Even though the Yakuza games have been around since the PS2, I’ve only ever heard about the Yakuza back when I first played Sleeping Dogs and seen them in films and the like; roll on to 2018, and I’ve finally played a Yakuza game… And so far Yakuza 0 has captured my heart. Hey guys and gals, Clarice here once again, and I am here today to rant and rave about my experience with Yakuza 0!

…I need to work on a better opening don’t I…?

Going into Yakuza 0, I essentially went in blind and didn’t really have any expectations; all I knew was it was some form of beat-em-up mixed with some comedic aspects – Really I had no clue what to expect, and what I was met with was a beautiful combination of graphics, great voice acting and smoking hot characters that wouldn’t hesitate to drive you into the dirt, along with hilarious mini games, sidequests and memorable characters – Especially with activities like the karaoke and arcade games… But what really makes this game such a gem..?

Let’s start off with the characters; to begin with you play as Kazuma Kiryu, which, due to me not playing any Yakuza games prior, I knew nothing about… Who he is, what he does and where he has come from all were a mystery to me, and due to Yakuza 0 being a prequel, this does give me a small advantage as I can watch Kiryu grow with each and every game as I advance. To begin with, Kiryu is not only a strapping young lad but he has his head screwed on in most instances – Although sometimes not the sharpest tool in the shed, his sheer will and determination to become the man he sees in his adoptive father, Shintaro Kazama, Captain of the Dojima Family, is ridiculously admirable, and his honour and pride as an individual just shine through the hardships he encounters, even going against Kazama’s wishes, Kiryu ends up becoming a Yakuza along with his adoptive brother, Akira Nishikiyama and leads to the main events of the story.

When introduced to both characters you can feel a strong bond between these two young Yakuzas (Yakuzae? Yakuz? Yaku? Who knows..), and it seems so far each character you have met have their own unique personalities and quirks that make them tick… But what makes Kiryu stand out isn’t the fact that he’s a main character that you play as – Watching him interact with others during side quests and how he responds to people shows us that he is not a typical Yakuza and has a heart, so much so that he is willing to die in order to protect Kazama and Nishikiyama; as you play him, you feel empowered and strong and able to conquer any fight that comes your way; by far, however, one of my personal favourite features of Kiryu has to be his voice.

Karaoke in this game is a blessing that I want more of, and honestly wouldn’t mind a whole spinoff game dedicated to – I enjoy hearing the voice actors sing their heart out; it seems that not only are the actions you take end up not only showing more of the character’s personality, but the voice actors bring them to life fully, making you feel as if you were watching a real event unfold right in front of your very eyes. Carrying on with the characters, the second playable character you meet is Goro Majima, once again a strong individual who at first glance seems pretty scary; maybe that might be due to his ponytail, eye patch and scars, but his actions in the first scene are extremely interesting and show the duality Majima has to display.

Majima is the manager of the Grand Cabaret, and has brought the place back to life since his arrival and now has graced the club with  booming success; we’re introduced to Majima by, instead of flat out pummelling someone’s face in, instead take the passive route and learn how to use the space to your advantage to dodge and to learn that some fights are best to be patient with. Majima as a character is a sly one, a much smarter version of Kiryu but both are the opposite sides of the same coin – Both have a similar mindset, honour is above all else. Whereas Kiryu is about protecting Kazama’s honour, Majima is about honouring his oath brother, Taiga Saejima. Just like Kiryu, Majima can also participate in minigames like karaoke and sidequests in which we see the softer side of him, especially in the quest “The Doll Girl”. Essentially in this sidequest you have to win prizes from the local claw machine to make a young girl smile; once you’ve built a friendship with her, she then wants to call you Daddy as you have become a very important father figure in her life, after which Majima’s heart warms up and even admits he likes the sound of it.

As you play the game you start to feel as if these characters were real, and begin to bond with them, even playing small minigames like the arcade machines, baseball and watching the erotic videos, you start to imagine that these are characters are indeed realistic (Even if they are more action and comedy-oriented than usual), and that they have a true sense of personality and individualism. What pulls this game together is the balance between when you change characters and when you encounter a different side quest, so far my favourite sidequest has to be Kiryu’s ‘How to train your Dominatrix’ quest, simply due to how he plays along with her and gives her the courage to be this Sex Goddess, and basically because it is funny as fuck. Seeing sidequests that are so outrageous is what makes this game a good laugh and everything feels over the top in the best way possible. Much like Kamurocho, this game feels larger than life.

This game however does delve into some serious topics, and can get very dark, but in my experience I felt there is a balance that keeps the game from being too overwhelmingly sad to hilariously funny. That being said, however, it’s not all sunshines and daisies in this game. It’s got the bad case of random encounters happening at times that you don’t want them to happen, or someone wants to brawl with you and makes you forget what the hell you were supposed to do. I understand it’s to pad it out and make the game seem alive, but sometimes I just want to go to the shop without any disturbances, sounds like real life am I right? And I get it, that’s what makes this game more active, that you’ll come across someone and boom sidequest, when in reality this is like your tenth one in a row… Can I please go do the main quest (Before you start at me, yes I know they are optional, but I am a terrible completionist; I have to do every sidequest as I go along and If I leave it I get a bad case of heebie jeebies…)?!

Saying that, however, so far I have no faults with this game, I am loving every second and have the urge to keep playing, even if that means I sacrifice a good night’s sleep. From the beauty of the environments in both night and day, giving it that nightlife vibe with the big neon lights and tight corners, overall the games presence and how it looks make you feel as if you were really in Tokyo… And I haven’t even experienced any frame drops or moments where it pulls you out of the immersion. Everything runs smoothly and efficiently and even just talking about this is making me want to play more. I would be more than happy to rate this game a massive 9/10. This game is almost perfection and I would highly recommend anyone this game.

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