Tag Archives: Yakuza 0

Return to Modern Day Everyday

Don’t ask…

After homecoming and a bit of physiotherapy, my life is falling back into its normal pattern. I even managed to finish my plate of early spring games by finally beating Yakuza 0 from almost a couple of months back, although only by skipping a notable amount of side content. Even after more than 65 hours, my completion percentage was a paltry 60.69%. No can do; all Yakuza games are such huge strawberry cakes that even if they are the most enjoyable thing for quite some time, enough is eventually enough. Still, the main story was brilliant as usual. Towards the memorable, bittersweet conclusion the game really amped up its drama, manly tears were shed, and the families vying for ever more power in the clan got caught up in a storm of treacherous scheming and mutual backstabbing. It wasn’t even a matter of distinctly good and bad guys duking it out more than it was about different shades of gray. Impressive!

I actually planned to complete the game more than a couple of weeks ago. The final confrontations, however, got so punishing even on the easiest difficulty that I respectfully backed down and first finished both Kiryu’s real estate management and Majima’s hostess club side stories. Completing them rewarded both characters with so much income and other goodies that by the time I headed back to the final fray, even the strongest of adversaries were total pushovers. Granted, I also could’ve learned all the intricacies of the surprisingly deep battle system in the very beginning but in this series, it’s deceptively easy to rely on just mindless button mashing and a couple of simple combos that eventually get the job done. Still, it’s only nice that you can enjoy the game as casually or seriously as you prefer.

As for side content, there’s definitely more than enough. Achieving absolutely everything the game has to offer would require two playthroughs and most likely more than double the hours invested. As for myself, I had a great time with all the hilarious social stuff but voluntarily skipped most fighting activities and more than a dozen bar, gambling, and board games that have already been featured throughout the series. Even if comprehensive tutorials are there to teach you even the likes of shogi and mahjong, it’s very much a matter of each to their own. Many of the minigames and other miscellaneous stuff are perhaps a little too plain and repetitious but at least there’s plenty to choose from.

On whole, Yakuza 0 is, at least for now, hands down the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had this year. Those of us who have been along the ride since the very first game might already find it a little too familiar at times but the developers always pack so much emotion and warmth to these games that come summer and Yakuza Kiwami, I’ll most likely find myself back in Kamurocho once more.

A lovely haul any other week than this :/

I’m actually quite pleased to have the aforementioned juggernaut out of the way. While I’ve been not-gaming, yet more PS4 releases managed to sneak in. Nier: Automata, praised by both critics and gamers alike, really is most intriguing. Before jumping into it, though, I think its PS3 predecessor, Nier, warrants a replay. Even if I’ve come to understand that Automata is pretty much a sequel in name only, this genre-defying action-JRPG series is so unique that it’ll probably be even better by enjoying both games in succession. Besides, it has been closer to seven years since I last played Nier, so it’s definitely due for another go-round.

In the meantime, by now Square Enix must have made some sort of world record by following up on Kingdom Hearts II with about a gazillion other Kingdom Hearts games that seem connected only by the fact that none of them is Kingdom Hearts III. I’ve only played through the first two games of the main series but now that PS4 got yet another not-KH3, namely Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, I think that by the time I’ve completed its compilation of six different games, it might be time for the actual third part to be released. Around 2021 or something.

Considering the games I currently have, I’m actually most tempted to dwell into Mafia III, even if it didn’t garner much acclaim back when it was released. However, considering the games I DON’T have, there’s that certain recent Atlus mega-release that in my case seems to enjoy yet another merry weekend in transit (that’s what you get for being a petty cheapskate and importing from across the world). Damn it! Thankfully I was going to be busy this weekend, anyway, so it’s not the end of the world. Still, if that undoubtedly highly mysterious game isn’t by my doorstep come the four-day Easter holiday next week, my cursing will also be heard in the neighboring municipalities. You have been warned.

Manager King

Whoa! As much fun as getting sidetracked in Yakuza 0 is, it’s not something you should do at all. The further the story goes, the more the game opens up its absolutely fantastic side content. It’s once again time to bid Kazuma Kiryu farewell with a juicy cliffhanger. Back in Osaka, Goro Majima is still in trouble but I think his money woes, at least, are about to end. While the traditional, pompous cabaret business still brings in money, the future lies in hostess clubs. Thanks to some awfully convenient coincidences, Majima ends up managing one such club that is also fighting for its very existence against five hardcore rivals. If Kiryu’s real estate business was captivating already, this one takes it to another level!

