PREVIEW – After roughly a dozen years of the first Yakuza’s release, SEGA and Sony might have picked the best time to release the prequel story of 0 to the Western audience. If you previously liked the first original on the PS2 back then, you can learn more about the history of the characters while getting ready for the remake of the first game – yes, SEGA is getting ready for that, too.
After the Yakuza: Dead Souls spin-off, it seemed that the franchise is done in the West. The 5th numbered installment got a perfect, 40/40 rating in Japan by Famitsu, and the PlayStation 4 (and PS3) Ishin title, which reimagined one important point of the Japanese history (the Meiji restoration) both seemed unlikely to get localized.
However, SEGA – seemingly testing the interest – finally released the English version of 5 three years after the Japanese release, but only in digital format. Get ready for the full-scale attack: 0 is coming, followed by Kiwami, and 6. Kiwami is going to be the remake of the first Yakuza re-done from the ground-up, and it will continue the events of 0.
Kazuma Kiryu will be in a wholly different situation in 0: our good old hero is a young gun with having barely joined the Tojo clan. The newcomer gets an assignment to beat somebody up, but he ends up involved in a murder case. That’s just one of the several plotlines – Yakuza has always tried to run multiple characters with their unique events in the series, and 0 is going to be no exception to the rule. I’ll say it bluntly: there will be multiple playable characters.
The battle between the top-of-the-line yakuza characters would not be the best without the cutscenes, another trademark element of the series. There will be a lot of them, and they will show something relevant from that period of Japan. In the late eighties, the real-estate balloon was inflating big time, making a lot of people rich in no time, although it did cause a financial crash in Japan in the nineties. SEGA implemented it into the plot. Well done!
Fighting here, having fun there
Yakuza 0 wouldn’t be a traditional game if it didn’t have an open world and a ton of minigames (with mostly different gameplay altogether) on top of the melee combat fighting. The fighting pops up the usual style: outside plot missions, you get attacked by mobs on the street, and you can either fight them or run away. If you choose the former option, you can choose from multiple fighting styles. The default one has average speed and power, but you can also become a tank with slow-but-powerful attacks, too.
You can easily find the style that suits you the best… and while the combat doesn’t seem hard to learn (as you can win by mashing buttons as well), you can expand on it big time. If you win, you earn experience, which results in leveling up. You can also learn new moves, which you can either get by purchasing them or learning them from NPCs and practicing the new moves with them. (You might require some of them towards later missions: some boss fights are not the usual I mash-I win ones.)
Then, there are the minigames. Karaoke, talking with the women in your club, going on a date with them to romance them (not on a Mass Effect-level, though), dancing (Yakuza Yakuza Revolution?!), or even play some retro games. Hats off to SEGA here: they even put in Space Harrier from 1985, a game from their past. Nicely done!
Will it be successful?
Yakuza 0 comes to the West exclusively on the PlayStation 4 (nope, forget about the PS3 port!) on January 24. For fans, it’s easily a must-buy (I personally know someone who can be considered as a Yakuza-buff; he played it in Japanese, and now he can’t wait to learn more as his JP skills aren’t the best at the moment), and it’s going to act as a warming up to Kiwami, which follows 0 in the summer later this year.
The success is a must for SEGA because it would maybe help up speeding up the process of localization (6 already came out in Japan in December, while we have to wait until Q2 2018 or so to get it in English…), but a better release date would have helped.
January 24 is the release date for the following titles: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Tales of Berseria, Resident Evil 7. Maybe a one-week delay could have been a good decision because then the game might get more attention. It’s too late, though.
It seems to happen too often: multiple games come on the same day, and some overshadow the others while still being decent. Publishers need to learn to time… but if they couldn’t do so up to now, they never will…
The game won’t be weak, and I think its success will be relying upon the attention it gets, and the localization’s quality (some stuff gets cut altogether or modified heavily). Everyone deserves a few punches here and there after drinking some sake… and then, we can spend our Yen happily.
These could make it a success:
+ The 1980s will make things fresh
+ Minigames, and the fun in them
+ More backstory for the main characters
These could make it a disappointment:
– How much content gets cut after localization
– The release date is unlucky
– Due to the different culture, it will not be a mainstream hit
Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios, Sega
Genre: Action, adventure
Relase date: Jan 24, 2017