alex9234’s Sunday Review
Today, we’re reviewing a game from the only major Sega series that doesn’t suck. A game that is masterful, and has an excellent story on par with that of Sleeping Dogs. Today, we’re traveling back in time to 1980s Japan in Yakuza 0, which came out on the PS4 in 2015, but wasn’t released in the West until 2017. Or as I like to call this game:
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Yakuza Edition!
Yakuza 0 is set in the fictional Kamurocho district of Tokyo and the fictional Sotenbori district of Osaka, and takes place from December 1988 to January 1989. The story follows two protagonists, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, as they are unknowingly dragged into a massive power struggle revolving around a massive plot of land called “The Empty Lot.”
Kazuma is suspected of murder after the man that he has collected money from winds up dead in the Empty Lot. The head of the Dojima Family, Sohei Dojima, is planning to reward a promotion to second-in-command of the Family to who finds the deed to the land, and thus the family lieutenants go after Kazuma. He is then forced to leave the family, and eventually meets the head of Tachibana Real Estate, Tetsu Tachibana, who offers to help Kazuma prove his innocence. He is then hired by Tachibana as a real estate agent for the firm. But as a result, Kazuma becomes a target of the three Dojima Family lieutenants: Daisaku Kuze, Hiroki Awano and Keiji Shibusawa, who have issued an order to the rest of the Dojima Family to kill Kazuma. Kazuma is then forced to cut ties with his allies, even with his best friend, Akira Nishikiyama, and the captain of the Kazama Family, Osamu Kashiwagi, to protect them from the Dojima Family’s wrath.
Meanwhile, Goro Majima runs a cabaret club called the Cabaret Grand after he got kicked out from the Tojo Clan due to a botched assassination attempt in 1985, involving his best friend, Taiga Saejima. Though he enjoys running his club, he realizes it’s nothing more than a cage as he’s under constant surveillance by the Omi Alliance’s Sagawa Family. Then, the head of the Sagawa Family, Tsukasa Sagawa, offers him a chance to rejoin the Tojo Clan, and his old family, the Shimano Family, by assassinating a target named Makoto Makimura. He searches the city, and then he comes across a chiropractic clinic, where he learns that Makoto is a receptionist at the clinic, and is visually impaired. She lives under the protection of the clinic’s owner, Wen Hai Lee, a Chinese immigrant. After an assault by the Omi Alliance, Majima rescues Makoto, and takes her to an abandoned warehouse, where he keeps her hidden as he sets out to find out why Makoto is being hunted. Lee suggests killing Makoto’s body double and using it to trick Shimano and Sagawa, but he passes on the idea. Then, Homare Nishitani from the Omi Alliance does the job for him, which forces Majima to lie to Sagawa about Makoto’s death. It doesn’t work though, as Sagawa’s men discover the warehouse where he hid Makoto, forcing him, Makoto and Lee to run. They try to escape using Lee’s van, but it was rigged with explosives, killing Lee in the process. Sagawa attempts to kill Majima and Makoto, but is stopped by Masaru Sera of the Nikkyo Consortium – a Tojo Clan subsidiary, who takes Makoto into his custody.
Little do Majima and Kiryu realize, that their two cases are connected to one another, and the two of them will eventually be put into a position where they are forced to help each other out…
Yakuza 0’s gameplay is mostly similar to it’s predecessors. You are free to wonder the streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, and there are lots of events going on around town, and lots of things for you to do. The maps of both cities are also exactly the same as in previous games. While exploring town, you can stop at drug stores to stock up on health items, hit up the ramen shops and restaurants for a bite to eat, visit the discos to play a dancing minigame where you make Kazuma and Majima dance to some fake 80s music, and visit Sega arcades to play some retro Sega arcade titles.
The four retro arcade titles available to play are Out-Run, Space Harrier, Super Hang-On, and Fantasy Zone. Yeah, the game basically took out a page from Shenmue’s playbook.
The fighting controls are also similar to that of previous entries, and both Kazuma and Majima get 3 different fighting styles that they can switch between. Kazuma has Brawler, Rush, and Beast fighting styles, and Majima has the Thug, Slugger and Breaker fighting styles.
Both Kazuma and Majima have their own side businesses to run during the game so they can earn more money, because getting into battles doesn’t earn you much money. Kazuma runs a real estate investment in Kamurocho, while Majima is tasked with helping out a struggling Cabaret club.
Money is more liberally awarded than in previous Yakuza games, mainly to go with the theme of 1980s Japan and just how rich the country was during that time period. And there’s another reason – you have to spend money to unlock new battle skills and increase your life bars. Instead of gaining experience points from beating enemies like in previous games so you can level up, this game has ditched the JRPG elements of previous entries, and treats your in-game money as your earned experience points.
