Before we begin, let’s set the record straight – I have never played a Yakuza game! Yep, you read that right. You may throw out a “WTF?” at this point, and you’d be justified in asking exactly that – what the fudge, dude?
Well, I won’t bore you with why I haven’t played any of the previous Yakuza games (you can blame it all on those retro games I keep playing!), but at least you’ll get a perspective from a player experiencing the franchise for the very first time! I come into the Yakuza universe as a total noob, so go easy on me.
The vibrant lights of Pink Street!
So,”What’s this Yakuza 0 all about anyway?”, I ask myself. Well, first and foremost, I had heard that this prequel Yakuza action game, dubbed Zero, was set in the 80s, my favourite decade! That was enough to pique my interest in the game, so I thought I’d jump in the deep end and have a go!
Sobering up some drunkards, the old fashioned way!
Beating up peeps can work up a thirst
From a noob’s point of view, Yakuza 0 eases the player into the game with great cutscene sequences that set the narrative for the protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, or simply just Kiryu. Obviously the title gives it away, Kiryu is a yakuza, a lowly debt collector for the Dojima Family (of the Tojo Clan). Kiryu is framed for murder and is then used as a pawn by a bent crime family lieutenant who aspires to be top dog. I’ll spare you the rest as I don’t want to spoil it for you!
Visiting the ‘family’!
No mobile phones in 1988, so pay phones were the best way to conduct business on the streets
I’ll be honest, I really wanted to play Yakuza 0 to roam the streets of 1988 Kamurocho, the notorious redlight district of Tokyo – to explore its karaoke bars, dart parlours and of course, its amusement centres – Club Sega and Hi-Tech Land were high on my list so I could play some (well, a lot of) Out Run! I really didn’t care for the story as to why I was setup for murder and the whole Empty Lot business.
Smoking can kill you! So can a bent lieutenant…
But before I could explore Kamurocho, I would have to dispense some good old fashioned beat-downs to street punks and hoodlums that were dumb enough to move in on my turf. Oh yeah, cash is earned the more peeps you beat up. These fight sections definitely reminded me of classic Dreamcast brawling action games, just like Shenmue. And just like Shenmue, it’s fun to explore the vibrant city you find yourself in.
Giving the vocal chords are work out with some karaoke
What I wasn’t counting on was the game’s ability to suck me into its story-line and its fascinating characters. I had to put the idea of exploration and playing Out Run to one side, as I set my sights on finding the people that framed me for murder and then confronting the bent Dojima lieutenant, Kuze. To say that I was now hooked on Yakuza 0 would be a gross understatement. With about 80 hours of gameplay, I have a way to go, and that is before I even touch any sidequests! So if you excuse me, I need to get back to being a yakuza and kick ten shades out of some really bad people.
Behold, the holy grail of arcades!
Damn, it’s closed. Can’t wait to play some Out Run!
image source: Yakuza 0