Title: Yakuza 0
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (23.84)
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PS4 Pro Support: No
PS VR Support: No
Yakuza 0 is yet another great PlayStation exclusive and a fantastic way to start off 2017 for the already 3 year old PS4. Yakuza 0 is the first in the series, hence the 0 name, being a prequel to the long lasting Yakuza series. Now I know what you’re saying, “Alpha, this is just GTA in Japan, it fucking sucks.” But it’s really not, let’s take a look at Yakuza 0!
Yakuza 0 takes place in Tokyo, Japan during 1988. You play as Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima. The Dojima are a long standing powerful Japanese family that run a part of Tokyo. Your job is to get money from someone who hasn’t paid the man who hired you, seems easy enough right? Well, you got another thing coming. After a night out with your good friend, the guy ends up dead and now your family is getting a LOT of unwanted attention. This isn’t even 30 minutes into the game, how fun, eh? While I’d love to continue on about the story, I’ll leave it with one more thing. Kiryu’s objective is to find who framed him with the murder of someone who hasn’t paid a high-powered man. That isn’t all though, as there are two characters you play as besides Kiryu, who runs a club, Majima is the secondary playable character. While I won’t get into detail on his story since I want it to be a surpise, just know that it’s pretty epic!
When Yakuza 0 tries it’s best to simulate life in Japan, it succeeds in some big ways. While the city isn’t 100% explorable, like I will mention later, Kiryu can have fun with many things like baseball and dancing. So he does have some freedom outside of the main story and side missions. These things can be quite distracting but it makes it feel like it’s more lifelike than other games are.
The graphical quality in Yakuza 0 can vary a lot. Depending on the situation, Tokyo can look absolutely gorgeous with bright lights and insane depth of field effects when looking down a street or a wide area. However, it can fall flat hardcore. Some signs look blurry like they were meant for a PS3 game. Also, some textures can appear blocky and very bland given where it is in the world. Characters also vary, like for instance, main characters look stunning with amazing clothing and their hair looks lifelike. But even they can feel flat in certain scenes since their chest, for example, can look like a PS2 model ripped straight from the original game. When singing in karaoke, the text looks unbearable, like an upscaled 480p image and sticks out like an eyesore. One thing to note is this title originally launched on PS3 (this totally explains a few textures) and PS4 on March 12th, 2015 in Japan, so it isn’t really new, just localized for the US. One massive let down is pop in. Walking through the game usually has textures loading in feet ahead of you. Screen-tearing is also present, but it usually only happens when looking down a street and loading everything in down that area. Another massive letdown is Yakuza 0 doesn’t support PS4 Pro or HDR. I feel this game could’ve looked even more incredible with just HDR alone. My final hit on the graphics is facial animations, unless it’s a cutscene, the characters lips don’t move. That is highly disappointing because it really annoys me sometimes and loops me out of the world.
As for framerate, the game is very, very smooth. Yakuza 0 generally hits a locked 60 frames per second but can sometimes dip down when traveling through Tokyo’s busy streets and wide open areas. This title could totally use some more optimization so we can have a solid and fluid game.
“Yakuza 0 is one of best ways to start out 2017, and it might just make my top 5 games at the end of the year.”
One major issue with Japanese games is translating it into English for NA and EU countries. This can lead to some very odd sentences since some words in Japanese only have one meaning while in English it could have many variants so they usually stick to the bland side of the dictionary and it shows. Yakuza also tries to act “cool.” They’ll try to say things like “Yo” and “Whatcha” which seems very, VERY strange given this game is set in Japan and that doesn’t seem like something they’d say. It’s likely the developers are trying to adapt to the way people talk in the US today and it doesn’t work in their favor most of the time I feel. The fact that they attempt to adapt to the American side of things though is a nice thought because it shows they care about their fans worldwide, even if it’s not 100% spot on. Also, everything is still in Japnese, we just mow get English subtitles. While that’s a massive bummer, it’s still good to know what in the hell the characters are actually saying.
Throughout the game, there are little product placements that I felt were a little funny to see. For example, there’s Mountain Dew I wasn’t expecting that at all. I mean, obviously Mountain Dew is a worldwide brand but it just seemed funny that they would put this into the game and not some Japanese name brand. Maybe it’s to appeal to the American crowd since we drink that a lot here, maybe it was already in there. I don’t know, it was just cool to see in the game.
One massive downside to Yakuza is combat. It’s almost 100% identical to almost ever other Yakuza game which isn’t a strong point if I’m being completely honestly. It feels quite bland and not exactly fun. Basically, the game follows an easy to learn punch, kick, grab formula which is great most of the time but it can feel beyond repetitive when you’re not in the mood to deal with it. I have to note that it can be mixed up a bit. You can learn some new moves along the way which can make things feel more refreshed. You have 3 modes to fight others with. There’s Brawler, which focuses on heavy punches. Then Rush, which is lightweight hits and are faster to deliver. A third fighting style is also present. The second playable character also has his own set of fighting styles.
Fighting is just one of many different controls you have in the game. For instance, you have karaoke, which the game kicks my ass at it every damn time. You have to press Cross, Square, Triangle, and Circle constantly which can be difficult when there like half a second away from the next time you have to press a button. That might be the hardest thing to do in the game, which isn’t such a bad thing since it is not only fun but quite strange. It reminded me a lot of PaRappa the Rapper.
One awesome thing is Kiryu can do a shit ton of things along his journey. For instance, he can do karaoke, which is actually fun (but like I said in the paragraph above, hard). He could go around the town and spend his money on various things like food, alcohol, games of baseball, trying to be good at arcade games, and more.
As for the soundtrack in Yakuza 0, it’s full of metal when action ramps up during fights. When traveling around the city, you’re usually getting very subtle music when walking around shops, but 95% of the time it’s just city sounds. Hidenori Shoji is the lead composer of Yakuza 0. He’s previously composed Yakuza, Yakuza 2, Yakuza Kenzen (Japan only), Yakuza 4, and Yakuza 5!
One interesting thing about the game is… there’s a card collection section where you go to this little movie theater place to turn in the cards. From there you go into a room with a TV and there’s a box of tissues… you get the point. At least you got an interesting trophy for it called “I Did It for the Trophy” and I started bursting out laughing.
Following the beyond excellent Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0 is one of best ways to start out 2017, and it might just make my top 10 games at the end of the year. Sony Interactive Entertainment is always working on locking down amazing exclusives and I feel like this is only the beginning of something great. Despite Yakuza 0’s repetitive combat and graphical short comings (which I can look past since this is only a localization), Anyone with a PS4 needs to buy this game!
An important question is, “should I jump in the series now”. Well, yes. I’ve only played about 2 hours of Yakuza 5, so not much info was given to me yet. As for people starting fresh, I feel Yakuza 0 is the perfect start since it’s the first game chronologically. Yakuza 0 is just one of 3 Yakuza games coming to exclusively to PS4. Yakuza: Kiwami (a remake of the original Yakuza) is coming this summer, and Yakuza 6: The Song of Life coming in early 2018. So start with 0, then shift to Kiwami, then, if you have a PS3 play 2-5. If you don’t, it’s still fine to jump into 6, you’ll just know a bit of what’s happening in the future. I’m sure 2-5 will make their way to PS4 eventually so you’ll just need to hang tight!
BTW, I’m #TeamNugget, you’ll understand that reference down the line. 😉
Reviewed on PS4