I haven’t played enough of Outlast, Amnesia and Alien Isolation to write a spooky horror game article, and Wolfenstein is still over a week away, so I’m going to write about a neat game I had fun playing fairly recently.
Yakuza 0 is a prequel to Sega’s long-running Yakuza games, which are mostly about punching people one moment and doing karaoke the next, stapled together by an overarching plot about Japanese gangsters jockeying for power, and the innocents often caught in the cross-fire. It’s about as gonzo and tonally askew as I’m making it sound, and it’s pretty wonderful for that.
In 0, you play as Kazuma Kiryu, a fresh-faced yakuza in Tokyo framed for a murder he didn’t commit, and Goro Majima, another yakuza who’s stuck managing a high-end nightclub in Osaka after being tortured for refusing an order and is offered an out by assassinating a blind girl. No points for guessing that he winds up protecting her instead.
Before I say anything else, you should know that the game’s cut scenes look amazing, but anything outside of the fully animated cut scenes and the combat look somewhat iffy, and to show that off without spoilers, here’s a karaoke segment with half of each type. This is probably due to its nature as an upscaled PS3 game, so maintain reasonable expectations. Persona 5, for its magnificent sense of style, had iffy 3D models for the sake of its PS3 version.
Even if things aren’t 100 percent gorgeous and the endgame has to rely on at least one astronomically dumb decision on Kiryu’s part to keep continuity with the original game, the story is compelling and the characters are interesting. Said original game got a remake that I haven’t played yet and there’s another one announced for Yakuza 2, even if it’ll take over a full year after its Japanese release to get it in English.
The combat is always fun to engage in. It’s laid out like an arcade brawler, with light attacks, heavy attacks, grabbing, blocking, dodging, super moves and weapons you can pick up off the ground. Both Kiryu and Majima can use fast, normal and strong combat styles, that reflect their personality. Majima, who’s been made to act normal at his job, fights like a madman with a fast style that has him break dancing and a strong style that has him whip out a baseball bat and Kiryu’s tendency to take on everything on his own is reflected in a strong style block that lets him take damage without staggering.
Teeth fly, people get launched across the room, you can hit dudes creeping on women with bicycles and money literally flies out of pockets with every impact. It gets a bit repetitive, but seeing a very serious crime story bend over backwards to include some very silly set pieces is one of the best things I’ve seen in a game this year.
The side quests and minigames continue this trend, where Majima and Goro can take time out from their life or death exploits to play Space Harrier, go bowling, play darts, gamble and so much more. Most of the minigames are fully realized in their own right and a few can be played in two-player mode right off the main menu. The side quests are mostly ridiculous affairs, where Majima or Kiryu will get roped into someone else’s problems and must use their fearsome demeanor, punching skills or mere physical existence to resolve the problem. To get an idea of what kind of weird I’m talking about, Kiryu can pretend to be a producer for a commercial shoot after helping a dominatrix perfect her craft so she can be more assertive in her life, while Majima can influence Japanese tax policy after helping a girl escape a cult. None of them feature the fully animated cut scenes, or even much voice acting, but they’re still incredibly funny to play out.
If you like incredibly Japanese weirdness and good stories and absolutely love break dancing people into submission, Yakuza 0 is the game for you. Also, on a completely random note, they even announced a Fist of The North Star game in this style, with much of the same returning voice cast, so expect the tonal dissonance to reach hilarious new peaks when Kenshiro uses his super punching powers to mix martinis after knocking a biker into the sky, Team Rocket style, with a steel beam.
Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have you played the Yakuza series? Let Logan know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.