviously the aim of the game is to appease the wealthiest and rinse their pockets of their money. Whenever you put a certain girl into the roster for the night, she will level up when the shift is done. When this happens, her stats will increase. The max level is 30 and once there, the stats won’t increase. Level 40 is the max level for platinum girls. Platinum girls you ask? Yes, all the women are ranked. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Platinum girls are very special and there are only 8 in the game. These girls are special and have side story content and dialogue attached to them. Platinum girls are also the only girls that you can dress up and customise. You buy them clothes and accessories so they can earn you more money. You gotta spend money to make money in this business.  With Platinum girls you also get the opportunity to train them in their banter with customers or even take them on faux dates to boost their confidence. But be a perfect gentleman! If you don’t banter well enough with the wonderful ladies, they won’t level up as much as they could. Just like real life.

Mana

You still reading? Good. I think I’ve got the basics covered. Now onto business. Before you open the cabaret doors, you need to select a team of 8 gals. It’s kind of like Pokemon. You want the heavy hitters in your team but you also want the less experienced ones to be there to gain experience and evolve. That metaphor went a lot better than I anticipated. But don’t push the lovely ladies too far! You over work them and they may become sick and absent. Not only that but if you overwork them their mood will go down which in turn will affect the customer’s mood and your wallet will grow less than The Grinch’s heart that fateful Christmas. Once, the doors open the customers will come in. They’ll stream in at an even pace which is nice. You have 6 booths and they will fill up steadily. When a customer sits down you will be given a brief criteria and also his financial status. He may be seeking a laugh for the night and therefore he’d like a girl to talk too and he may want a longer than normal session. If he’s Mega-Rich he may ask for a certain girl so as you can tell, the more you play the tougher it gets. Difficulty increases based on the customers finances. That’s why levelling up your gal pals is important. When, a customer is seated a little timer will appear at their table. During that time your cabaret worker may call you over for assistance. The lady will then prompt you with a hand gesture and you have to decode the gesture and select the correct option out of 4. There are a rotation of answers but some include a menu and a refill of ice. Doing the correct action will allow your worker to recover some of her health as working causes that to drain. It will also make the customer happy or yield a bit of extra yen. When the timer is up, the customer will want the check. You will have a choice of options here. You may be given the option to offer the guest an extension with his hostess. Maybe, you could give him a gift so that he spreads the good word of your workplace, providing more customers. Praising your worker is an option so she recovers health. And other choices. If you guest isn’t with a lady he likes though he may kick off and you will have to try to appease the guest and situation so choose who you sit your guests next to wisely.

Hostess-Stats

There’s a lot to go over with this mode so I’m going to skip some details but you get the idea.  There is also a spending spree party mode juice that you accumulate over time. When you have enough, you can use the juice to send several random customers into a spending frenzy. Timing is important with this as there are tiers of party mode juice. Level 1 will put 2 random people into Mister Spendalot’s. Level 2 will do the same for 4 and level 3 will put all tables into a merry time. This is key to making the most money as not only does it let you increase your cash flow for a brief time, it also raises the guests moods and recovers HP for your seated workers. I’ve not even got started on the competition! You aren’t the only cabaret club in town. There are several districts which each have the top dog cabaret club of that area. As you earn more fans from those areas you will be challenged to a cabaret club-off where you will compete with your current rival. If you win you will gain their best worker and they will be gone from the story, which in turn will progress the cabaret club side mission which is consuming my life. To defeat these might cavaliers of the adult industry you must recruit the help of local businesses. By investing money into a business you can team up and they will help spread the word of your club, garnering more fans and more customers. This cycle of earning money from the cabaret club, spending money to raise awareness of your club and repeating creates a very satisfying loop. It’s immensely fun earning millions of yen in one Yakuza 0 evening whereas 10 hours before that 1 million yen seemed like a fortune.

All of this combined has created an endorphins drip into my brain. The numbers go up, wallet gets big, I raise awareness, number go up more, wallet gets fat and repeat till satisfied. I’m currently on the last cabaret club so I believe my side mission is coming to an end. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop playing the cabaret club scene! Not only is it incredibly satisfying, it rakes in big quick money and it’s just fun to play. If Yakuza 0 had a 50 hour cabaret club DLC, I would be a very happy chappy. Until then though, all I can do is sing its praises and if you have Yakuza 0 and you have the cabaret club a miss, I highly recommend it. It’s similar to The Witcher 3’s Gwent in addictiveness so be careful with that. Anyway, thanks for reading and if you’ve got anything to add feel free to sound off in the comments. Cheers.

Spider-Man PS4 Review

Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial.  Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.

Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.

You’re welcome.

New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.

Spider-Man-Noir-Suit
Currently my favourite suit.

Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies.  They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*.  It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition!  I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.

The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.