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Yakuza 0 Hands-On Preview – Cha-Ching (PS4)

March 14, 2015 Written by Heath Hindman

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Yakuza 0 is available on PS3 and PS4. I’ve spent most of my Saturday ignoring things I should be doing, in favor of playing the PS4 version.

Where’s That Place They Say Devil Is? Ah, Yes…

Yakuza games are known for their extensive attention to detail, and 0 keeps that tradition alive. It’s fun to see an older version of Tokyo, with all that that entails: more incandescent bulbs, boxier designs of things, old-fashioned vending machines with logos more fitting to the day, and NPCs wearing outfits more timely.

Since the amazing Yakuza Ishin, I’ve wondered what a mainline Yakuza game would look like on PS4, and 0 hasn’t disappointed. Little things like the marbling on a table, the cracks on a street, the glow of a lightbulb look so much better on the newer hardware. I saw both PS3 and PS4 versions of Ishin in action (damn I need to write more about that excellent game), and the difference was clear. The characters looked pretty much the same, but when it came to the environments, there was no contest. I can only imagine the gap now that another year has gone by, with PS4 games advancing even further but PS3 being understandably already at a ceiling.

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Some story sequences are told in this odd way, with mostly still frames featuring a small bit of movement. If it’s a callback to something old-timey, it’s lost on me.

I’m noticing little touches everywhere that are improvements over the numbered Yakuza games, and most importantly in pacing. They’re all a little slow in starting, but 5 in particular struggled with pacing. That hasn’t been an issue with either of the PS4 Yakuza games, however.

Fighting Words

Much as he did in Ishin, Kiryu once again has multiple combat styles. He’s got two so far, and I’ll unlock a third somewhere down the line. That’s down from the four fighting styles he had in Ishin — but this is because we’ve got two playable characters. Majima Goro, once I get control of him, will also have two distinct styles and gain a third later.

His Thug style has a lot of moves that have felt familiar since Yakuza 3, while the Rush style is more focused on less powerful but wicked fast punches and kicks bombarding enemies.

I’m loving combat so far. As with all things, however, we’ll have to wait and see how I feel about it after another 50 hours of gameplay.

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Moments before writing this, I got my shit trashed by a freaking seven-foot-tall giant. He took me from full health down to nothing so quickly, I was sure that it was OK to lose to him. I was right. He roams around, and when he beats you, he takes all of your money. Beat him, you get your money back. I lose 680,000 yen to the guy. (By the average exchange rate, that’s like $6,700 or so. Lately it’s been wonky.)  Fortunately for me, that wasn’t much.

Mo Money, Mo Problems

One of the themes of Yakuza 0 is cash. When you hit enemies, sometimes bills just fly out of them. The developers told me that this was because the game takes place when the Japanese economy was at its height. They said, in retrospect, it was a time when they felt like money was just everywhere. And I have to say, in any other Yakuza game, I would have felt like 680,000 yen up and disappearing might be grounds to hit the reset button and try my best to avoid whatever happened. To shrug it off as nothing feels crazy.

That’s just the way of it. After fighting three battles, I was back up to walking around with over 100 grand (like $1,000 USD) in my pocket, which of course is something I can really relate to in my real life. Now, if Kiryu moves into an apartment that’s heated by a cash burning stove and routinely blows his nose on 5,000-yen bills, I might sue Sega for ripping off The Heath Hindman Story. I mean there’s fantasy and there’s outright spying.

A review will come when I’ve finished the game.

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