Yakuza 0 Xbox One Review
There is no denying the significant fanfare of the acclaimed Yakuza franchise. Its presence among Japanese games is a thing of legend for its incredible narrative, solid gameplay, and intriguing yet odd plethora of mini-games. Yakuza 0 gives players the chance to go back to the beginning and find out exactly how Kazuma Kiryu got to where he is today, a narrative that has been available in the West since 2017. This year, Yakuza 0 makes its way onto Xbox One, but is it a journey worth taking three years later (five years in Japan) or will time have made this an unwise and dishonorable choice?
Beginning in December 1988, Yakuza 0 follows the story of Kazuma, beginning his tale as a lowly Yakuza muscle for collecting debts. Hired to rough up a man behind on his payments, Kazuma is instructed to knock some sense into this man in a particular empty lot, only for him to turn up dead there later that night. All eyes look to Kazuma – framed for murder – as he is let in on the truth about this inconspicuous little empty lot; whoever owns that plot of land will own the city. Kazuma then sets out to clear his name and prevent harm from coming to his adopted father – a high ranking Yakuza member – as the plot unravels and this tiny plot of land is something much more nefarious.
Intro to Yakuza Karaoke Skills 101
Much like its predecessors, Yakuza 0 is a moderately paced beat-em-up with a classic arcade feel. It does take a little time to get used to the controls but its fairly straight forward, with new moves and abilities unlocked as you progress. The combat is very fluid, easily moving between enemies and dealing some amazing combos (and those environmental hits!) I was a little disappointed that the labyrinthian streets of the city were still rather rudimentary. Many areas look explorable but simply stop you with an invisible wall, be it a smaller alley, up a flight of stairs, or what ought to be an approachable shop. This of course – while a bit of a let down – is understandable given the game originally launched for PS3 back in 2015 when this kind of exploration wasn’t necessarily common.
The gigantic selling point to Yakuza 0 is the narrative. I have little experience with the series as a whole, and I can tell you I was not prepared for this level of narrative (nor this amount!) There are three types of non-interactive “cut-scene” styles that take place: In-game graphics, cinematic, and a unique stop-motion blend in between. These are all used to great effect to tell a fantastically acted and engaging story, but the game is easily 70% narrative and 30% actual playing. Several times while I waited to be able to play my screen actually dimmed from inactivity. While at first this bothered me, the truth is as a fan of strong narrative I was even more engaged, although I did wish it could be a little more interactive.
Despite being a bit cut and dry on the gameplay, there are a few notable additions to Yakuza 0 that make it even more enjoyable. The first is the Mr. Shakedown encounters, where you’ll randomly see a large man walking down the street. Should you fight him he will knock your money out of you if you don’t knock his out first. It’s a neat little battle to get coin but he can take a significant amount of your money if you aren’t careful. The other addition is, of course, the ridiculous level of mini-games. While most of the game is narrative cut scenes, this is balanced by giving players a TON of mini-games to play outside of exploration and combat. This includes going to the arcade to play SEGA games, karaoke, crane-game machines, and much more. It’s strange to see it so prevalent in a more seriously toned game, but it also make sense to have all of these distractions in 1988 Japan.
Yakuza 0 was a highly rated masterpiece for its time. It’s complex and deeply engaging narrative set an unprecedented level for non-fantasy storytelling and its gameplay was balanced with nuance between the over the top and the gritty. Today, three years after Western release on Xbox One, Yakuza 0 still translates well as an engaging and fun experience, particularly for those who love a good story. The graphics are slightly dated but nothing to be upset about, and only the somewhat foreign notion of the invisible wall cutting off stairways and paths is the only thing to be a bother. This mechanic has been changed over the years so to see it still thriving here immediately dates the game, but none of this is enough to make for a bad experience. If you enjoy the Yakuza franchise or need a jumping off point to get into the franchise, Yakuza 0 is a fantastic place to start.
** Xbox One code provided by the publisher**
- Fast, Fun Combat
- Tons Of Distractions
- Engaging and Captivating Narrative
- Too Much Narrative
- Invisible Walls