While you can recruit professional staff in various ways, a hostess army alone won’t your market share improve. Majima has to train his employees to be the absolute best in the business, requiring both personal sparring and focusing on everyone’s strengths, be they conversation, partying, wooing, or just plain finesse. Once you’ve settled with the staff you think are capable of handling a day, it’s time to open the doors and jump into a hectic night of entertainment. As customers pour in, you have to quickly assign the best hostess for each, and ensure they all leave happy and – hopefully – broke. As the night goes on, problems and requests arise, all of which a skilled manager handles with style and perception.

Even if I’ve only experienced a single night of this chaos, I’m already totally hooked. Yakuza 0 hides within a full-blown management simulation of such caliber that it’s probably going to be even more of a timesink than all that wonderful real estate hassle of yesterday. No two questions about it; this is a bloody brilliant ride!

Cash King

Money, money, money!

Now that I’ve cleared off all side projects in one way or another, it’s once again time to fully focus on Yakuza 0. And sheesh, does it get ever better as it goes! While Goro Majima seems to have some serious financial woes, Kazuma Kiryu is already knee-deep in real estate business and living the high life. After scoring a company and a perky secretary of his own, Kiryu finds himself pitted against five local billionaires vying for the real estate dominance of Kamurocho. It’s a battle fought district by district, property by property, and even if it’s just an optional side activity alongside the story, it provides hours of captivating content.

You beat your competition by purchasing all the properties on their turf. Their price range varies from a few million yen to hundreds of millions, but even if the initial investment always stings a little, they then produce steady income every few minutes or so. As an absolutely wonderful idea, the people Kiryu meets and helps in side stories eventually end up working for him. Some excel at managing districts’ finances, others at upholding their security, and the rest can be hired as consultants to improve the properties to generate even more revenue. Your rivals aren’t too happy with a newcomer, of course, so every now and then CEO Kiryu has to teach business etiquette the hard way.

This whole real estate management is probably the best Yakuza idea ever! After you assign your staff to their duties, turn on the business cycle, and wait to cash in, you have just enough time to perhaps complete a side story or have some fun in the nightlife of Kamurocho. It’s ridiculously lucrative, too. Even if I’m still spending most of my money on new properties, it’s still a joy to head back to the office every five minutes or so to collect a few hundred million yen. I was once impressed how even an ordinary street brawl was worth almost half a million. Now, that’s chump change. Thankfully some obscenely rich prick I met on a side alley taught me the way of distracting troublemakers by throwing cold hard cash on the streets. When you’re busy making more money, who cares about a measly hundred grand if it saves you time and effort.

That’s not to say I’ve saved any time, though. In real life, this game has already subtly robbed me of 29 hours and as far as the story goes, I’ve probably covered just about a third. Oh well, no reason to keep count when it’s getting better day by day. Gaming year 2017 sure couldn’t have kicked off better than this!

All Quiet on the Gaming Front

Breathtaking!

This week has been mostly same old, same old. My main project is still Yakuza 0, which has temporarily bid farewell to Kazuma Kiryu and his real estate woes. The focus is now on Osaka, where perhaps the most beloved maniac in the entire series, Goro “Mad Dog” Majima, is leading a most peculiarly serene life. He is the refined manager of the fanciest, most successful cabaret in town. Instead of indiscriminate acts of brutal violence, Majima spends his time entertaining his clientele and taking care of his staff. Still, for him such ostentatious high life is but a reluctant prison. Thanks to his youthful blunder, he lost both his left eye and his position in the yakuza. He’d like nothing more than a new chance, but that’s not even negotiable without a 500 million yen apology. Bubble economy or not, that’s a sum that will probably take quite some effort to raise.

