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Yakuza 0 Review

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Sega’s Yakuza 0 is a pre-sequel to the popular cult series and gives introductory narrative to two of the series main protagonists, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Set in an artistic impression of a neon soaked 1988 Tokyo and Osaka. A narrative intertwined with deception, power struggles and loyalty delivered in two split narratives that eventually coincide and eventually lead to a powerful conclusion.

The main campaign is split between two main characters and is delivered in two chapter increments. Kiryu is set in Tokyo and Majima is set in Osaka. Both of these settings have a very unique but traditional 1980s Japan feel to them. Tokyo is a calamity of claustrophobia and Osaka boasts a little more open area and natural environments. Regardless of location, everything is vibrant and drenched in a neon splendour. Each location also has an extensive living environment with plenty of random occurrences generating a real living environment feel.
Besides the main narrative which has about a forty hour existence, it also has in the realms of ninety side quests or sub-stories as they are known in the game. These side quests can often be just fetch quests but jumbled among them are some quests where you need to listen (read) to what is being said and relay information back correctly. These quests often end up in a brawl and sometimes they are completely whacky. For instance one of the side quests revolves around you helping to teach a young lady how to be a better dominatrix. The wacky humour is served up quite regularly but is never intrusive or overbearing but just enough to feel genuinely Japanese. With so many strong themes and an abundant and rich story line, the humour serves as a well deserved relief from all the sincerity.

When it comes to distractions that serve to sidetrack you from the main narrative, Yakuza boasts a multitude of activities. These activities do not only serve as great well developed mini games, but also assist in the immersion of 1988 Japan. These activities range from Baseball batting practice, gambling, dancing, billiards, darts and of course karaoke. But my most favourite would have to be the old SEGA arcades where you can play genuine 1980 SEGA titles in all their retro splendour. These activities can have you spending many an hour away from the main campaign but at the same time aiding you with currency (Yen) or equipment and consumables that will all come in handy later on in the campaign missions.
When we think about the Yakuza game series of course we relate it to organised crime in Japan and a heavy handed helping of narrative, but of course our main driving factor is the combat. Yakuza 0 not only accommodates to our more brutal necessities but often over delivers resulting in euphoric combos and extreme amounts of brutality. Both characters have their own three unique fighting styles. They are essentially just two different variations of brawler, rush and heavy. Each of these have different and preferable applications with many different enemy variations that call for a different approach. This makes combat, which can sometimes be labelled as slightly repetitive, a little more engaging. A mixture of combos centralised around a four button input process helps to not convolute the combat mechanic with an over saturated amount of combos. A heat gauge helps measure levels of success during conflict but also serves as a depletable resource which you can use to unleash a heavy attack. The heaviest attack available to you in the game is a grapple manoeuvre that is applicable to many environmental circumstances. None are more brutal than the car finisher that utilises brute force and a car door.
Upgrading each character is not a hard process to comprehend, just a lengthy process. Each upgraded ability cost Yen and quite a hefty amount. The game is not shy in handing out the currency, it is just the sheer abundance required. The most notable aspect to upgrading your abilities that needs attention is that each fighting style has a 'Master' character within the game that you need to meet in order to acquire their said style. Revisiting this master throughout progression of the game enables the ability to acquire new moves and combo variations. This not only helps to maintain a sub plot but adds a feeling of achievement when the new move is obtained. It's not a hard process but it's definitely one that requires attention.

There are a few aspects of the narrative delivery that need mentioning and analysing. Firstly are the cutscenes. This being said, the game has no problem taking the reins and delivering anything from ten minutes to an hour long cutscene. This serves to deliver a very in-depth story with a massive amount of character development and detail. One of the major factors between this being a major AAA game and a pure cult series title, is the fact that it is all delivered in Japanese with English subtitles. This being said, a lengthy cut scene can turn into quite a lengthy reading session. This amount of devotion from the player would usually resonate with a fan of the genre as opposed to a mainstream gamer. The cut scenes can be broken down into three different delivery styles. The first being a fully rendered cut scene complete with voice acting. The second being a comic book style picture in picture with random facial movements, still with full voice acting and the third delivery style is with in-game graphics and no voice acting other than just the odd word with all subtitle style communication. The cut scenes can sometimes feature all three delivery methods which can derive from the games overall graphical quality and delivery.
There is a metal inspired soundtrack during combat that is second to none when it comes to music that rises to the occasion. A good soundtrack coupled with competent voice actors delivers a very well rounded audio presentation. I have made mention that in the western world there will be a lot of players reading the subtitles as opposed to understanding the Japanese, this is not a bad thing in my opinion because the traditional voice acting adds depth of quality and traditionalism to the title. Unfortunately the fact that it is all subtitled will hold it back from a wider range of player base.
This is truly a stroke of genius from SEGA. Boasting over 40 hours of campaign, not to mention the side stories, mini games and post game content, which lends itself towards more of a 200+ hour experience. There a lot of aspects of the game I have only touched on in this review and left for you to just experience for yourself. I would love to hear your comments and what you think about this game either in the comment section below or feel free to come join the conversation across on our Facebook page.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

Positives:
  • Brilliant combat mechanic
  • In depth living world
  • Complex and well delivered narrative
Negatives:               
  • A lot of subtitle reading
  • Inconsistent narrative delivery
  • Occasional graphical inconsistencies
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Playstation 3
Genre:  Action Adventure
Initial Release: 24/1/2017
Developer:  Sega
Publisher: Sega

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