Stepping into Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima’s lives in Yakuza 0 isn’t only about seeing who they were before they were the Dragon and Mad Dog. It’s a little glimpse into what Japan was like in 1988. Well, certain areas of Japan. It offers an authentic, real world experience, which means these guys aren’t only going to be constantly working. They’re going to play a little too. The activities available are plentiful, and offer this variety that lets you engage in all sorts of fun affairs.
Yakuza 0 sets the stage for such activities early. While you’re kept on task for when first being introduced (or rather, reintroduced) to Kazuma and Goro, the game still gives you a chance to see what awaits. After Kazuma completes his first assignment, for example, he goes out to participate in karaoke with Akira. Sometimes main and side quests will have you visiting these extracurricular areas, as what I like to think of as a reminder that they’re here and you should totally be spending some of your surplus income on these pastimes.
Once you’re established and entrenched in storylines, Yakuza 0 opens up. You switch between Kamurocho and Sotenbori as you swap between Kazuma and Goro. Each space offers its own nightlife. Sega Hi-Tech Land arcades are everywhere, each with their own assortment of machines. You’ll usually find at least one major arcade game, like Out Run, Space Harrier, or Super Hang On, in each space, as well as grabbing machines. Traditional enterprises give you the chance to learn and play Mahjong or Shogi. Bowling, batting cages, pool, darts, and gambling return. All of these are things you expect from the series, in the same detailed and lifelike form you’d expect.
It’s when Yakuza 0 pushes you outside of your comfort zone that this particular installment feels like it’s going above and beyond. I’m talking about things like the disco and chat line. The latter of which is actually more entertaining than I expected. I think we can all admit that the Yakuza series’ karaoke mini-games aren’t always the best rhythmic experiences out there. They exist so we can see the characters being silly. But going to the disco as Goro or Kazuma is a bit more comprehensive, with extra depth that goes beyond quickly mashing face buttons. The chat line is a bit unexpected, but brings a bit of dating sim elements into the game. It’s over the top in the same sort of way as the karaoke, say when Kazuma is suddenly in his own, rocking world. Certainly, it isn’t all that unorthodox in a title where hostess club management is a thing. Which, by the way, returns and offers a detailed management opportunity with plenty of girls, makeover opportunities, and character attitudes to manage.
I will say that this is probably the first Yakuza 0 game where I did find myself actively avoiding some of these optional excursions. I’m referring to the Japan Catfight Club and places like Gandhara Kamurocho, with its Gravure model videos. There are people there who will appreciate these activities. I did try each one to see how it worked and, while neither appealed to me personally, they do offer an insight into pastimes that some might enjoy. Of the two, the women fighting so you can earn extra money will probably be the most attractive to people. It does give you a chance to earn money and is more interactive with players button mashing to support the cause. Being able to stop in what the game describes as an erotic video establishment feels more like it’s there for ambiance.
In a way, I think these Yakuza 0 activities may be more enjoyable now than ever before. Even though there are a few that veer into a space I’m not exactly comfortable inhabiting, I appreciate that they are here for people who will want to watch Gravure videos and take part in those other pastimes. Yakuza 0 goes out of its way to be extravagant, and its supplemental affairs encourage you to go above and beyond.
Yakuza 0 will be available for the PlayStation 4 on January 24, 2017.