Yakuza 0

Jan 19
Posted by Ben at 11:59

One of the problems Sega seems to have had recreating the success the Yakuza series boasts in its native Japan, is that itís a continuing series. With a lot of fan noise Yakuza 3 and 4 both managed to get Western releases when many had given up hope, shining the spotlight on the series, Yakuza 5 even got a PS+ tie in, but for many the thought of joining the series midway through was enough to stop them from following through their interest in the series. Well, itís something Yakuza 0 puts right, and makes for a superb introduction to the Yakuza games

Yakuza 0, as the name might imply, is a prequel. Set while series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu is still learning the yakuza ropes, it opens with him beating a man senseless for a debt he owes a loan shark. Later that night the man is found dead, Kazuma is blamed for the killing and what follows is story of power struggles and land-grabs that involves Kazuma having to fight for his life and leave the yakuza behind. Itís a genuinely quality story, hammy at points for sure, but brilliantly well told, and a joy to watch unfold.


br> Kazumaís story is mirrored to some extent by Goro Majima, the gameís 2nd protagonist. Also cast out of the yakuza, Majima is doing everything he can to force his way back in. Thereís some great moments in Majimaís story, and the times where the two characterís stories intertwine are great, but all in all I found it less engaging. It think part of it is his character, more restrained than his usual larger than life self. Itís something that will bother newcomers less, and I suspect heís been toned down so that a narrative can be hung off him. I canít imagine the usual lunatic Majima bowing and taking the abuse he does. I suspect his environment doesnít help either, some of his side quests are fantastic, but the 2nd city is just less interesting, with less character, than Kazumaís Tokyo district.

One of the other smart things Yakuza 0 does to introduce both new and returning players is in how it staggers the content. Itís a little jarring, perhaps, having the serious crime story interrupted for some karaoke, to talk to pretty girls, to meet a foreigner whoís going to teach you new fighting moves, but it introduces mechanics to quickly dabble with, and then leaves you to decide whether you want to spend your time with them. Yakuza 0 holds back mechanics too, in the past it has felt like the Yakuza games will throw everything they have at you, occasionally (re)introducing them in a side-story or as part of the main story, but here theyíre doled out in a way that ensures youíre not overawed or swamped, every couple of chapters youíll get something new to think about, and that runs right in to the back half of the game.

There are a few areas of Yakuza 0 that have been freshened up over previous installments, the chief one is the combat. Both Kazuma and Majima have 3 different types of fighting styles at their disposal, each designed to cater to certain types of enemy. Generally speaking both characters have a standard jack-of-all-trades style as their default, theyíll pack a decent punch, have access to plenty of heat moves, and still be relatively quick. Theyíll have a more powerful moveset, weapon focused, slower, but able to attack through hits and deal large amounts of damage back. Then thereís a quicker style, flashier, littered with combos, but causing less damage per attack. Given the sheer amount of fighting youíll do in Yakuza 0, being able to easily mix things up and explore the combat system is a smart move.



Levelling up has also changed. Rather than grinding for experience, you spend money on yourself, buying your way around the skill tree. Fortunately enemies now spurt money when you slap them about, and the more flourish in your fighting the more youíll earn. It means you can fairly quickly turn both Kazuma and Majima in to solid fighters. The problem is the cost to unlock skills rises dramatically, and spending 30 million to unlock a skill you donít really want but is blocking the one you do want is a bitter pill to swallow. Itís where some of the side missions come in, Kazuma can earn a fortune through real estate if youíre willing to put the time in. Itís not a complicated system, although itís initially daunting, buy some properties when youíre out and about, pick a manager whoís going to have a positive effect on the economy, a security guard whoís less likely to attract trouble, then collect your share. Itís maybe a bit of a grind trying to amass a fortune all at once, perhaps an argument for the mechanic being introduced earlier than it is, but itís certainly quicker than fighting your way to the amounts needed.

One of the great charms of the Yakuza games are the side quests, and Yakuza 0 is no different. They can be a little run of the mill, and a lot of them will involve you just solving your problems by fighting more people, but some of them are smart, and brilliantly funny. Spending time doing the side quests doesnít net you experience anymore, but the characters can reward you in other ways, like working for you or joining you in battle. The downside to the side missions is that it can feel sometimes like youíre tripping over them. Thereís a few too many times where youíll be in the middle of a story mission and get stopped for a side mission to be introduced, even if you donít then follow it up. The same can be true of street fights that occur as youíre making your way around the city, they can get a little much.

