One year has passed since we sunk dozens of hours into Yakuza 5, and these days it seems as though fans have more reasons than ever to be happy, as the traditional sparsity of the franchise seems gone for good. Yakuza 0 is right around the corner, then in the summer we'll get Yakuza Kiwami, (a remake of the first game), and then in 2018 the highly anticipated Yakuza 6 will finally arrive.
At first we thought that Yakuza 0 would be a minor title, and thus we'd be able to quickly get through it, focusing on the main story and a selection of side-quests needed to upgrade characters, just as was the case in the third or fourth games. However, while this isn't an entry that requires the same level of dedication as needed in Yakuza 5, it's still surprisingly addictive.
Sega has been thrifty with its construction, and it shows. The game's nature reveals itself as you progress; there's recycled settings, previously established characters, flashback sequences pulled from previous entries, and even some of the cutscenes aren't fully animated, instead they're comic-style scenes with added text.
Haruka, one of the core pillars of the franchise, is noticeably missing. Elsewhere you'll also come to realise how characters kept improving their abilities throughout previous titles, as here you'll have to learn from scratch using several masters, honing your combat skills (and now you can switch between different styles for each character). All in all the main story is simpler and less impressive (it's nowhere near Yakuza, Yakuza 4, or Yakuza 5), but it's still very engaging and does a good job of telling the story of how two teenagers grew up to be professional criminals.
It really doesn't need much else - the simple approach works, and you care about what happens, quickly becoming attached to the characters. That said, it's only natural that perception of events will vary, and a fan will foresee how some events are about to play out, already knowing who's a friend and who's a villain, recognising certain scenarios and therefore being able to act organically in a given situation. A new player will take their first steps blindly, and thus is much more likely to be surprised by both the plot, and by how it plays.
Even if it's simple, the main story is a lot of fun. The story arc for each character is solid enough, and the side quests opened up by people you meet on the street (there are 100 in total) are often interesting, and sometimes intense. You might be saving someone from being harassed, for instance, or stopping some teenagers from embarrassing themselves, or even helping a fake Michael Jackson film his own Thriller video. On top of that there's all the usual diversions: you can eat and drink anywhere, race radio-controlled cars, fight in tournaments, play in arcades (with fully playable Sega classics such as Space Harrier, Fantasy Zone, OutRun, or Super Hang On), fish, play mahjong, sing karaoke, dance in competitions, workout, play poker, blackjack, roulette, darts, pool, befriend various characters, flirt on the phone...