Yakuza 0 is a delightfully dumb game. Embracing its stupidity, what could’ve been played as a po-faced story of our hero Kiryu being framed for murder and protecting your Yakuza brothers takes some wonderful turns as you delve deeper into the world of Kamarucho.
Often touted as a Shenmue successor, it definitely does have DNA from that series, only mechanically brought up to date with a more intentional tongue in cheek demeanour. The games humour really coming out in the side stories you encounter as you walk through the streets. While the main story is a largely serious affair, these side missions are a nice break from that. Usually ending with your fists meeting someone’s face, they usually come with a bizarre cast of characters who need your help.
For instance, one early mission has you helping a dominatrix become more, well, dominant. As you take her into the park and tell her to make you “squeal like a pig”, it’s funny if a little bit uncomfortable. Especially as you gain the attention of a number of eavesdropping children. Then there’s an early fight where you have to sober up drunkards by literally punching them in the face. It’s the perfect hangover cure apparently.
Fights while initially challenging do open up a lot more as you invest money into learning new moves. The best being ones that utilise your Heat gauge. Depending on where your opponent is, using Heat will activate a special attack that can decimate an energy bar. These can be simple like repeatedly punching someone in the face, while others can be more elaborate, as activating it when holding a weapon can make Kiryu just straight up murder someone. They do seem to be alive after the fight ends, but I refuse to believe anyone can withstand a baseball bat being swung with such force into someone’s cranium.
As you progress through the story it’s hard not to come across a new side mission on almost every street corner. A relatively small open world, the size of Kamarucho make the world seem just packed with things to do. The city is crammed with people, some of which want nothing more than to pummel you into the ground, and with a number of distractions that keep you occupied from the main story. There’s an arcade if you fancy playing some Space Harrier and as the game progresses you unlock extra modes where you can buy property and run a hostess club. At the time of writing the in-game clock is just past the 15 hour mark and there’s no sign of the story ending as the distractions are plentiful. And best of all, I’m not getting bored of any of it.
There are some, let’s just say, questionable aspects of Yakuza 0. Collectibles come in the form of cards featuring scantily clad ladies. Collect a set and you get to watch a bit of softcore action in one of the seedier establishments in Kamarucho. You do get a trophy for watching them, so that’s my excuse. It also goes from being graphically quite pretty to looking like a slightly better PS3 game, which is no surprise considering this was a PS3/PS4 cross game that just so happened to take years to finally reach these shores.
With this and Resident Evil VII taking January by storm, then there’s the impending arrival of Horizon Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Persona 5, the first few months of the year are absolutely incredible. Wallets are going to get a battering that’s for sure with 2017 off to a cracking start.