Truth is though, Yakuza 0 is the best Yakuza game Iíve played. Itís hard to think how they could have made it more accessible to newcomers, yet thereís enough depth and familiarity for fans of the series to get hooked in to too. On a technical level the engine is showing its age, with shadows popping in, the game slowing you down (in terms of movement speed) during busy moments, and some angular geometry, but itís still a decent looking, and running, game. Yakuza 0 will be missed by many, and thatís their loss, because itís a superb, charming, well told, and joyfully violent game

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Jan
20
Posted by Ben at 02:08
Not much else to say really. Lost a bit in all the Switch hype, Toby: The Secret Mine is available now on the WiiU

Priced at $9.99, Ä9.99 and £6.99, Toby: The Secret Mine is not entirely dissimilar to Braid or Feist, and if you are a bit starved for games on your WiiU, might be worth a look
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Jan
19
Posted by Ben at 17:39
PQube and Big Ben Interactive are bringing Frťdťrick Raynal's, creator of Alone in the Dark, new game 2Dark to PS4, PC, and the Xbox One in 2017

The trailer below is great, it slightly miss-sells the game as 2Dark is actually an isometric horror puzzle game. Still though, hell of a pedigree and it could be very interesting

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Fate/EXTELLA
The Umbral Star
Jan 17
Posted by Mark at 04:03

Fate/Extella is a videogame about war. Specifically, a war that's taking place in a simulation on a computer on the moon, where the demise of each of the participants' avatars results in the death of their real-world Earth counterparts. Like a really high-stakes Time Commanders.

This war took place between Masters- those with an Earth counterpart- who would pit their Servants- digitised versions of legendary 'heroic spirits'- against one another until one Master remained, who would have their wish granted by the Holy Grail.

The player joins as Hakuno Kishinami, the master of Nero, a Saber class Servant who won the War during PSP dungeon-crawler Fate/Extra, as she and her crew of other Servants attempt to fend off other surviving Servants who seek to end Nero's rule, all with Masters who appear to be clones of the player.

The gameplay is very much in the Warriors mould, albeit without Omega Force's input. Bat aside hundreds of enemies in order to take control of bases on a map, every now and again unleashing a special attack which wipes out everything nearby, and then take on a boss when you've got enough territory.

Once that's all over, it's back to HQ- interestingly named My Room- where you can assign upgrades dropped by enemies during the battle to improve your Servants' skills, and talk to your Servant before entering into the next battle.

There's not a lot to criticise about the combat in the main- it's pleasingly button-bashy and the special moves have enough weight to them to not feel like it'd just be easier to use normal attacks, and all of it looks fittingly spectacular, if there is a lack of variety in some of the larger attacks.

However, around the edges it's different story. The bases the level is split into, rather than being fortresses in an open-ish field, are variously-shaped boxes connected by warps your character zips through automatically, which robs the levels of any sense of place, making navigating without the map unnecessarily difficult.

The enemy's approach to taking your bases is also a little different to the Warriors games of old- any random enemy base can generate a 'Plant', which will spawn enemies to attack a random one of your bases, regardless of how close or connected the two are. This makes conquering a full map feel more like firefighting randomness rather than strategically pushing back an intelligent enemy force.

Talking to your Servant in My Room also offers very little- the plot is mainly progressed through cutscenes immediately before and after each battle, and the dialogue in My Room centres mostly on how much the Servant and the Master love one another, certainly as far as Nero's story is concerned, which is probably a holdover from Fate's visual novel roots. Even talking to other Servants in their sidestories doesn't add very much to the matter.

It's possible to raise the 'bond' between both parties by making the right dialogue choices, but this doesn't appear to have any meaningful effect on the game, beyond dropping a handful of upgrades at certain milestones.

The main plot itself does a decent job of setting up the battles- Hakuno has been split into three parts representing mind, body and soul, and each of those parts have found themselves associated with a different Servant. The three Servants begin to fight one another to bring all three parts of Hakuno together, all while cosmic IT guy Archimedes tries to stop an outside force from destroying the Moon Cell (that computer from the review's intro) during its regular system update, which comes around every few thousand years. However, it doesn't do a great job of explaining the events that lead up to this title, meaning it's easy to let the story wash over you and get on with the fighting.

The computer simulation motif is also kept up in much of the art style and in the smaller 'Code Cast' abilities, which are written to appear similar to programming functions, a reference that will be lost on many but not in such a way that would obfuscate their meaning.

In pure game terms it's hard to recommend over the established Warriors games which do the same thing better, and there's no shortage of licenced games if the historical setting of those puts you off, especially now there's Fire Emblem Warriors on the way. It's also probably not really for the Fate newcomer, as everything in the setting seems to hinge on you knowing what happened at least in Extra.

