Yakuza 0 review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: Yes

Many people will immediately compare Yakuza 0 to Grand Theft Auto. Open world, crime based gangster fun is what GTA was built on. Yakuza 0 however is more closely reminiscent of Final Fantasy XV than GTA. Allow me to explain. Yakuza 0 is less open world, and more semi-openly linear experience. There are mini-games galore and plenty to do, but you do it within the confines of the story guidelines that are laid out for you from the start. As you progress the game you feel a sense of openness that really isn?t there. You progress from one area to the next and don?t notice you are being guided along as you go.

This is not a bad thing, as the story presented to you in Yakuza 0 is absolutely riveting, and if you are someone who studies Japanese culture (like myself) you will find yourself drawn in immediately to the ’80s era Japanese landscape. Karaoke bars litter the world and you are free to move about and engage in a number of themed mini-games that are both fun and relevant to the period and culture that you find yourself in. The world never feels forced, but you never forget where and when you are. The dialogue, characters and environments always serve to remind you that you are indeed in 1980s Japan.

Cutscenes are an area that Yakuza 0 shines in, as it has since its inception in 2005 on the PS2. The story is in-depth and laid out for you in a way that is both intelligent and easy to grasp. This is conveyed both in those great cinematic cutscenes and in the way the game itself plays out. The everyday interactions with the populace however feel antiquated. Scrolling text conversation with no voice acting feels half like laziness and half like a clever throwback. Either way it detracts from the game and the immersion for me when I play. Moving from a scene with voice acting and emotion to scrolling text is jarring and something that I would have left out of this most recent installment in the franchise.

At its core, this is a PS3 game. You can see it in the way animation works and the way the world is designed. This was originally made for the PS3 and eventually pushed back and released on PS4. The new coat of paint is pretty and hides most of the blemishes, but some still seep through. Person to person interaction, movement and the blocked off feel of the world definitely show the age of this game, but these things ultimately end up pushed to the back of your mind as the games incredibly enjoyable story and gameplay elements unfold around you. Combat is by far the most satisfying part of Yakuza 0, with visceral finishing attacks, a rage meter that fills as you do cool moves and a general sense of grounded, realistic fun. Running into an alley to collect money you were owed by beating it out of someone manages to be a fun glimpse at a life outside yourself. I found it incredibly easy to find myself, a 20- something white man with a family, relating to and walking in the shoes of an Asian gangster fighting over turf in Japan. This experience is what makes Yakuza, and what sets it apart from other games of a similar genre. As I said at the beginning, this is less an open world action game as it is a solid RPG with open world characteristics.

Aesthetically Yakuza 0 manages to please even with its noticeably last generation animation. The world of 1980s Japan is brought to life so vibrantly I couldn?t help but be swept away in my hours with the game. Lush color palettes and stark contrasts accent everything the developers intended and more. I spent as much time wandering and marveling at the world as I did progressing the story. You can truly immerse yourself in the environment if you allow yourself to look past some of the clunkier mechanics.

This installment in the Yakuza franchise has everything returning fans could want; from the in-depth story to the plethora of mini-games and great combat. It also has everything that newcomers to the franchise need to sink their teeth in. Nothing here is designed to deter newcomers and everything is easy enough to grasp that anyone can jump in and play. Yakuza is an often overlooked Sony property and one that I believe deserves more attention. It brings something to its genre that most other games do not.

Outdated graphics and some clunky visuals aside, Yakuza 0 is definitely a game worth checking out. The game feels like a fitting end however, and something that works today but probably wouldn?t work in 2018. It comes in at exactly the right time, but by the end I started to feel that Yakuza needs to move in a new direction. New characters and a new arc will be in order, but for now just sit tight and enjoy the ride. Yakuza 0 has something for everyone, from karaoke mini-games and street brawling to collection racquets and gambling rings. This is a game from the ’80s, for the ’80s and should be enjoyed as such. If you have an extra $60 in your pocket and are looking for something new to play, I would highly recommend picking up Yakuza 0 when it launches on January 24, 2017.

Grade: B