Since I’m in charge, Majima has not been concentrating on earning money but enjoying the nightlife of Osaka. Just like in Kamurocho, amusing side stories and eccentric characters pop up almost everywhere. The most wonderful aspect of the game is still its good-natured jabbing at the 80’s. As Majima, you get to marvel at the emergence of cellphones, or even have your say on how the government should improve taxation in the coming decades. Osaka’s Sotonbori (Dotonbori in real life) is familiar from Yakuza 5 but it, too, has been given a lovely PS4 overhaul. The areas in Yakuza games have never been particularly large, but what they lose in size, they win back in attention to detail. Neon signs, street adverts, vending machines, convenience store shelves, even the pavement… Absolutely everything has been designed with extreme care and authenticity. It’s because of this impeccable pedantry that I’ve already played for 18 hours, yet the story is still in the bullpen. In these surroundings, just gawking around, doing nothing in particular, and breathing in pure Japan is the way to go!

Yes… Yes it does…

Over on 3DS, I’m still making progress in Rhythm Paradise Megamix, although awkwardly. As much fun as it was to go for perfection, I’ve now more or less given up and struggle through the challenges with minimal effort. For some reason, the game no longer feels entertaining. I’m not entirely sure why, but (inadvertent) discouraging might be it. Even if the challenges themselves are still spontaneous crazy comedy, the game takes its rhythm dead seriously. The required reaction times and hit windows are becoming so small that some beats seem to hit more by accident than skill. It’s frustrating when your head and your fingers convince you of your rhythm being right but the game begs to differ. It more or less requires you to reach a flow of some kind, but even if that would only take more practice and especially repetition, it’s starting to feel more like work than actual fun. Luckily the challenges are still less than a minute each, so the game is still tolerable in small bursts.

D’awwwwwwwww!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is stumbling as well. Its third case was just as colossal and needlessly convoluted as the second. The fourth one, in turn, was weirdly short and remarkably detached from everything else. In other words, the pacing is off and the common thread lost. If Spirit of Justice was only about Phoenix and Maya adventuring in Khura’in, it might have risen to the excellence of the dreamy original trilogy. As it stands, it’s a disappointingly vague “something for everyone” experience. Despite all that, though, I must praise the holy priestess and princess of Khura’in, Rayfa Padma Khura’in. This condescending young woman resents lawyers with all her heart, but she has grown into a fantastic tsundere whose impetuous outbursts are a constant source of hearty laughs. I still have the final case to solve, too, so the game still has ample time to redeem itself. Besides, it’s not like Spirit of Justice is bad; it’s just not as good as us long-term fans of the series might’ve gotten used to.

Game of the Year 1988

Kamurocho is my oyster

Despite a feisty flu, I’ve managed to get Yakuza 0 at least started. For veterans of the series, the seedy streets and back alleys of Kamurocho are probably more than familiar by now, but the year 1988 adds a welcome tinge of excitement. In other words, the game takes place at the height of Japan’s bubble economy. Money flows like water, real estate prices skyrocket, and Kazuma Kiryu is still but a young whelp. Having served three years as a yakuza in the Dojima Family of the Tojo clan, he’s still but a collector, beating the money out of negligent debtors, if need be. Then, one morning, someone he roughed up just the night before is found with a bullet in his head. In the world of yakuza, killing civilians is understandably contemptible. What’s worse, the body is found on a lot that the Tojo clan shows great interest in, yet which is now the center of unwanted attention. Preferring to work from the shadows, the organization is obviously enraged. When Kiryu is to take all blame, he has no choice but to expel himself from the yakuza and get to the bottom of things as a mere civilian.

That’s the setup for yet another dramatic story, but as it always happens with these games, I’m already blissfully lost in Kamurocho, just soaking it all in and having the time of my life. Debuting on PS4, the evenings in the game are particularly wonderful. It’s almost like you could drown in the neon sea that is Kamurocho, and the continuous hustle and bustle of a metropolis, the shouts of staff members luring in customers, the hellish racket of pachinko parlors, and the catchy theme songs of convenient stores all make up for what might be the most authentic Tokyo game experience ever. There’s lots to do, too. As well as dining and boozing, you can once again take part in such familiar activities as bowling, billiards, darts, karaoke, or why not pay a visit to the nearest Sega arcade to try your luck with crane games? There, you can also play such state-of-the-art arcades as Out Run and Space Harrier. Since this is the Golden Eighties, the city also has a disco that serves as a venue for a swift rhythm game, as well as an indoor track, where people race customizable miniature pocket cars.