However, for fans of Fate, the opportunity to see all the characters again in a new setting and play a new game which keeps in with the tradition of changing up the genre between releases, this is something that will go down swimmingly.
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Jan
16
Posted by Mark at 04:05
Ahead of our review of Type-Moon's entry into the Warriors-style hack-and-slash genre, here's the publisher's unboxing of the fancy-pants collector's edition:

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Yakuza 0
Gameplay Video
Jan 15
Posted by Ben at 16:55

We posted our written preview for Yakuza 0 the other day, and now I've managed to make enough progress to record the video accompaniment

As you can See Yakuza 0, while not exactly pushing the PS4, isn't a shoddy looking game. There's more to Yakuza 0 than we can show in the video, but you'll see a few fights, some of the side quests, hear me ramble on about stuff, do some shouting at other people's karaoke. You know, the usual stuff

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Jan
15
Posted by Ben at 13:00
By the looks of things these Neo Geo classics aren't going to be part of the Nintendo Switch's Virtual Console, rather they're digital downloads, part of the Hamster Arcade Archives previously seen on the PS3, PS4 and coming to the Xbox One

The Famitsu source isn't working for me, but NeoGaf have grabbed some of the details, and if Famitsu can be believed we'll be seeing King of Fighters 98, Metal Slug 3, World Heroes Perfect, Shock Troopers, and the rarely spotted (but fun) Waku Waku 7

We'll see on the timeline for this, and if we'll see them come over to the Western Switch eshops. It'll also be interesting to see if there'll be any online modes. It will also be interesting to see what the controller support for the Switch ends up being, because the Joy-Con looks a terrible controller for Neo Geo classics
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Jan
15
Posted by Ben at 12:19
I'm not sure what the other writers' opinion on the Switch line-up of games are, for me though it's worryingly barren. So much so I can't see why anyone would get one at launch.

It's pleasing then to see more games being announced for the system, and Arc System Works have announced that there's a BlazBlue game coming to the Switch

There's no details yet as to what exactly the Switch BlazBlue game will be, but if Arc System Works take a leaf out of Capcom's book it'll be a port of the original game or something.

We'll keep you updated when there's more revealed, but from the same source (Rice Digital) it's also been revealed that a sequel to Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers, a 3DS town simulation, called New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers is also on the way
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Jan
12
Posted by Ben at 01:33
Toby: The Secret Mine, the eerie puzzle platformer from developer Lukas Navratil is headed to both the Xbox One and WiiU soon, with the WiiU version set to release on January 19th

Headup Games are bringing Toby: The Secret Mine to the WiiU eShop, priced at £7,99 (9.99 in dollars and Euros). The XBox One version is priced the same, but release a day later, on January 20th (that's down to when the stores update I'd imagine)
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Yakuza 0
Preview
Jan 11
Posted by Ben at 12:55

The late Western release of Yakuza 0 may actually turn out to be a fortuitous for the series. Sega have tried a few times to find some traction for the Yakuza games in the west without much luck. The series undoubtedly has its fans, and they've generally been good games, but as the series has gone on its been harder and harder for new players to find a foothold. Yakuza 3 and 4 felt like too much canon had passed to be an entry, and while Yakuza 5ís addition to Playstation Plus will have undoubtedly put the series on people's radar, it was on the PS3 as people moved on.

Yakuza 0 then is the first time we've seen the series on the Playstation 4, and that it's a prequel, one that doesn't need a storied knowledge to get the most out of, it's a great time to jump in. That's not to say that a knowledge of the characters and world won't have benefits, knowing who Kazuma Kiryu is acts as a pretty good short hand for what to expect from the Yakuza games.The brutal, joyous closed area brawling the series is famous for. The game opens with a young Kiryu, still low on the pecking order in the Tojo clan, beating a guy senseless to collect a debt he owes. He's then walked around town by a friend, who takes the time to explain where Kiryu is going wrong as a Yakuza, he's a bit too brusque if you can believe!



It soon turns out Kiryuís victim has turned up dead, and the murder is being pinned on him. Yakuza 0 begins to reveal a complex story or betrayal, loyalty, and real estate land grabs. When the Yakuza series lands their straight faced stories they're fantastic, complex and interesting. Where Yakuza 0 diverges slightly from my previous experiences with the series is that the more ludicrous aspects of the game are introduced along side this, straight faced. It's sensible, it's what a good portion of the franchise are here for. So, while you're on your tour of Tokyo, learning how to be a better Yakuza, you're taken out for some karaoke (which is hilarious), and introduced to the fighting mini games and the leveling system.

Something that has changed is the levelling. Rather than gain experience through combat and side missions you instead earn stacks of cash from smacking people about. This money then buys items on the skill tree, be that new moves, extra damage or increased health, with specialists dotted around the map to teach you some moves. The introduction of these specialists is invariably hilarious, or at least so over the top itís cool.



Which, for the uninitiated is pretty much what youíve got to look forward to from Yakuza 0. It seemingly presents itís barmy side a bit more front and centre than in previous games, but that belies an interesting and well presented crime story. There are moments that will have you rolling with laughter, but equally some of the brutal combat will make you wince before snorting in delight. Thereís mini games and side quests a plenty, and a ton of sub stories to fill out the world.

Weíll see where it goes as we progress through the game, but so far Yakuza 0 is shaping up to be a great entry to the series.

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