The Yakuza series has long been in the periphery of my video game vision. Through general osmosis and regular exposure to quirky gifs and screencaps, it had always carried this air of larger-than-life characters inserted within over-the-top locales and situations. Yakuza didn't seem like the sort of gaming experience I would normally seek out, but my curiosity about the series had slowly built over the last handful of years as passionate fan evangelists and positive word of mouth seemed like a constant for the series. When Sega made the surprise announcement that the games would finally head over to PC via Steam this summer, the timing seemed like it couldn't be more appropriate for me personally. I knew I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and into the shoes of an up and coming Kamurocho Yakuza, Kazuma Kiryu.
I quickly learned that Yakuza 0 can be equal parts earnest and silly, with high-stakes drama smartly interwoven between casual character interaction and almost-frivolous diversions. It might look like something vaguely reminiscent of something along the lines of Sleeping Dogs, Shenmue, or Grand Theft Auto at a surface level, but based on my experience with the series thus far, it really sits in its own self-carved niche in which it's the only real occupant.
Splitting the protagonist duties between young Yakuza up-and-comers Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima every two chapters or so, the narrative uses this unusual framework to its advantage to keep its pacing consistently interesting. One chapter will end with an emotionally charged brawl accompanied by a blood-pumping soundtrack, only for the next chapter to open with a casual stroll to the nearby suit shop, only to crescendo over the next hour just to iterate again.
It might sound like I'm describing an experience that constantly pulls out the rug from underneath the player, but that's not really true. Instead, the game smartly progresses the story with two equally engaging characters and situations, only for them to slowly converge over time as details become clearer and the plot threads coalescence. Our original review of Yakuza 0 goes into more details about the strength of the game's writing and gameplay interaction. Blurring the lines between crime thriller, murder mystery, and sitcom, Yakuza's story really isn't like anything else I've played, especially when you factor in the title's numerous eclectic optional substories.
While the writing is generally gripping and paced very well accompanied by strong characters and impressive animation during cutscenes, it is a bit convenient that the game writes itself into situations where the game's brawler-style combat system becomes the de facto solution for nearly every confrontation. It's a minor nitpick and not one I'm going to dwell on in a series as (seemingly) regularly exaggerated as Yakuza, but it does come off as a bit contrived to have every other chapter's confrontation initiated by a gaggle of 4 to 20 goons showing up in need of a good old fist to the face. That said, there's a lot to enjoy here as well from a gameplay perspective.
Both Kiryu and Majima each have three unique combat styles, ranging from boxing style stances to break-dancing inspired silliness. The styles each have different ways they interact with the weapons and environmental objects available in the game, most often in the form of what are called Heat Actions: context-sensitive finishing moves of sorts that are equal parts flashy and effective.
While it's possible to efficiently plow through the game's combat scenarios with rudimentary combos and repetitive tactics, I found a lot of joy in trying to figure out which environmental situations would allow for new finishers, such as utilizing a nearby car door or benchtop, along with trying out certain weapon types which range from smashing bicycles over people's heads, stabbing thugs' hands into walls with a dagger, or pouring hot water on a prone goon. It's definitely the sort of combat system that puts out proportionally to the effort and experimentation put in by the player, and rewards curiosity and inventiveness.
From a port standpoint, Yakuza 0 is a strong showing of Sega's continued support for PC with another solid title. The settings options for Yakuza 0 are not all that extensive, but the basics are covered and covered well. We have settings for Display Resolution and Window Mode, along with FXAA, Texture Filtering, and Shadow Settings. There's also SSAA to brute force an even stronger AA solution if your computer has the headroom to take the performance hit. Yakuza 0 supports framerates up to 240FPS as well as very good borderless windowed mode, so that players of varying configurations should be able to find a suitable setup regardless of their display setup or monitor/television's refresh rate. That is, as long as you're not seeking to run ultra-wide resolutions.
While previews of the ultra-wide support looked very promising, as it stands it instead crops the image in order to fill the horizontal space. I anticipate that this will be ironed out soon, especially since other Sega PC projects such as Shining Resonance Refrain support ultra-wide properly.
I was very pleased with how the game performed overall. While I didn't expect to have much trouble on my 1080Ti and 6700k, being able to run the game above 60FPS at a 4K resolution and 2x SSAA was still a pleasant surprise. The aforementioned borderless mode as well as having no issues with Nvidia or Steam's overlays were also nice bonuses. While the differences between low and high settings in terms of Shadows and Texture Filtering seem relatively minor, resolution and SSAA level, along with high framerates, is where this port will outshine the console original.
There are also tertiary bonuses such as near-instant saving (as well as an unofficial edit to enable the ability to save anywhere.) The only setting toggles that I found myself wishing to tinker with a bit were settings for FoV and Depth of Field. There are reports of niggling issues with small frame-pacing induced stuttering and boot issues, but these seem like isolated scuffs and not widespread faults. The game does incorporate Denuvo DRM software on top of the Steam requirement.
Yakuza 0's PC rendition is a quality port with an impressive amount of scability for various setups. It's definitely a game carried by the strength of its writing and unique story presentation. The brawler-rpg hybrid mechanics might take a slight back-seat to the plot as unique narrative setup, but the strong characterization does provide a lot of intangible emotional weight to many of the combat situations as well, elevating that flashy Heat Action beyond just a button press and oftentimes into a cathartic emotional release. The future looks bright for new series' fans with this strong first showing along with Kiwami coming later in the year. Some may say Yakuza on PC may have been long overdue, but it's hard to ask for a much better arrival.
Versions tested: PC
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.