So I Tried...Yakuza 0
Each edition of So I Tried… I will try a game that I have never tried before. Will I find something new to love? Will I find something new to despise? I'll take a full half hour, no matter how bad it gets or how badly I do, to see if this is the game for me. The Steam Summer Sale having been less than a month ago, I’m now left with a stack of games that I need to get through at some point or another. This time around, I gave Yakuza 0 a fair shot, having heard high praise from close friends.
What I Thought It Was
Goofy dialogue, lots of mini-games, a bit like a more energetic Shenmue. I’d seen glimpses of Yakuza 0 through gameplay and discussion, but not enough to get a proper picture as to what I was looking at. I was initially disinterested as I felt I had a lot on my plate with games already, especially with Yakuza 0 being a prequel to a long running series dating back to 2005. My friend gifted me the game during the Steam Summer Sale, which was what convinced me to give it a try eventually.
What It Actually Is
Upon booting the game up, I was told that “Real Yakuza use a gamepad”, which successfully goaded me into retrieving my Xbox 360 controller from across the room. After doing this and quickly adjusting the settings in the menu, I was immediately thrown into a cutscene. Some poor sap appeared to be begging for whatever reason, and a stone cold man dressed in a suit stood over him. After promptly breaking his face with his foot, the man retrieves the victim’s wallet and walks off.
An encounter with a cocky young man and his friends reveals that I am, in fact, a member of the Yakuza, and I’m met with due respect from the boy’s friends who convince him to back off from me. After meeting with the loan shark who apparently paid me a cut to retrieve the money, I was treated to an admittedly pretty awesome opening accompanied by the busy, neon polluted night of Kabukichō, Tokyo.
Right off the bat, I was struck by how well framed the cutscenes were. Many games of late that take a stab at being “cinematic” tend to fall on pretty repetitive shots, not really ever taking into account mise-en-scène, rule of thirds or any aspects of shot composition past the basics. However, there’s a lot of variation and interesting use of the camera, such as the visuals of the slowly sliding long shot of our protagonist inspecting the wallet, from the borders of the alley, or the high angle look we get of the victim post beatdown, sprawled on the floor. It’s refreshing to look at, and meant I didn’t get bored at any point watching (which is good, because as I hear it, the story is a big draw to the series).
The night continued with my character receiving a pager from an apparently late friend and beating up a gang of thugs to pass the time. As you do. The combat itself is simplistic but works due to the satisfying animations and sound effects. The game having later hinted at more “styles” to unlock, I’d imagine the combat goes deeper than what you’re initially exposed to, as well as upgrades being dangled in your face as an incentive to keep playing. I unfortunately didn’t have enough cash to invest in anything meaningful just yet.
The dialogue is less goofy than I’d imagined. It isn’t treated completely seriously all of the time, but more often than not it serves to highlight character, and it does this well. Our protagonist, Kiryu, is a stark contrast to his friend, who uses his Yakuza status to pick up girls and spend on expensive items such as suits and fancy lighters. Kiryu on the other hand, dresses modestly, and seems to be more of an old-school gangster, perhaps an anachronism of a simpler time.
In any case, my time with Yakuza 0 finished with a sudden but welcome karaoke number, which served as an innocent rhythm mini-game. I, of course, achieved the “Karaoke Pro” rank, before checking out shortly after.
Will I Keep Playing
As of yet, I’m not sure. Shinier games seem to be beckoning me to continue them, and whilst I’m intrigued by Yakuza 0, the intimidation of the long franchise it precedes remains. Only time will tell if I’ll return, but I’m indecisive. You might catch me playing it tomorrow.