What I’ve Been…Playing: Yakuza Zero

Yakuza Zero has been my gaming saviour in these dark, internet-less times in this Sweeney household.

I’d heard of the series before, of course – quirky open-world Japanese crime dramas that had been going since the PS2 era, but had never really taken off outside of Japan.  It was a series I’d never had an interest in and had taken nothing but the most cursory glance at in the past.

That all changed once I started watching Giant Bomb’s great Beast in the East series, in which Dan, Alex, and Vinny have been playing through the newly released prequel, Yakuza Zero.  Initially starting out as almost a joke, the guys quickly got way into what the game was offering.

So did I.

After a couple of months of watching them play it, I wound up picking the game up myself and delving into the neon-lit underbelly of 1980s Japan.  For a game that hadn’t at all been on my radar, it got its hooks in fast.

Following the stories of protagonists Kiryu and Majima, Yakuza Zero weaves a surprisingly complex tale of melodramatic organised crime, the bonds of brotherhood, real estate (really), and ripped motherfuckers in pastel suits and turtlenecks with chains on the outside.

Playing like a small-scale open world game (with two distinct locations alongside the two distinct main characters) with a simple but satisfying combat system that is somewhat similar to the Batman games, the really impressive part of Yak0 is the way it almost flawlessly balances the disparate parts of both its gameplay and, crucially, its tone.

At points, you will fighting your way through hordes of rival gangsters, filled with emotionally charged threats and brutal combat.  Yet, when you feel like diverting from the main plot, you’re just as likely to find yourself helping a little girl (who insists on calling you “daddy”) win toys from a claw machine, or running a real estate business, or partaking in some incredibly (incredible) karaoke.

The tone of the game walks the line between serious, melodramatic, humorous, and outright goofy with a deftness I have pretty much never seen in any game, and sometimes manages to hit all four in the same scene.  What is truly remarkable is the fact that so much of this is sold by the excellent localisation via subtitles – the Japanese voice-acting seems topnotch, but the translation is fan-fucking-tastic at translating the context and humour, something that other recent Japanese games (looking at you Persona 5) have been a lot more hit or miss about.

I spent 69 hours immersed within Yakuza Zero and it was absolutely worth it.  In a year that has already been huge for video game quality, Yakuza Zero is my current front runner for game of the year by a mile.  It also has me intensely curious about the upcoming remake of the first game, as well as the upcoming Yakuza 6.

Worth checking out, even if it isn’t the kind of game you would normally play. Don’t believe me? Check out this (spoilery) image:


This is an image of a middle-aged Yakuza riding a motorcycle down a sewer tunnel while dragging a lead pipe against the tunnel wall.  He’s very angry with you.

Seriously, this game is fucking awesome.

What I’ve Been…Doing?

Hello, hello!

It’s been a while, but for once I actually have some pretty good, real life reasons for it being all quiet on the blogging front:

We bought an apartment, had to move into said apartment, discovered we could not get internet connected at said apartment, and have to wait until the NBN is available in said apartment at some point between July 1 and September 30 (and I’ll believe that timetable when I see it).

This, combined with being pretty busy with the whole moving into a whole new place thing and actually turning it into a home (with furniture and everything!, has meant that my capacity to sit at a PC and type up a blog post has been…limited, shall we say?

All of that is going to change now, however, as I am filled with resolve to use the limited data on my mobile phone for something other than downloading Giant Bomb videos and streaming iZombie and American Gods.

Coming up, I’ll be talking about the following (in no particular order):

  • More details on my two upcoming short story publications;
  • Some details on my renewed focus on the novel I’m currently working on (by working on, I mean thinking about without actually writing anything down);
  • What I’ve been reading, playing, and watching; and
  • Something a bit more experimental, in which I detail the process of writing and submitting a short story from scratch through to the submission and acceptance stage.  This will be my first new story submission in a number of years, which should make it even more interesting/frustrating/infuriating to work on, yay!

I don’t know what the exact schedule of all of this will be, but it will at least be kinda regular by my standards.

Thanks for reading.