Tuesday 20 February 2018

Games: Tokyo gangsters wield fists of fury

Yakuza 0 (PS4), 4 Stars, Age: 18+

Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The sixth main instalment of the sprawling Japanese gangster saga, Yakura 0 rewinds to the beginning. It's not so much a reboot as an origins story for series stalwarts Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, exploring the events in the 1980s that shaped them into the feared yakuza they later became.

Resetting the clock provides a convenient entry point for newcomers to the Yakuza franchise, which had lately been weighed down by its complex, multi-character storylines. Yakura 0 whittles the focus to just Kiryu and Majima as they struggle separately to escape the clouds hanging over their nascent gangster careers.

Inside meticulous recreations of small areas of Tokyo and Osaka nightlife districts, Yakura 0 weaves a tangled tale laden with extended cut-scenes. Voiced in the original Japanese but lovingly translated into English subtitles, the dialogue fizzes and crackles with humour, darkness and emotion.

Sandwiched between the chunks of plot sits Yakuza's other traditional pillar: fist-fighting. These gangsters settle disputes not with guns but bare-knuckle brawls. Yakura 0's system is the series' most sophisticated yet, but it's still too repetitive for my liking.

However, you don't really play Yakuza games for their action. Yakura 0's other distractions are myriad - running a bar, playing arcade classics such as OutRun and Space Harrier, or building a property empire. But it's that melodramatic narrative that draws you inexorably back to the mean streets of Tokyo.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Episode 1

(XO/PS4/iOS/PC), 3 Stars, Age: 18+

This is season three of the adventure based on the zombie apocalypse graphic novels. But it's very much business as usual, with New Frontier tracing a familiar arc as a fresh bunch of characters try to survive the nightmare outbreak.

Episode 1 mixes a strong script - one that's never afraid of a shocking twist - with the usual clunky action sequences. Yet the return of fan-favourite Clementine, now a battle-hardened teen, provides the most hope that A New Frontier will transcend the shortcomings of the last series over its five-episode running time.

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