Well, hello there, dear steemians! I really want to talk about the Yakuza franchise (mainly Yakuza 0), and why it brings a huge grin on my face whenever I begin playing it.
Firstly, what is this Yakuza? Well, the series' original title was "Like a Dragon", but us in the west got the more generic name when they brought it here. Many have called this series Japanese Grand Theft Auto, and they are pretty far from the truth. The only similarity is the fact that they both deal with organised crime. Yakuza is a hub based brawler set mainly in Kamurocho, a fictional Red Light district of Tokyo.
Yakuza 0 in particular deals with two protagonists, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, who go around doing their business in their own little corners of Japan. Kiryu is a stoic young member of the Dojima family who was wrongly accused of murdering someone in a place (called the Empty Lot) which is warred over by a lot of different factions in Kamurocho. Majima, on the other hand, is a broken man who was kicked out of the yakuza and who is being forced to manage a cabaret named The Grand, giving the spoils to his yakuza overlords. The story continuously evolves, shaped by the actions of these two men, and I am not gonna spoil it.
So, the story is a very serious crime drama with twists and turns. What about the rest of the game? You know the concept of ludo-narrative dissonance, I used it quite a bit in the past. Games usually try very hard to avoid this concept, but Yakuza 0 looks at them, has an over the top reaction which will make you laugh, and then starts doing all the crazy shit it can possibly come up with. It has karaoke bars, it has arcades with old Sega games, it has a disco dancing minigame, and this list goes on and on with lots of side activities. They are fun on their own, but for doing some challenge tasks related to those, you receive Completion Points, which you can exchange for different perks, like endless sprint, enemies drop more cash, a collectible radar, and many more. There are also side quests called substories, which present outlandish scenarios like helping a dominatrix learn how to do her job, in a park full of kids. Or, befriending a man addicted to sex, nicknamed Mr. Libido. Because why not?
So, the game's tone is like going on a bizzare adventure (is that a JoJo reference?) with serious moments when on story missions, but wacky experiences during the moment to moment gameplay. Speaking of, most of the gameplay is taken up by the brawling system, which is really robust. Each of the characters has three different fighting styles which you can upgrade with money and can be selected in battle at a moment's notice using the d-pad on your controller. You can also pick up different props in the environment, like couches, traffic cones or pieces of lumber and smack the crap out of you adversaries. Manage to avoid damage and you will charge up the heat bar which rests under your health bar, resulting in faster movement and access to special context sensitive moves named predictably heat moves, which deal massive damage.
So, story is nice, side content is also nice and gameplay is really robust. It should come with little surprise that the presentation is also on point. It doesn't have the ultimate graphics, but it does wonderswith what is there. The models of main characters are so detailed you can see the pores in their skin, a quality which does not translate well to the supporting cast of the substories. The hubs you will spend your time in are not very large, but they are bursting with detail, like neon lights, clutter like bicycles, traffic cones, boxes, garbage, posters and grafitti on the walls, which when taken as a whole set the mood of the game perfectly. It should be noted that not all dialogue is voiced, so you will have to do some reading if you decide to play this. Voice acting is reserved mainly for the main quest, and it really shines in those rare moments.
All in all, this game is pretty unconventional and I love it for it. You can get this game on Play Station 4 and soon you will be able to get it on Steam, and I highly recommend you play this masterpiece of a game. I should also mention that a remake of the first Yakuza game was released, named Yakuza Kiwami, and a remake of Yakuza 2 is on the way.
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