In the world of Yakuza 0, excess is king. Scantily clad women are plentiful, alcohol flows in abundance and matters are resolved with fists so frequently that even the staunchest pacifist could be swayed to believe that violence can solve any problem. Despite all its superficial excess – at its core – Sega’s Yakuza 0 is a captivating story about the emotional and physical repercussions of being involved with a notorious crime syndicate such as the Yakuza.
Admittedly, prior to playing this, I had not cut my teeth (or pinkies) on any of the games in the series. However, as Yakuza 0 acts as a prequel to the series as a whole, it provides the perfect platform for newcomers to become acquainted with the, at times, brutal and amusingly bewildering video game series.Set in 1980s Japan, the game weaves an intertwining narrative between protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Majima Goro. Kiryu is a stern and strait-laced soldier of the Yakuza whose story primarily concerns the crime group’s inner workings and politics. Whereas Majima is a flashy and seemingly otherworldly presence whose story is grounded by the characters and tribulations he encounters. Your control of each character rotates back and forth as the story progresses, providing the perfect juxtaposition of economy and emotion. Each segment spent with a character strikes a perfect balance of story, combat and the opportunity to pursue a substory or go wherever the lights of the neon jungle may lead you.
As much as I would love to divulge in the details of the game’s story, it would be criminal (no pun intended) to reveal anything about it – as it is such a fundamental component of what makes this game great. Yakuza 0’s story is Die Hard, it’s Bloodsport, it’s Escape from LA. It knows it’s ridiculous and it revels in the fact that it is. Loaded with larger-than-life characters and more action tropes than you can shake a kendo stick at – its rambunctious personality permeates every aspect of the game but presents it all with a straight face – and the best part is, it totally works.