Our intrepid reporter Zack Webster had the chance to make his way over to Sega's booth during E3 to play Yakuza Zero. This editor is both jealous and excited. Here are his findings from the brief demo that he played.
Deep in the death-trap-in-waiting Atlus/Sega booth, two booths were set up for the belated English-language release of Yakuza Zero, the prequel story of series' mainstays Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Even packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the game ended up the most enjoyable demo I got to play the first day of E3. There isn't much new to report to a fan of the series, but rest assured that Yakuza Zero was the smoothest experience I've had yet with a Yakuza.
The demo was a short one, featuring only a small explorable district of the city. Set midway through one of the game's side stories, one involving an expectedly humorous situation, the demo gave a brief but interesting look at the game. The side story involved Majima posing as the adult boyfriend of a teenage girl who is attempting to please her father. Several dialogue choices were presented to try and outwit the father — I failed this miserably, if it's even possible to succeed — and the whole thing ended a bit too succinctly, as if it were cut for demo purposes. Still, it managed to demonstrate that the silly aspects of the series are still present and as strong as ever.
Another of the game's silly aspects, its take on random encounters, were present as well and made up the more exciting bits of my time with the game. Yakuza's combat is all about building up combos to lead to devastating finishers and this demo was no exception. The number of available moves seemed slim, likely due to it being a demo, but the ability to switch between several fighting styles helped keep the combat varied and interesting. On a standard mode by default, also included were was a more stylish form where Majima keeps light on his feet and nimbly jumps from attack to attack, performing some really cool, Black Widow-esque takedowns. Another form gave Majima a baseball bat where he could wail on enemies repeatedly with seemingly infinite durability on the weapon. It wasn't entirely clear if this was a unique thing or part of the demo, but it was fun taking out bums on the street with a favored implement of America's pastime.
Exploration was understandably limited, but some of the shops could be entered and contained the usual items mostly useless for the purposes of the demo. NPCs still littered the district but didn't have much to offer in the way of anything to do, random encounters aside. The demo also failed to cover the game's admittedly tertiary RPG elements, though this is a difficult thing to do in a demo. Regardless, the game played smoother than the PlayStation 3 entries to the series and the combat seems as lively as ever, so this is shaping up to be one to look forward to when it releases next year.