The two recent games I've played (Yakuza 0 and Kiwami)
Literally just finished Kiwami like 5 minutes prior to this sentence.
Zero first I guess.
I suck at fighting games, but these Yakuza games make it easy as a non-fighter player to even have fun. No quarter-circles, no Zs (I hated that motion a lot), nothing absurd like you'd find in something like Soulcaliber (have you seen Ivy's moveset? Good lord!), just mash all the buttons that matter and you'll win eventually, you even get to use items mid fight! Each fighting style have there ups and downs though once you figure out what works for you, I doubt you'd actually use any other style. But man Zero is hella violent. Beating the ever loving crap out of people is exhilirating but dear god I wouldn't want an impressionable child to be watching.
OST isn't exactly exciting though, it was only great in boss fights and setting the mood. The cut scenes though were superb, I wish more games had cutscenes with the level of detail that these characters get (though I would like to not have giant pores on everyone's faces but that's a small thing to gripe over).
Majima, in Zero, is, in my opinion, the best character. His no nonsense attitude and often direct approach makes him so loveable to me. He had the most interesting fights, the most interesting past (like what happened to his eye), and most interesting gameplay. I remember watching my former favorite streamer and how he was having such a hard time with this game on certain fights, then I play and go through it with very little trouble, and I'm pretty sure I played on a harder difficulty.
The selling point: story. For Zero, the story was mostly on Kiryu's side I think. Yea Majima had quite a bit but the story you mostly care about is on Kazuma's. Though the story itself is a bit absurd, or I just don't understand the importance of a 10m^2 lot, or however big it is, being in the middle of a remodel of a city, or at least a section of it, could put a damper on the plans. I mean can someone actually own a plot of land in the middle of a city? Wouldn't imminent domain be a thing? Is Japan different?
I hated the substories (except the real estate) because it is chapter-locked. One thing I liked about Nier Automata was because 80% of the side-stories (I checked) could be done early enough into the story that you wouldn't have learned much before being able to do all of them. Unlike Yakuza who will put some sub stories pretty late into the games which can make you forget what you were doing (like right now, I am totally blanking on what I went through). Yakuza Zero, imo was the better game. Probably for the better too because it is twice the price of Kiwami.
Yakuza Kiwami now, the OST is the same issue as Zero, its only good for fights and to set the mood.
Way more cut scenes, though they felt a little bit lower quality, I did like that most of the VO'd dialogue was in a cutscene. They did look overall better compared to the gameplay footage, but didn't have the level of detail that Zero's cutscenes had, but there were more than Zero's amount of cutscenes so I'm more than happy with that.
Gameplay was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more refined though, more smooth and all that and a less convoluted way to get skills, Zero had you "invest" in yourself (meaning put money towards skill upgrades), an interesting mechanic but one that made it take too long. Kiwami was more like an EXP system, and I liked that. Though as you progressed you're like "how do I get 85 points!?" But let me tell you, if you are doing the Majima Everywhere stuff, you'll hit that cap before the later chapters.
Speaking of Majima, he turned into the Joker. No wonder why they had the VOICE OF THE JOKER (Mark Hamil) voice Majima in the original game. Though less murdery, the parallels are astounding. His sub-set of... quests (are they quests?) was obnoxious to do but totally rewarding. I love the dynamic that Majima and Kiryu have with each other. A rivalry I can't help but love, even if the whole thing was tedious. Though sadly you can't complete the quest line until like chapter 10 or 11. Seriously though, there is one point in the Dragon skill tree that can chunk 3/4 an hp bar in one blow. Made fighting Majima and end bosses much easier and faster.
Not that it really matters because the story is pretty much:
- 10 Billion yen was stolen!
- Who took the 10 billion?
- We found out who took the 10 billion.
- The person who took the 10 billion is missing.
- Hey they have a relationship with the person who stole it all.
- They have no clue about their whereabouts though.
- We now know who took it.
- Where is this person though?
- Found them!
- Final confrontation.
Note: that's not what each chapter is about, just a really large generalization. Nishikiyama is the most relateable character for me though. Always being compared against Kiryu and always not being Kiryu. I can't help but have sympathy for him the entire game. He's also pretty blind, there's a pretty obvious love quadrilateral. Not like its a central part of the game. The story only really became exciting at the last few chapters though. Not a big fan of point A to B to C back to A story progression. It went to rails at the end which made it so much more enjoyable for me. But the story isn't nearly as enthralling as it was in Zero. Not that its a bad thing since it IS half the price of Zero so I won't whine about it.
Honestly these two games weren't blown out the water types like Horizon Zero Dawn or Hellblade was or the series that encompassed Nier and Drakengard was gameplay and story-wise. I know that a lot of Yakuza's selling points is the side stuff, and I'll admit that some of the minigames were fun (like the real estate or pocket racing or MesuKing) but if it can't hold a good, standout story why bother with it all? Probably just a difference in opinion, I just don't feel its worth my time. I don't really go to 100% games (except Horizon) mostly because I don't see a whole lot of value in playing a game multiple times unless it changes every time I play (HZD was able to be 100% in one playthrough, before they introduced NG+). I'd gladly revisit a game to see what changed in a new playthrough (like Knights of the Old Republic 1 or 2) or if I just loved the game so much that I HAD to beat it the whole way through (HZD).
If you want a story driven game, I'd recommend the Yakuzas if you won't get distracted by side-content. If you are easily distracted like that, I'd probably steer clear or try to change how you play your RPGs. I usually grind my way to the top and then crush the rest of the game or spend too much time exploring so I had a hard time remember what I did in the Yakuzas. I spent a lot more time on the side stuff for Kiwami and I can't really recall much of the story, except for the Nishiki flashbacks. The only side stuff I did do in Zero was the real estate and therefore I was able to remember the story much better. Though Zero did just have a flat out better story, but Kiwami had a much better presentation (going back to the cut scene content),
Next on the list? Cyberdimension Neptunia next week, then HZD Frozen Wilds when it releases in November.
Oh also, from the perspective of a heterosexual male: Damn Kazuma Kiryu is pretty good looking. Jesus Christ. Never seen a more badass looking character.
I played the original two when they came out never beat it, but I rented both Kiwami and Zero on gamefly so hopefully I'll be able to do a run through the whole series
Although i have not played either of these titles, thanks for taking time out of your life to provide us with this very informative post.
Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have played one of them And would definitely play the other one soon.