Kazuma Kiryu – Age: 20 (1989) – Kazuma is the main character of the Yakuza series. Before his current saga, he was a rookie Yakuza for the Dojima Family, who was set up and eventually forced out of the family. He eventually becomes employed by Tachibana Real Estate as a real estate agent, which makes him a target by his old family, who now want him dead.
Goro Majima – Age: 24 (1989) – Majima was a former Yakuza who worked under the Tojo Clan’s Shimano Family. He lost an eye as punishment for a botched assassination attempt on his longtime friend Taiga Saejima, and lives under constant surveillance in Osaka by the Sagawa Family. He runs the Cabaret Grand club in Osaka, and is promised a return ticket to the Tojo Clan once he makes 100 million yen in profit. However, he gets another deal from Sagawa to return to the Tojo Clan, which is to assassinate Makoto Makimura.
Akira Nishikiyama – Age: 20 (1989) – Nishiki is Kazuma’s best friend, who joined the Yakuza at around the same time Kazuma did in 1985, as both of them were raised in the Sunflower Orphanage, which is connected to the Tojo Clan. He is a member of a Dojima Family subsidiary known as the Kazama Family, run by Kazuma and Nishiki’s adoptive father Shintaro Kazama and Osamu Kashiwagi. As Kazuma becomes targeted by the Dojima Family lieutenants, Nishiki tries to assist Kazuma in anyway that he can, though Kazuma tells him to back off multiple times to try and spare him from Dojima’s wrath.
Tetsu Tachibana – Age: 25 – The president of the real estate firm, Tachibana Real Estate. He comes to Kazuma’s aid after he leaves the Dojima Family, and hires him as a real estate agent. He too is also after the Empty Lot and is also working to prove Kazuma’s innocence.
Masaru Sera – Age: 32 (1989)- Sera is the head of the Nikkyo Consortium, an organization that is allied with the Tojo Clan. Before, he was an infamous student protester who was arrested and sent to prison for a number of years. Though he doesn’t make his intentions clear at first, he is working to stop the Empty Lot from falling into the hands of the Dojima Family, and eventually teams up with Kazuma and Majima to accomplish their goals.
Makoto Makimura – Age: 20 (1989) – Makoto is a blind woman who works as a receptionist for a chiropractic clinic in Osaka under the care of Wen Hai Lee. She is also very frail, but very resourceful. Early in the game, she is targeted by families from both the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance for reasons unknown to her. However, she is rescued by Majima, who hides her from the Yakuza and seeks to find out why she is being targeted.
This was one of the best open world games I’ve ever played, and also the best Yakuza game I’ve ever played. I spent lots of hours playing through this game, and in the business sidequests to make more money. The gameplay, though a bit dated, is still excellent as always, graphics are also very good, the character designs are excellent, the business sidequests are very fun and highly addictive, and does a very good job of depicting 1980s-era Japan, and just how rich and prosperous the country was during that period in time. The story is also very well written and if this game was a movie, it would have won multiple Oscars and Academy Awards. The plot is THAT good.
I also noticed some similarities between this game and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, particularly in the plot and in the setting. Though the plot of Yakuza 0 is not a carbon copy of GTA: Vice City’s plot. And Kazuma is not the Japanese version of Tommy Vercetti. Though like Vercetti, Kazuma is placed in a situation where he has to accomplish a certain goal to get on his boss’ good side.
But one major flaw however, was the soundtrack. Considering that the game is set during the 1980s, you’d think that you’d get a soundtrack that is 80s-based, but most of the music in this game just doesn’t fit well with the era this game is set in. Sega couldn’t have gotten anyone to add in some synthesizer-based songs in the game?
One of the things that made GTA: Vice City great was it’s soundtrack, as it was filled with modern music based on 80s music and a whole slew of tracks from major artists from that era. Considering Sony helped with the game’s development, I don’t know why they didn’t contribute anything from their massive music catalog, which includes Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Joe Satriani, INXS and Prince’s entire music catalogs.
Sorry to go on about that, but I just think that Sega could have done a lot more to make the game feel more “80s.”
But nonetheless, Yakuza 0 is an excellent game, and by far the best Yakuza game ever made. If you haven’t played this game yet, do yourself a favor and get it immediately. It will be one of the best purchases ever made. And it’s now my second favorite open world game behind only Sleeping Dogs.
My score: 9/10
– Yakuza 0 main Wikipedia page (I don’t care, it’s still a good enough source anyway)