First Impressions: ‘Yakuza 0’ (PS4)

Side quests, you say? ‘Yakuza 0’ has plenty (and most are totally worth the time)

I’m about 10 hours into “Yakuza 0,” and I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time not progressing on the main quest. In a game that’s averaging something like 70 hours for a decent completion rate, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a wise thing. I will tell you, though, that it is a good thing.

My first foray into the “Yakuza” series has me trying out “Yakuza 0,” a prequel story that centers on a land deal and the character formations of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, two of the series’ main characters. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way here, what with this being a sequel, but it’s clear to see that whatever happens to the mysterious plot of land known as the Empty Lot will have a great impact on whatever happens to the game’s primary protagonists.

But since I’m not particularly concerned with the Japanese crime drama that seems to glorify the criminal underworld of two fictional Japanese cities (Kamurocho for Kiryu, Sotenbori for Majima) at the moment, let’s get into what’s been distracting me. In a phrase, side quests. “Yakuza 0” boasts more than 100 main side quests, and that’s not counting mini-games like bowling and RC racing and numerous arcade games like “Out Run.” Most of the ones I’ve played are nothing more than fetch quests, in technical terms, but it’s what I’m fetching or for whom I’m fetching that matters here.

I can easily say I’ve never had such hilarious interactions in a game before. (Again, this is my first taste of the long-running “Yakuza” series, which has seven numbered entries including this one; the eighth reportedly is in production.) Whether it’s helping a Steven Spielberg-like character help a Michael Jackson-like character recreate “Thriller” or teaching a dominatrix how to actually be a dominatrix (hint: it involves training in a public park), I’ve more than once found my jaw on the floor because what was happening in front of me.

But while I’m having a grand time literally beating money out of the seemingly limitless yakuza who are after Kiryu for a crime I don’t think he committed or harassing Majima for a reason that’s doesn’t seem on the level, I know I need to get back to the main story, which is a glorified crime drama. There’s a blind young woman who’s clearly more important that first impressions would suggest; machinations abound between yakuza families, each seemingly after the Empty Lot with little concern for any other family; and there are multiple side stories that seem to have an outsized role in the main quest. Here’s hoping I can stay focused long enough to figure just who’s betraying whom next.

This is a First Impressions of “Yakuza 0” on the PlayStation 4. A full review will follow once the game is completed.

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