50 Best Games of 2017: #42 – Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0

Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Platform(s): PS4, PS3

Our 50 best games of the year countdown isn’t in any order, we’re just going through fifty of the finest the year has given us. Find out more here.

If you are new to the Sony family or if you’re like me and came back all knees grovelling outside its front door with a boom box, you may have heard of the rise of the Yakuza games to its Western Sony audiences. The West was a market that seemed elusive to SEGA until recently, whilst Yakuza was a franchise that was written off during the PS2 era as a subpar Japanese GTA clone with a good story, but sloppy mechanics and confusing gameplay. However, much has changed in the 12 years since Yakuza’s inception, and you could commend SEGA for not giving up on the franchise as it has become one of the best loved franchises amongst the Sony crowd from both the east and the west.

The trick to Yakuza’s formula could be argued why Zelda or Super Mario are still among the heavyweight champions of modern video gaming. Rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again, they keep most of the game the same, such as its locations and characters, but make little tweaks here and there, whilst providing a main storyline that keeps you gripped to the action until the credits roll. Yakuza 0 pulls that off beautifully. It may have taken a while for SEGA to learn and perfect this formula, but they got there.

Yakuza 0 acts a prequel to the franchise and with ‘Yakuza Kiwami’ being released at the end of August serving as a director’s cut to the first PS2 instalment, there has never been a perfect time to sit down and become a fan of a beloved underdog series. You play as the main protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, along with his main rival throughout the franchise, the wild and unpredictable Goro Majima. Both men have one goal in common; to get out from under their respective Yakuza Chairman’s thumb, by any means necessary. There’s plenty of suspense, drama and a sprinkle of comedy thrown in for good measure.

Being able to play in the two fictionalised locations of Osaka’s Dotonbori and the well known franchise populous of Tokyo’s Kabukicho regions, SEGA set out to prove that you don’t need a huge sprawling map the size of my cellulite thunder thighs to have hours of fun. Both maps offer plenty to do, from collecting calling cards of scientifically disproportionate female callers, running cabaret clubs or enjoying the best Karaoke in any video game, period.

The other trick to Yakuza’s winning formula is that, despite its gritty and somewhat dramatic storyline, they never take themselves too seriously. You can teach a timid dominatrix how to humiliate her clients while also learning the hard way why you probably shouldn’t read graffiti in public restrooms. SEGA are not afraid to laugh at themselves, providing some much needed comic relief to the overall darkness to the plot.

I could sit here and talk for hours on why every Sony guy and/or gal should pick up a copy of Yakuza 0, but I have already had done that and I have not changed my mind one bit on the matter. If you are new to Sony’s superlative black box or you’re looking for that hidden gem you weren’t aware existed, pick this game up now. You will not regret your decision.

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