When people hear the word Yakuza, humor probably won’t be one of the first things that comes to mind. You think of dangerous men covered in dragon tattoos ruling the Japanese underworld. You think of chopped off fingertips and billions of Yens worth of illegal activities. And you’d be right, as all of these elements are present in the Yakuza series, and in its newest release, Yakuza 0. But aside from that, it’s also pretty funny.
Most of the humor in the game originates from the many additional side quests you can undertake on the streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori. It’s the kind of dry, often absurd humor that may take a while to get used to, but for some reason works really well together with the game’s more serious and dramatic tone when going through the story.
One such side quests has Kiryu attempting to help a foreigner who has trouble pronouncing certain sounds. She explains how she can no longer do her work as she does not have a ‘bizza’. Kiryu hurries to the closest junk food place to get his hands on a freshly baked pizza. By this time you’ll know where this is going, and after returning with the steaming Neapolitan dish, the confusion between the two characters is simply hilarious.
Or how about that time when Kiryu won a chicken during a bowling competition? Or when Majima ran into a pants less guy on the streets? Or when he was first introduced to the… eccentric Mr Libido? The game is full of these kind of absurd and colorful characters and situations.
The game deserves credits for its localization as well, surely it can’t have been easy translating all the subtleties and nuances without losing too much of the game’s original intentions. Both main characters have a specific way of talking (and thinking) that reveals itself by their choice of words and their reactions to certain situations. The game often has large amounts of written dialogue, especially during the side stories, so the fact that they are so well written is a big plus.
Say you want to take a break from… well, breaking people’s faces, you can head to one of many entertainment spots the city has to offer. This is Japan, so of course you can enter a karaoke club and sing your heart out, with fascinatingly kitschy music videos in the background that do their utmost best to distract you while trying to hit the right notes. But maybe it’s worth it settling with a lower score if it means you get to watch the video. You can also let the female bartender (or friend) sing and ‘help her’ from the sideline with the use of ‘lively interjections’. Which basically comes down to the protagonists enthusiastically yelling over the girl’s performance and mimicking an 80’s keyboard jingle every time it hits.
Or you can visit the local disco, where Kiryu and Majima show off their dancing skills on the floor. There’s something really amusing about seeing these brooding men bust out an array of corny dance moves with upbeat disco music in the background. Especially when you bring an friend and together you show off the disco classics like the hustle or milking the cow. It never gets old.
Yakuza 0 has many strong points. The cutscenes are well made with a gripping story brought to life by believable performances of the various characters. There’s an insane amount of content and collecting to do. The battle system is fun and satisfying. And, for a game revolving around ruthless Japanese criminals, it can also be surprisingly funny.