As before, the streets aren’t really that safe. Despite exuding an aura of danger, Kiryu is constantly challenged by all sorts of troublemakers who then get the beating of their lifetime. A new feature of sorts are Kiryu’s different battle stances which he can switch between with just the click of the d-pad. In practice, all this means that Kiryu can now use the various fighting styles of the other heroes of the earlier games. His standard brawling style is good enough for pretty much any encounter but should you prefer, you can also switch to a stances that have more focus on, say, speed or power. Each of these stances has its own skill tree full of new moves and generic bonuses to be learned. This time, however, you don’t level up by collecting experience points but instead invest on yourself with cold, hard cash. Since the economy of the 80’s was in overdrive, so is the game’s monetary system. You don’t just beat the bluster out of bad guys but their money, too. Even the most basic of encounters often earns you more than half a million yen. Although this makes financing the nightlife of Kamurocho a breeze, it’s not so great when the price tag of new skills is often in the millions. By a quick glance, it seems like the most expensive ones are up to a billion yen…

As always, the best part of Yakuza 0 are the dozens of hilarious and touching substories. As well as brawls, Kiryu frequently bumps into citizens having all sorts of weird troubles that he, more or less willingly, ends up sorting out. These cases – just to name a few – include a rowdy punk band whose members aren’t quite as delinquent as they lead to expect, a teenager who is hopelessly in love with a gravure idol, high school girls bartering their used underwear, and even a domina who’s too kind for her work. Some of these problems are resolved by talking, others by fighting, but they’re all remarkably funny and compassionate. Yakuza 0 doesn’t shy away from sensitive or controversial issues, and even if Kiryu is essentially a sullen criminal, he’s also a noble and responsible father figure, who steers people towards a better life. That’s the true charm of the series!

Sega is also to be commended on its brilliant release strategy. From what I’ve read here and there on the internet, the success of PS4 also means there are many gamers for whom Yakuza 0 is their very first Yakuza experience (and apparently often a positive one at that). Since the game is a prequel to the entire saga, it’s the perfect time to hop on board. Furthermore, since Yakuza Kiwami, the remastered version of the first Yakuza, is released this summer, the entire series has a new chance to bask in the spotlight. Deservedly so!

Sidetracked to a Sidetrack

A wolf in a lumberjack’s clothing

After four hours and maybe a third into Rhythm Paradise Megamix, the game is slowly starting to bare its fangs. Tibby – a reserved pink afro bear-or-something – makes steady progress on his journey to reach Heaven World (yup, that’s the game’s story) but it’s getting challenging. That’s slightly odd, considering the game is still very much only about rhythm. Each mini challenge features a little practice session, and if you constantly fail that, the lower screen of the 3DS even goes the extra mile to show exactly what to do and when. In other words, the game is most eager to help. Still, in the actual challenges it occasionally seems nigh on impossible to nail the required timing. It isn’t, of course, but especially when trying to grab those elusive Skill Stars, dozens of retries are sometimes required. While I could play in a slightly more lackadaisical fashion, I’m still aiming for perfection just for the heck of it. Besides, as gruelling as it sporadically gets, I’m still smiling. It’s hard to be grumpy at a game that woos you with rhythmic calligraphy, flamingo prancing, rooster racing… There’s nothing quite as eccentric and unpredictable as a Japanese game developer unleashed!

Golden 80’s or futuristic 20’s? No contest.

Then again, if I was already sidetracked by Rhythm Paradise Megamix, it happens again. The postman was finally kind enough to deliver Yakuza 0, which personally is simply a release of such caliber that it ruthlessly shoves all the other games aside like a drunken oaf on a 4AM queue to a fast food stand. If that one won’t get coverage in this blog by the end of the week, it’s most likely due to it being so fantastic that there won’t be time left to sing its praises. I also grabbed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It’s certainly something that I probably should’ve picked up earlier but all the plump AAA releases seem to lose more than half of their original price in about six months or so. Just showing a little bit of patience saves me a pretty penny in the long run (although in reality it just means twice as many games bought…)