Yakuza 0 Review

Richard Walker

The Yakuza series is like few other video game experiences. Chances are, you either 'get' it or you don't. But if you do, you probably love it more than almost anything else. For many, Yakuza 0 will be their first trip to the lived-in city of Kamurocho, a neon-soaked city riddled with crime and corruption, steeped in immersive culture and brimming with opportunities to bust heads. You're in for a real treat.

Charting the formative years of series' protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and his on-off friend and nemesis Goro Majima, Zero is a good starting point, and an ideal opportunity to get to know two unique characters. Set in the heady 1980s, across both Kamurocho and the similarly dangerous Sotenbori, Yakuza 0 takes place prior to the events of the first Yakuza game and gives Majima some much-needed background history, revealing how he came to wear an eyepatch and how he ended up a psychotic member of the Tojo Clan, bearing the moniker 'The Mad Dog of Shimano'.

Kiryu's had his Ready Brek.

While Majima has a heap of problems to deal with – not least the running of Sotenbori's premier cabaret club and a burgeoning relationship with a blind woman – Kiryu, too, has myriad dealings to contend with, in an epic story that weirdly revolves around a tiny lot of land. An all-out gang war is brewing over this sliver of real estate – the last tiny, undeveloped piece of Kamurocho – and, inevitably, Kiryu and Majima find themselves stuck right in the middle. Kiryu, eking out a living as a debt collector, finds himself up against the very nastiest the yakuza has to offer, when he finds himself framed for murder.

It's not only the compelling narrative (muddled as it might be at times) that provides Yakuza 0's hook, however, but the plethora of offbeat substories and additional activities the game has to offer. As well as SEGA arcade classics, like OutRun and Super Hang On, and a variety of other mini-games, Yakuza 0 also has you running into oddballs like Mr. Libido, a man on the lookout for his dream woman, who happens to dance on the streets in his underwear. Other distractions involve disco dancing, sweet talking in telephone clubs, running a hostess club while beating rival clubs, and starting a real estate business with the help of a chicken (ah, Nugget, my favourite employee).

When you're not dividing your attention between side objectives like these, much of your time is spent kicking ass on the streets, switching between Kiryu and Majima's fighting styles on the fly. While Kiryu is a force to be reckoned with, with his all-round 'Brawler' and swift 'Rush' styles, Majima is a more unconventional, unhinged fighter, popping and locking with breakdance moves or delivering powerful strikes with a baseball bat. Level up your abilities by spending cash, and you'll eventually unlock both characters' fourth fighting style, which in Kiryu's case means becoming the legendary Dragon of Dojima.

Combat in Yakuza 0 is thoroughly enjoyable. Kamurocho and Sotenbori's streets are littered with traffic cones, bicycles, signs, bins, poles, and a range of other items that you can pick up and smash enemies with. Beat enough foes into submission and you'll charge your Heat bar, enabling you to unleash a devastating move that sees blood spurting from noses, teeth being broken, and heads being stomped with impunity. Kiryu and Majima don't take prisoners when it comes to trading blows, and the ultra-violence is in abundance in Yakuza 0.

Yet it's the central storyline that will keep you hooked, as Kiryu butts heads with Tojo Clan lieutenants who want him out of the picture – including old-school bastard Kuze and sneering smoothie Awano – and Majima strives to protect his love interest amid a swirling series of increasingly complicated events. Kiryu's Real Estate Royale affairs and Majima's Cabaret Club Czar side story are both entirely optional, although each is absorbing in its own right. There's never any shortage of things to see and do in Yakuza 0 – activities aside, the game is virtual tourism at its finest, Kamurocho and Sotenbori based on real-world locations Kabukicho and D?tonbori, respectively.

If you've never played a Yakuza game before, Yakuza 0 could be your watershed moment. It's a crime saga that's massive in scope, beautifully polished, and completely engaging, its setting(s) among the most engrossing video games have conjured. That it has finally made its debut on Xbox is a massive deal, allowing more players to discover what's so special about Ryu ga Gotoku Studios' sprawling criminal underworld epic, and at long last make friends with Kazuma Kiryu and co.

Yakuza 0

Yakuza makes its long-awaited debut on Xbox One with the best entry in the series. Yakuza 0 is a superlative game, boasting outlandish and violent combat, bizarre peripheral characters, and a story that introduces two great protagonists in Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Play it and you'll quickly become fully invested in all things Yakuza.

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Music that will worm its way into your brain complemented by superb voice performances across the board.


Detailed character models and hugely immersive environments ensure you'll be sucked right into Yakuza 0.


One of Yakuza's greatest strengths is its combat, and it's never been better than it is in Yakuza 0. Exploring the game's two cities is a constant joy.


A wonderfully polished game, Yakuza 0 not only has a story that will keep you hooked, but a smorgasbord of diverting side activities too.


A very fine list indeed that runs the gamut, encompassing practically everything there is to see and do across Kamurocho and Sotenbori.

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