Posted on 28 Jul 2018 by L Coulsen

Yakuza 0

The Defence

Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Action, Adventure, Role Playing
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 01 Aug 2018

The Prosecution

Minimum
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 560
AMD equivalent
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 28 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

The Yakuza series has been a mainstay of the Sony platform since the days of the PlayStation 2. Growing, in large part, out of Suzuki Yu’s Shenmue, it features similar themes and almost identical gameplay. It’s always had something of a niche appeal, but has long been requested for PC porting. Which, finally, we now have in the form of Yakuza 0. A prequel to the original game, set at the end of the 1980’s. And boy oh boy, but it is about damned time.

The Trial

Bear in mind, this is actually the sixth mainline entry in the Yakuza series, tenth if you’re factoring in all the spin-offs. And though it may be set, chronologically, earliest in the timeline of protagonist Kazuma Kiryu’s story, it’s honestly not the best place to jump into the franchise. Though there’s nothing explicitly excluding one from doing so, much like the Star Wars prequels, it has certain in jokes and callbacks that will lack context, if not be flat out missed completely, by new arrivals. However, as it currently stands as the only Yakuza game available on the PC, that’s not a big enough deal that it should scare you away. Just be prepared for a trip back, at a future date, to make sense of some things.

Having said that, all of the games in the series are frikkin’ enormous, loaded with sidequests and extra activities that will have you wanting to come back anyway. These are honestly some of the most densely packed games ever made. The world of Kamurocho may be relatively small, as far as worldmaps go, but the sheer volume of content makes it feel immense. And that’s even before you factor in the extra areas you visit during your journey, each of them also packed to the gills.

The size ultimately works in their favour. Where some games, even those possessed of more content, are so huge and sprawling that they feel empty, Yakuza games are small enough that everything is right there. You quite literally cannot go round a corner without bumping into something going on. Also, even though a lot of it may not directly, or even tangentially, connect to the main plot, everything is so tonally consistent that everything fits together just right. No matter how bizarre it may be, it all just…works.

Pow! Right in the pooper.

At its core, Yakuza is a pretty simple beat-em-up. The combat system is complex enough to be entertaining, but it’s not what one would call deep. And this is about the most complicated it’s ever been, offering up three fighting styles to each of the two playable character. The thing is though, each of them is functionally almost identical. Different animations, but ultimately you mash buttons until your enemy falls over and doesn’t get up again.

Okay, maybe you’ll want to dodge or block once in a blue moon, during a boss fight, but that pretty much sums it up. Think of it as being a very simple, easy to use system, possessed of some interesting mechanics underneath if you want them, but without any of them ever being essential to progress. Which is honestly one of the best things about it. It makes the series very accessible, without being so trimmed down as to be insulting to more seasoned players.

However, to say that’s all it is would be grossly inaccurate. Those previously mentioned side activities throw in a huge amount of diversity. Everything from darts, to disco (seriously) dancing and fishing. And that’s just scratching the surface of what you have on offer. Again, each, individual mini-game is pretty straight forward, but there are so many of them there’s actually a lot to get to grips with. Plus, there are several of SEGA’s, period appropriate, arcade games available to play. It’s not quite a game within a game within a game, more like fifty different games all in one package.

Fast forward to vic-toe-ree!

Now, it’s worth noting that this is a port through and through. Built to be played with a controller, none of that has really been changed for the PC. Which isn’t a bad thing in itself, as the game runs with just about every controller in the universe, right out of the box. But should you so choose, there are (almost) fully rebindable keyboard options. The only part lacking is the in game substitute for the right analogue stick, which most mini-games rely on. For whatever reason, these are hard bound to I, J, K and L. That gives things like the karaoke rhythm game an unnecessarily steep learning curve.

Aside from that, this should be paraded as a casestudy in how to do a port right. It doesn’t do anything particularly exciting, with graphics options being about the minimum one would require for a modern release, but it does everything competently, whilst having enough PC specific features that it never feels lazy. Ultra wide support and an unlocked framerate being among the most commendable additions. And though it may not be an exceptionally pretty game, it does look really damned nice, and is noticeably improved over its PlayStation 4 counterpart, whilst running at an absolutely rock solid 60+ even on lower end hardware.

