Yakuza 0 Review
Reviewed on PC
It's taken quite some time for the Yakuza series to make it to PC, even after the franchise finally received the translation treatment from Sega and hit the Playstation a few years back. Concerns over console games being ported are always high, but thankfully I'm here to report that the work to bring Kiryu, Majima and the fictionalized streets they prowl to PC is nigh on perfect.
LET'S YAKUZA 0!
The PC release of Yakuza 0 features an uncapped framerate and the kind of graphics options you'd hope for when it comes to games ported from consoles. The likes of texture filtering and shadow quality settings range from low to ultra, affecting performance and graphical polish, allowing you to tweak and fiddle as you wish to find your perfect balance of visual flair and framerate.
I tested the game on an i7-3770K @3.5ghz with 16gb of RAM and a Geforce 1060 6gb (well above the minimum specs of an i5-3470 or Phenom FX-6300, 4gb of RAM and either a GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6870) and saw a perfect 60fps throughout at 1080p with settings on Ultra across the board. More modern systems and those with the monitors to support the resolution are likely to be capable of pushing the right up to the supported maximum resolution of 4K with relative ease. Throw on widescreen support and you're bound to be able to get the game running well and looking flashy on a whole range of setups.
The other benefit a port to PC brings is full mouse and keyboard support alongside options to configure input as you like, though a controller is advised as the best tool for Yakuza 0's fast paced combat and mini-games. Personally, I found that a mouse certainly helps when it comes to a few of those mini-games, but more on that later.
Yakuza 0 throws you back in time to 80's Japan, into the shoes of Kazuma Kiryu, a young yakuza aspirant living in a fictional area named Kamurocho. Inspired by Kabukicho, an entertainment and red-light district in Tokyo, the space quickly assails you with its bright lights, narrow streets and various hoods, hooligans and fellow yakuza out for a fight. After a brief introduction to the area, Kiryu is swept up in a plot to frame him for murder and begins a quest to clear his name by following leads, connecting the dots and generally beating the snot out of whoever he finds to be screwing with him.
Play far enough and you'll get control of a second protagonist by the name of Majima who operates out of Osaka, a second hub area, as he suffers another twist in the tale and becomes embroiled in his own battle to retain his role within the yakuza. Situations escalate, honour is called into question and lives hang in the balance as your characters tread a fine line between a criminal code they're bound to and their conflicting personal problems.
The core story plays out with well directed, albeit intentionally melodramatic, cut scenes featuring levels of smouldering intensity that rival the likes of a Takeshi Kitano movie. Fans of Kitano's yakuza movies such as Boiling Point or Sonatine, or the likes of Takeshi Miike's Dead or Alive are going to love the combination of serious subject matter, often absurd circumstances and characters with conflicting morals and loyalties. That said, as well as servicing those familiar with the subject wonderfully, Yakuza 0 represents an ideal jumping on point for those unfamiliar with the tropes of the gang sub-culture and its representation in media. There's no expectation on the player to know the plots of the other entries in the franchise, though I've little doubt that there are a ton of references and cameo characters from previous games that were lost on me and would only enhance the game for long term fans.
Side quests are a somewhat less polished aspect when it comes to presentation, featuring sparse voice acting and limited animation. Thankfully the pacing and placement of these additional tasks mean that a lack of lengthy cut scenes isn't a detriment and is perhaps a godsend when it comes to keeping things moving forward. Listing the characters who accost and ask things of Kiryu and Majima would take an entire article, but the combination of mundane and absurd tasks they ask as well as their occasionally poignant outcomes will regularly pull you away from your main objective, sometimes just to find out what on earth might be going on. In my time playing, I found myself leaving notes on bathroom walls for strange women, winning toys from a UFO catcher mini-game for a little girl and helping a no hope wanna-be Yanki rock band find their style, and that's a tiny drop in the ocean of side quests on offer.
When it comes to gameplay, Yakuza 0's combat is a relatively simple affair, albeit a satisfying one. A button to dodge, another to quickly attack, heavy attack and one more for unique actions like grabbing opponents or objects. Starting with one fighting style a piece, rapidly expanding to three per character, you'll soon be whipping out all kinds of savage combos on your enemies. You build up a Heat meter with successive strikes, spending it when prompted to use a powerful situational attack such as slamming an enemy's head into the pavement or knocking them off the side of a bridge. Majima's Slugger style was a personal favourite, dishing out powerful blows with his trusty baseball bat ends battles fast. Button bashers will make it through the normal difficulty level with relative ease while those looking for more of a challenge are likely to be contented with the game's higher difficulty levels as they demand more from your timing and ability to hold off hordes of angry fighters.
Supplementing the combat are the aforementioned mini-games. So. Many. Mini-games. The spirit of Yakuza's gaming forefather, the soon to be re-released Shenmue, shines brightly in this respect, to the point of overlap even. Sega's arcade classics Space Harrier, Outrun and Hang-On are present and play just as they ever did, while a UFO catcher game offers up a toy collecting opportunity a little more compelling than the simple capsule toys Ryo used to buy.
Beyond the already mentioned disco, Pocket Circuit racing and fishing games are baseball, bowling, darts, pool, casino games, majong, brilliantly silly karaoke and many more. Mouse and keyboard support makes a couple of these far easier, baseball in particular, and you can swap between inputs on the fly so you're never forced to mess with option screens in order to pick your preferred input.
It's easy to spend hours at a time completely ignoring any pressing need to clear your protagonists name's and instead collect every UFO toy, chase the high scores for each game and generally enjoy life in 80's Japan. So much so in fact that sometimes I found myself having to remember that there was a story I was supposed to be getting deeper into instead of just spending all my time buying expensive booze and singing Rouge of Love on repeat. It's far too catchy! EVERYBODY SAY ROUGE OF LOVE!!!