It has finally happened. The Yakuza franchise has made it onto PC with its canonically first game, Yakuza 0. Despite the setback of a couple game breaking bugs, fans have it in good faith that Sega is doing what it can to patch out the unforeseen issues. PC version issues aside, Yakuza 0 is phenomenal. I’ve never played the PC version, but the game is so good I need to talk about it. What’s so good about it?
What is Yakuza 0?
At first glance Yakuza 0 looks like a Grand Theft Auto clone set in Japan. While that may be the descriptor one uses to get their friends into the series, there is so much more to it. For one thing, Yakuza 0 plays things a little more serious than GTA. You can’t just cause wanton destruction any time you want, only to have the police forget about you a minute later. Instead Yakuza takes the approach that you are the main character. The main characters love their cities and would never do such things.
Fighting Mechanics and Story
But don’t worry. Plenty of thugs on the streets want to hurt you. The action of the game is segmented into story sections and street fights. But for a game with eight different fighting styles split among two protagonists, the fighting in the game is surprising simple and fun. Other than unlocking more combos, one can usually find a fighting style they like and just stick with it.
The game follows Kazuma Kiryu as he is framed for the murder of a civilian and Goro Majima as he tries to get back into the Yakuza after being sentenced to manage a nightclub instead. But quite honestly, the story of Yakuza is simple. With the story being so basic, you may assume that the game veers into the shallow end. It’s there that you’d be wrong. But more on that later…
Time Wasters That Don’t Waste Your Time
Kiryu and Majima loving their cities may sound like a detractor, but the thing that makes Yakuza 0 stand out is the sheer amount of activities you can take part in around the city. Like I said, the main characters love their cities. So, you don’t just dine at the multiple restaurants and bars. You can dance at the disco, race slot cars at the track, sing karaoke, play baseball, and bowling. You can even call a party line to get a date and go to a building that shows “dirty” videos of real Japanese models (they’re harmless…really).
This just scratches the surface of all the things that you, as the player, can do in Yakuza 0. My personal favorite includes going to the arcade and playing real Sega arcade classic games. These include Out Run and Space Harrier.
All the side activities aren’t just for fun. Doing things around town nets you “CP” or “completion points” that you can spend to upgrade your character, like running for a longer time and having enemies net you more yen.
And you’ll need that yen. While it sounds like there are multiple currencies, “CP” is only a bonus currency. Nearly everything in the game runs on money (yen). You not only use yen to buy health boosts, eat at restaurants and play the mini-games mentioned earlier. Spending yen on yourself levels up your fighting ability as well unlocking combos and making you more powerful.
Earlier I said that this game does not let itself become shallow. What this entails includes the fact that the game has a lot of goofy mini-games and sub-stories. They include one where you fight off zombies in a Michael Jackson music video. But these goofy activities that Goro and Kazuma take part in, don’t undermine the serious nature of the main story.
They have every opportunity, but instead these goofy activities balance out the game so that the dramatic moments carry more weight. If some shadow organization tries to take over Kamurocho, wouldn’t you care a little more if you knew the people? The people you dance battled? The girl you pretended to be engaged to? So many quirky stories make up this game that I wanted to see them all.
The truth is, it took a long time for this series to make it over to the west. It’s a miracle that we get to enjoy this series at all. Once the bugs get patched out of the PC version, I say go for it. And enjoy the quirky adventures of Kazuma Kiryu.