We’re gonna kick arse like it’s 1989, writes Heidi Kemps
Back in the 1980s, Japan looked poised to dominate the global economy. The country seemed to be unstoppable: it dominated multiple industries, property values were sky high, and the standard of living seemed to be the envy of the world. It was a period of extreme excess, and those who had gotten rich off of the economic bubble – particularly those involved in Japan’s underground organized crime syndicates – were living large and burning money like it was going out of style.
In other words, it’s the perfect setting for a Yakuza game.
Yakuza 0 takes us all the way back to the end of 1988. Series hero Kazuma Kiryu returns, younger and more fresh-faced, but no less a brutal badass than he will become 15 years down the line. Kamurocho is still the seedy morass of bars, stores, and brightly lit back alleys filled with dubious businesses we’ve come to know and love – only now it’s got a thick coat of Japan’s '80s excess layered on top of it. People with more money than sense have made Kamurocho a hotbed of activities, of the legal and illegal varieties, transforming the area into a powder keg ready to explode.
The spark that sets everything alight is the fated first meeting of Kiryu and future rival-and-companion Goro Majima. The duo are caught up in an incident that draws the ire of numerous underground organisations across Japan, and though they come from different backgrounds, the pair needs to piece together the mystery of “the empty lot.”
PeoPle with more money than SenSe have made Kamurocho a hotbed of activitieS, and it'S ready to exPlode
For the first time ever in the franchise, recurring NPC and fan favourite Goro Majima joins Kiryu as a playable character. The duo will explore a familiar-yet-different Kamurocho and Soutenbori, modelled as they would have been in the 1980s, complete with arcades, bowling alleys, seedy bars, dance halls, and plenty more. As an open-world game, you’re free to take either Kiryu or Majima wherever you’d like and partake in some of the numerous pleasures that pre-mobile-phone Japan has to offer, be it dropping into the arcade to play some of Sega’s biggest hits from 1988, showcasing your disco skills to wow beautiful women, or even dialling a mystery woman to try and get her hot and bothered over the phone. (If you want to be more, ahem, professional, there’s also a real estate management mini-game, too.) Of course, it’s not all fun and games, even with Japan at its economic apex. There are plenty of people out to rough up Kiryu and Majima, ranging from drunken street punks to high-ranking organised crime elite. You’ll need to combat your enemies through the series’ trademark brutal-yet-stylish street battles, where your characters will have to lay a beating down on foes using martial arts skills, weapons and objects lifted off the street, and environmental elements. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as pounding an uppity punk with his own bike, then confronting his annoying buddy by slamming a traffic cone on his head and tossing his body like a ragdoll against an electric storefront sign. As you progress through the game, your arsenal of moves and weaponry increases, as well, so fighting always keeps on feeling fresh.
Yakuza 0 is due to hit the PlayStation 4 sometime in 2017. Get your wooden swords ready, because once this game rolls into stores, the Heat is on.
Moonlighting as a toy salesman wasn't really paying o ... Playing a game within a game. How delightfully meta of Sega!