There are no significant bugs to speak of, the only one I noticed being hilarious. During the darts mini-game, the dart would often fly out of the hand faster before it had finished its animation, most amusing during AI turns. When their hand wouldn’t move at all, and the dart would just seem to launch itself, often in an arch. It might be patched out, but I honestly hope it isn’t. The only other issue was that the game has issues launching when things are trying to hook in. Though this can be easily circumvented by starting the game, and then firing up whatever you’re using (probably recording software) once it’s open.

The Verdict

Okay, there’s a hell of a lot more that we should probably go into, but because of how densely packed the series is with plot, it’s difficult to talk about most of it without going into massive spoiler territory. So let’s leave it by saying that this is a strong port of an amazing game and I, for one, cannot wait for the rest of the games to make their way over.

Case Review

  • Optimisation: Runs smooth as you like, even at higher settings and on lower tier rigs.

  • Port: Clearly not made for the PC, it is nevertheless tailored to make use of the new architecture.

  • Scale: Small area, huge content. There’s always something to do.

  • Japan: Yakuza is a series that is Japanese through and through, be aware of that if cultural context is something you can’t wrap your head around.

  • Size: The Yakuza games are not something to be finished in an afternoon. They take a serious time investment to see even the main story through to the end.

5 Score: 5/5
A great game and a rock solid port. Everything a growing weeb needs.

Evidence

  • Audio: Literally bare bones. Only one slider, no way to tweak individual settings. Though the default sound balance is solid enough that's not necessary, it is still disappointing.
  • Controls: Almost fully customisable. Unfortunately, there is no way to rebind the I, J, K and L keys, which are required for most mini-games. This makes them awkward to get to grips with.
  • Graphics: Nothing particulalry exciting there is, however, an acceptable amount of tweaking available. Especially given that this is firmly a console port, it's actually a really nice change to see so much on offer.
4 Score: 4/5

Yakuza 0 is rad. Kiryu and Majima’s romps around urban Japan dishing out self-righteous justice with fists and knives isn’t just a joy to play and hilariously entertaining to follow. Beating up bad dudes isn’t anything new to games, but the style that Yakuza 0 does it with is stunning. Yakuza’s gameplay isn’t hard or challenging, but it’s exciting enough to make you want to perform the coolest moves available on the goons who are more punching bags than threats.

Breaking up the combat is some great writing and atmosphere that shows off Yakuza’s wacky adaptations of Kabukicho and Dotonbori well. The main storyline is nothing to write home about, but somewhere between the sidequest about training a dominatrix and the one about rescuing Michael Jackson I started falling in love with the writing. Japan is a weird place filled with gimmick bars and panty vending machines, and when Yakuza 0 plays on those bizarre elements and throws in some over-the-top combat it’s at its best. Meanwhile, the main storyline, while not bad, is a much more somber and serious affair that doesn’t stand out as much.

Unfortunately, Yakuza 0 can be a grind at times. Bosses have too much health and too little difficulty, the entire real estate side content for Kiryu is dreadfully repetitive, and any combat challenge can be completely negated by stocking up on items beforehand. Even the optional Mr. Shakedown fights become trivial with some preparation. All of this coupled with the constant threat of the port bugging out and deleting progress can be scary. Despite these flaws, Yakuza 0 remains a great character action game that’s hype to watch and fun to play.

Appeal

4.5 Score: 4.5/5

I feel like I should preface this by saying that I have not played any Yakuza series game before this one and Yakuza 0 developed and published by SEGA is by far the most beautifully designed game I’ve seen in the last century. Its artistic value to the game category should be an example to other game makers of similar type, how to do your graphics right. Even on 720p with the graphics set to medium, I found myself going “Damn, this is one pretty game.” I meant it every time too, as the game not only look wonderful but felt like a true world I was walking around in. Kiryu is a very well designed character as well, and I found the voice acting to be quite well done in the game. So well done that when I would run into a side story or something that didn’t have any voice work, I was heavily disappointed.

The music in the game made me happy, I listened to it the entire time instead of putting my own on, which happens fairly often with games of this genre. I can’t remember the last time I even played a SEGA game, but if this is what we’re getting out of them these days – I want more! Is the game 3 years old? Yes. Does that matter? God no. It’s astounding to play, and I even enjoyed the combat in the game. I heard a lot of complaints about the controls, but I think that’s partially caused by the controller use. The controls on keyboard and mouse work at a completely normal level. The second I picked up the controller, however, I regretted. The opening splash says real yakuza use a gamepad? I don’t agree.

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