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.

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!

YAKUZA 0_20181009161944

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.

YAKUZA 0_20181009161431

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!

YAKUZA 0_20181009161904

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

YAKUZA 0_20181009162035YAKUZA 0_20181009161937YAKUZA 0_20181009161952YAKUZA 0_20181009162005YAKUZA 0_20181009162043YAKUZA 0_20181009162107YAKUZA 0_20181009162125

………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.

September 2018 Free Time: Games, Films and Anime

Currently I’m getting stuff sorted for my wedding, so I’ve been busy most of this month but I had this past week off and so I’ve done my fair share of gaming and catching up on films and shows. Here are a few highlights of my month.

Games

Yakuza 0 Cover

Yakuza 0 is still eating away at my time. I just got to the final chapter last night and so no I have every intention of slamming on the breaks and doing a bunch of side content. I’ve completed Majima’s cabaret scene and my focus now is Kiryu’s property management. Still, a great game and currently at 60 hours, the £10 I bought it for was definitely worth it.

Ni No Kuni 2 Throne

Ni No Kuni 2 has entered my life this month but with wedding stuff I haven’t got far with it. I also want to finish Yakuza 0 before I get majorly into this game. So far though it looks great and I’m enjoying the combat. I’m finding it a bit too easy though even on hard mode. Not trying to brag, having looked online it seems that is an issue with this game either being too easy or too many one hit kills on the higher setting. Other than that though I’ve enjoyed the first 10 hours. I’ve also written about another issue I had with the game here: A Game Sin That Needs To Die: Small Text

thumper

I’ve barely put time into Thumper but it has its hooks in me already. The dread, the rhythm, the simple but increasingly complex gameplay has that quick play itch scratched. Sometimes it’s nice to play a game with no story and barely any tutorials. Just jump and feel awesome. The music and sound is second to none. I can’t rate it high enough. It’s currently on sale for just over £6 on the Switch and I highly recommend it.

Films, Shows And Anime

I had a hankering for some South Korean films lately and I had 2 that I wanted to watch for a while. Train to Busan and The Handmaiden.

Train To Busan

Train to Busan is an incredible zombie film. We had a major over saturation a few years back with zombie films but Busan puts a fresh enough spin on it to relieve the tedium. The most intense parts of zombie films is when a main character is trapped in close proximity to a zombie. The premise is that a father and daughter get on a train to go see the daughters mum who is also the father’s ex. A simplistic setup, a zombie outbreak happens at the exact same time and as the train is leaving, zombies are taking over the country and the infection is spreading on the train too. What follows mostly takes place on the train with a wide variety of characters over several train cars dealing with being locked in with an outbreak. Fantastic characters and great set pieces. I was on edge for a large portion of this film and then also chuckling at some of the light hearted dialogue. Violent, emotional and a satisfying watch. Highly recommend.

The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden I saw a year ago. I really enjoyed it and was amazed by its story telling complexity. I wanted my partner to see it and so our week off work was the perfect opportunity. The Handmaiden is a difficult film to explain without spoiling. On my first watch I remember liking the film but not seeing the surrounding hype, not until a certain point in the film. The basic premise is that in the 1930’s a young woman is requested to be the handmaiden to a rich woman. I don’t want to give more than that away as the story developments hold a big part of this film. Even things that occur early on change the initial synopsis in meaningful ways. So, I’m going to make the choice of being a poor reviewer here. It’s one of those films where the least you know about it, the better. Just know that I’ve watched it twice now and want to watch it again in the near future. Probably don’t watch this with family though. Some graphic sex scenes are featured. Highly recommend.

FMA

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime that I’ve been watching on and off for a long time. I watched the original Fullmetal Alchemist to completion years ago and I have every intention of finishing Brotherhood. It’s one of those shows that I jump in and out of a lot. It’s a great show and some days I’ll watch 6 episodes and then I won’t watch an episode for weeks. But this week I’ve put in a lot of time. I completed the back end of Part 3 and I’m near the end of Part 4 now. There are a lot of narrative threads happening at the moment which makes me realise that my long stints between episodes is dampening my experience. Too many times I’ve not understood why a character is in a location because I’d forgotten what put them there in the first place. So, this is my commitment right here. I’m putting Brotherhood on this list as my promise to myself to finish it for next months round up. It’s a great anime, funny, full of drama and action. I just need to commit to it rather than starting new shows all the time. Unfinished: Great so far.

Random Recommendation

This could be anything, book, show, experience etc but today I’m going to recommend a podcast. We Hate Movies.

We Hate Movies

We Hate Movies is a film podcast hosted by Andrew, Eric, Steven and Chris who choose a film to talk about each week for about 1 and a half to 2 hours. As their title suggests, they talk about the dredges of film entertainment. From films you have never heard of to recent failures, they cover all bases. Some films you may disagree with like their Mrs. Doubtfire episode but if you listen to it, even if you don’t agree with them they make some good points and are constantly hilarious.

They do impressions a lot and by impressions I mean shockingly bad caricatures of people. I think they are genuinely funny. Their intrinsic film knowledge also means I’m constantly learning new trivia whilst trying to hold back laughter in work. With over 300 episodes on their base subscription and extra content on their Patreon, they have hundreds of hours of entertainment. I’ve listened to each episode at least twice and if you fancy trying them, pick a film you have knowledge of and give them a go. I also will highly recommend their Bee Movie episode and their disturbing Blame it on Rio episode. You’ve been warned though, Rio will put Micheal Caine in a new light for you.

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment if you’d like or suggestions for games, films, shows or anime for me to try. Cheers.