From this multi-floor punch-up, the game hits its stride, and from there Yakuza 0 is an absolute joy. As a game, Yakuza 0 is incredibly generous with how many worthwhile distractions it gives you, how many fun side-missions call for your attention as you explore the game's dual locations. These locations aren't big geographically, and Yakuza 0 isn't a crime game where you'll be driving around a huge city, but they're dense. Whenever the game turns you loose, you'll be tripping over things to do, and for every activity or side-mission that leaves you cold, there are several more eagerly vying for your attention.
It's a frankly impressive array of things to do: Maybe you'll have to teach a dominatrix how to properly dominate her client or join a debt collector on some of her more dangerous missions. If that all sounds like hard work, maybe you'll spend your time amusing yourself playing pool, looking after your cabaret club, or, as was my downfall, find yourself customising and racing Pocket Racer cars, combing the back-alleys and convenience stores of Tokyo looking for new parts for your tiny wagons. You might just walk around and explore a bit, the game is a study in atmosphere, with the game looking like pictures and films depicting '80s Tokyo. It's a great world to be a part of.
These distractions are novel and well done and provide a valuable respite from the punching, because your interaction with the wider world is limited to these myriad diversions and the fine art of punching. Your characters love punching. Every problem is solved with the judicious application of fisticuffs, and it's lucky for Yakuza 0 that the punching is so satisfying.
Each punch leads to an arterial spray of not blood, but yen. Each solid blow sends a jet of coins and notes spraying into the air, money you can use to upgrade your ability to punch folks, unlocking both functional upgrades — extra health, more damage resistance, faster gaining of your special resource, heat — and a variety of new moves and fun stuff like dropkicks, shoulder charges, and, eventually, the ability to pick up a motorbike and batter a guy with it.
Both Kiryu and Majima have their own fighting styles that fit their personalities, and they have three styles apiece which you can switch between mid-fight. Kiryu has Brawler, Beast, and Rush, which fit the usual character archetypes of balanced, strong, and fast fairly well. With Majima, it gets a little more ridiculous, as while Thug is quite a balanced style, Slugger is about using a baseball bat to clean up the streets and Breaker seems to involve dancing aggressively until all your enemies are on the floor.
After a while, the sheer amount of brawling can start to wear you down a little, but then I found myself taking a bit of time out to eat some food at a local restaurant and taking part in a couple of mini-games. When you feel up to it, you can get right back up there, and paste everyone who looks at you funny.
Yakuza 0 is a surprising game to play: Mechanically, it feels dated, and visually it's not stunning, but it's just continually fun and joyous. Yes, it's a crime game, and you'll do criminal things, but both of Yakuza's protagonist's are fairly kind-hearted, and as a result you never really feel like the bad guy. Consequently, this means a lot of guilt-free pummelling and a game that feels great to dip into for long sessions or even just for a quick in-and-out.
I haven't played the rest of the Yakuza series, and the game hasn't really inspired me to pull them out, but Yakuza 0 is a great game to lose yourself in, and, as I'm currently 60 hours deep and not quite finished, be aware it might take up quite a lot of your time.