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    dkirschner's Yakuza 0 (PS4)

    [March 9, 2024 10:43:37 AM]
    My first Spring Break completion. I’d been working on this one for months. I played the original (!) Yakuza way back when on PS2 and was vaguely aware that the series kept on going. I wanted to try another one because I remember liking the first one and the games tend to be well reviewed. Yakuza 0 seems to be the “if you’re going to play one of them, play this one” entry. And I totally see why. There are a hundred positive things to say about it. It’s an extremely well-written crime drama with a compelling story that twists and turns and great characters, and the voice acting and animation is top notch. The game’s music is outstanding. The word I kept thinking of was “cinematic” as I watched the (numerous) voiced dialogue and cut scenes. It’s serious when it needs to be serious, but can be really funny too. I’ve heard that later games lean into the silliness of the franchise, which I’m a bit ambivalent about. I usually appreciated the humor, but often it felt childish or “video-gamey” (in a very JRPG and/or cringy way), so I hope that they lean into the kind of silliness that resonates with me.

    You’re basically doing three things in the game: (1) listening/watching the story unfold; (2) fighting; and (3) side quests and minigames. The first two are mandatory, and I spent most of the time going from cut scene to combat and back. Unfortunately, combat is the weakest part of the game. You’ll switch between two protagonists, and each has three combat styles. For example, Kiryu has a normal style, one that focuses on speed, and one that focuses on strength (all straightforward). Goro’s are weirder, including one where he wields a baseball bat and one where he breakdances. There are a variety of combos and special moves to pull off, but for me, combat boiled down to XXXY, XXXY, XXXY, L2+Y once Heat gauge is full to curb stomp someone (Kiryu) or bash their heads with a baseball bat (Goro). Or if I was in Kiryu’s strength style, I picked up bicycles, signboards, and whatever else in the environment and swung them around like a tornado. There are big upgrade trees for each combat style, which costs Yen, though I probably unlocked like 25% of the trees. I don’t know why you would need to unlock more, and the amount of money you’d need to do so is absurd. Though that brings me to #3…

    There are literally over 100 side quests to complete. Help your fellow citizens with their problems, including: teach a punk band how to be cool; recover a stolen video game for a child; win a toy from a claw game for a child; help a man connect with his estranged family; bust a teenage sex ring; help a man propose to his girlfriend; etc., etc. I was doing these early on, but some of them take forever, they are often silly (so my complaint about the humor missing its mark is about this optional activity, which is good!), they generally involve running to and fro talking to people and fetching items, and quickly felt like a waste of time. But they do reward you with items and cash. Then there are the minigames. Amuse yourself with batting cages, RC racing, classic Sega arcade games, a plethora of gambling games, managing a cabaret and investment company, and so on. So yes, if you want to get rich, this is how, but all of it is totally unnecessary. One could easily spend twice as long as I did doing side quests and minigames. When I finished the game (37 hours), it told me I had something like 17% completion.

    I had two frustrating experiences earlier in the game that almost made me quit. First, the game requires manual saving at telephone booths. I definitely thought that it also auto-saved. One time, I had been playing for like three hours, then stepped away from the PS4 for a while. I came back and it had turned itself off. When I reloaded, I was surprised that my day’s progress was gone! Luckily, I had mostly been exploring, doing side quests, and minigames (won the batting cages!). So, I decided to skip all the side stuff from then on, and I was back to the main story beat in like 15 minutes. The second time I almost quit was because of a bizarre difficulty spike. I had been doing well in combat, but suddenly, enemies were insanely difficult! I could barely get a punch in and died over and over and over. “This is weird!”, I thought, and changed the difficulty to easy, but still got pummeled. Then the frustration came, and I put the game away and thought I was going to retire it. But I kept thinking about it and decided to ask the internet why the combat was so brutal. I mean, this isn’t supposed to be Dark Souls: Yakuza! I saw a Reddit thread that saved the game for me (“Help: Yakuza 0 - Enemies going Berserk all of the sudden?!”); I wasn’t the only one having the combat difficulty spike issue. Apparently, there is an item you can equip that makes enemies frenzied. The item description does not indicate this, and I had equipped it for its stats. For some reason, this item is awarded early on. Why would new players not equip this?! Apparently all Yakuza games have such items, called “charismatic” whatevers, and someone on this thread suggested that the devs bait new players into equipping it and getting their butts kicked. Mean!

    But I am so glad that I didn’t retire the game. Despite the lackluster combat and the time-wasting side stuff, I loved it. The plot and characters are seriously phenomenal, and I see why they've made so many games and built a following around the franchise. But it is long. I would play another if the combat were improved. I saw that the last two entries (Like a Dragon and Infinite Wealth) have more of an RPG-ish combat system, and have been positively reviewed, so I will probably check those out later, maybe pick one to play. (It’s almost time to buy a PS5, woooo!).
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    dkirschner's Yakuza 0 (PS4)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Thursday 23 November, 2023

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 3 March, 2024

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    More RPG than I thought. Loving it so far. -------- Phenomenal story and characters.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

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    See info on Yakuza 0

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