Yakuza 0 PC Review

Setting a new standard for great console-to-PC ports?

The first game in the Yakuza series to be ported to PC, Yakuza 0, hits all the right notes and provides an experience both as deep and as wide as an ocean; in other words, it presents opportunities for all sorts of gamers to enjoy and relish. Beautifully capturing the zeitgeist of 1980s Japan, this semi-arcade, semi-brawler, semi-RPG sets the standard for all console exclusives being ported to PC. Positively stuffed to the seams with content, Yakuza 0 gave me some of the most fun I’ve had in a single-player game for a long time.

The Yakuza series concluded with Yakuza 6 in 2016, but it appears as if Sega has no intent to let it die, with more Yakuza titles slated for porting, along with other Sega classics like Shenmue I & II. Originally released in Japan on PS3 in 2015, and on PS4 in 2017, Yakuza 0 was finally ported to PC this August. With the rest of the series apparently being ported over from Sony’s consoles in the future, it’s a perfect time for newcomers to the series.

At only $19.99, an ultra-affordable price point, I decided to take the plunge and see what Yakuza 0 was all about.

One country, two cities, different worlds

The first thing that stood out to me in Yakuza 0 was the richness and immersion of the world you’re dropped into. Playing as Kiryu in the bright and loud Kamurocho district in Tokyo, and later in the game, playing as Majima, the manager of a cabaret club in the glitzy Sotenbori in Osaka, you can feel how the characters are a part of the fabric of each city. Sega does an exceptional job of bringing these places to life on PC. Beautifully crafted and wonderfully constructed, they offer locations that I relished to explore and discover.

Each city has different mini-games and entertainment options available for the player. As Kiryu you can go to unique places like bowling alleys and batting centres, as Majima you can head to the underground casino or play some mahjong in a parlour. In both cities you also have the option of going to karaoke bars and screaming out your favourite songs, as well as going to dance clubs and playing another mini-game there.

Bright lights, loud music and countless people are only just the surface of what this game environment has to offer. While the invisible walls and unexplorable parts of the world are disappointing, the semi-open world isn’t the focus in Yakuza 0. No, this game is about how the characters create the worlds around them, not how the world creates them.

The aspect of Yakuza 0 that really sets it apart from other games in my recent memory is the stark contrasts that occupy its world. Sometimes the game comes across as a sophisticated and nuanced soap opera, other times it plays like a cheap arcade game designed for cheap laughs. The beauty of Yakuza 0 lies in the masterful intersection of the weird and whacky and the dark and gritty. Some of the game’s moments truly are gut-wrenching, others disturbing, many hilarious. Fully rendered cutscenes lend an understated beauty to the construction of the narrative, framing each of the significant moments of Kiryu’s and Majima’s respective stories.

Kiryu and his sworn brother Nishkiyama are up-and-coming yakuza in Kamurocho, brought in by Kazama, Captain of the Dojima family. Most of the narrative here revolves around a small plot of land in the heart of Kamurocho. Controlling this plot will help whoever holds it make a huge power play, and many are willing to kill for it. Majima’s story is centered on his position as manager of the Grand, the best cabaret club in the city. Despite initial positive appearances of this, it is revealed that Majima is an ex-yakuza, and has been made manager of the Grand as a punishment for past mistakes. He faces an uphill battle in order to achieve redemption. Eventually both of protagonists’ stories intersect, and you’re able to visit both cities as Kiryu and Majima.

Smoothish platform transition

Yakuza 0 on PC is far from the worst platform transition that I’ve ever seen. Remember Arkham Knight when it first released on Steam? Thankfully I didn’t experience that. For the most part, Yakuza 0 delivers on PC. Animations are smooth and fluent. In my experience, I had no screen tearing and rarely had any frame drops below 60fps. Due to its console origins however, the best experience is to be had with a controller plugged into your computer, however keyboard and mouse will suffice.

I had no problems using keyboard controls, as the default key mapping was done well. Using my mouse however, was at times tricky, to say the least. I first had to increase mouse sensitivity in the game settings as even with my mouse on max DPI, it wasn’t sensitive enough for my liking. Controlling the camera can be extremely difficult and frustrating at times, especially when in confined places. This became especially infuriating when important fights take place indoors, as often I wouldn’t be able to swivel the camera the way I wanted to, and would end up getting knocked down by an enemy who blindsided me. In a game where managing your health is paramount to victory, such moments can get irritating.

My PS4 controller overwhelmingly improved the experience. Rather than getting irritated by the poor camera control with a mouse, movement and fighting is so much easier with a controller. Combos are a lot more intuitive, and blocking and dodging becomes effortless in comparison. Likewise, navigation of the menus and game map become smoother using a controller, and overall my experience was more positive; I was able to focus on the game itself, without the mouse and keyboard getting in the way of that immersion.

Enter the dragon

Yakuza 0 lets you choose from three different fighting styles for Kiryu and Majima. Kiryu uses the balanced and simple Brawler style, the fast-paced and nimble Rush style and the slower but brutal Beast style (which also enables you to use heavy weapons). Similarly, Majima can use the balanced Thug style, the weapon-focused Slugger style and the complicated Breaker style. Consequentially, there’s also a fourth style that can be unlocked for each character. Styles can be changed mid-fight, allowing maximum flexibility.

Combat is straightforward in Yakuza 0, with basically all fights winnable simply by spamming light attacks and heavy attacks. Harder boss fights do require tactics and patience, even on the lower difficulties. Combat is a lucrative — the greater the enemy you defeat, the more cash flows in. Upgrading the characters’ skills and talents is dependent on expansive swathes of currency. This can be earned in myriad ways, but the most straightforward is through combat, with other side missions and story progression opening up alternate avenues of revenue.

Phonebooths are you friends

In a peculiar way, perhaps in order to maintain the great 80s vibe that permeates the game, Yakuza 0 has no form of autosaving. In order to manually save you have to find a phone booth, of which numerous are scattered across both cities. While this doesn’t take much effort (there’s phones everywhere), it can mean you have to be cognisant of whether or not you’re at a key part of the story. There can be long gaps before you’re able to save again, so saving regularly before key narrative moments is important.

There was at least once occasion where my game crashed and I lost my save, but it was only about thirty minutes of playing time, nothing too drastic. Autosaving is such a typical part of games presently that it does strike me as strange that Sega made this decision, and decided to keep it that way for the PC release. It is what is however, just make sure you don’t forget to save, otherwise it could turn out bad. It’s unfortunate as the mechanism itself of saving through phone booths is a really creative and smart idea, but the execution leaves a little to be desired.

One of a kind

Yakuza 0 definitely sets itself apart from other games currently flooding the PC market. It’s not a triple A title in the same way that Call of Duty, Battlefield or even Assassin’s Creed are. And despite its comparisons to Grand Theft Auto, it has a level of emotional nuance that seems to exceed that of Rockstar’s long beloved series.

Yakuza 0 truly is one of a kind. The story itself is deep, gripping and intriguing, with the unique machinations of power and money presented in a sophisticated way. Indeed, much in the way the game’s finale implies, titled “Black and White,” the world of Yakuza 0 is one of greys.

In the current state of PC gaming, filled with unfulfilled early access titles, and unfulfilling franchises, Yakuza 0 places itself in the middle. Accessible, affordable, and unforgettable, it’s the PC port we all need.