To take yet another hard left, my game of the year.
I love the Yakuza series. I'm not sure how many ways I can possibly say it. It's probably my favorite video game series of all time. The fact that these games are coming out in localized English again fills me with so much glee I don't know how to contain it, besides talking about the series. So let's talk about this particular entry.
Yakuza 0 is perhaps the greatest prequel in video games. It fills in just about every possible detail you would ever want to know about the series's history and origins, while still maintaining the depth, intricacies, and most importantly the mysteries the series is known for. From the big picture stuff, such as the origins of the series's iconic Millennium Tower, to the tiny details, like Kiryu's iconic outfit, compelling explanations are given for any and every possible question you might want to have an answer for.
Of course, even without the incredible way it ties into future installments, Yakuza 0 is one of the strongest stand-alone entries in the series. Its setting, glitzy, glamourous, economically booming Japan in the 80s sparkles and shines. The money flows like water, and life couldn't be better.
Well, except for the fact that Kazuma Kiryu got kicked out of the Tojo clan and Goro Majima is stuck managing a cabaret in exile because of the botched fake assassination mentioned in Yakuza 4. Oopsies?
What follows is an incredibly dense, intricate crime drama through the seedy underbelly of the roaring 1980's. There's betrayal on top of betrayal, partnership after partnership, and some of the best action in video games. Of course, this being a Yakuza game, there's also missions where you teach a would-be dominatrix... how to do /that/ better, pick up an actual, literal chicken, I mean like an actual bird here, to manage real-estate properties, and help totally-not-Michael Jackson and totally-not-Stephen Spielberg expand their entertainment empires.
The world of Kamurocho and Sotenbori are so detailed and full of life that even with 30 years of development undone, I still knew my way around each area like I had actually lived in those areas my whole life. And people who know me know I have no sense of direction, in real life or in video games.
If NieR: Automata was the most melancholy game I've played all year, and Super Mario Odyssey was the most joyous, Yakuza 0 is the most compelling. I hung on every word of the plot, propelled along like a kayak in a raging river. It truly is the strength of the Yakuza series as a whole, blending some of the best crime fiction writing in video games with an incredibly fun combat system, and sprinkling in some insanely bizarre side missions as the finishing touches. It's these aspects that cement Yakuza 0 as my game of the year.
Thanks for reading!