Previews by Matt S.
January is turning out to be a far better month for games than is usual – not only do we have Miku and Gravity Rush 2, but we also have Yakuza 0 and Fate/Extella to look forward to later down the track.
So let’s have a quick look at Yakuza 0 and Fate/Extella, shall we? No spoilers, I promise!
I came to Yakuza with the fourth game, and I can tell you, catching up with what happened in the first three was a painful process, watching a bunch of “catch up” videos that were bundled in with the fourth game, and I was still left scratching my head at the end of it. There’s only so much a “catch up” can do to represent the nuances of a series of very nuanced games.
Now with Yakuza 0, fans can go back to where it all started, and follow the paths of two very young versions of Kiryu and Goro. These fellows are young, brash, and oddly idealistic (as far as future crime bosses could be), and seeing that youthful side to them is a great way to revisit classic characters. They make mistakes. They learn lessons. They develop friendships for the first time, and bump up against old yakuza bosses who, we know, they later become themselves. It’s wonderful.
The presentation is absolutely incredible, too. There’s one scene early on where Kiryu meets up with three of the higher-ups in his yakuza clan. Those three are all played by actors well known for appearing in Japanese B-movie yakuza films. It might not mean much to us in the West, but it would be like having a scene in a Grand Theft Auto game where Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris and Mickey Rourke share the management of a crime syndicate between them. It’s so delightfully B-grade, and it fits with the tone of the storytelling perfectly.
Of course, what I love most about the Yakuza games is the way they manage to portray the vibrant life of Japan’s red light districts in a completely authentic way. Whether you’re dropping into a video room to watch softcore gravure videos of girls you meet through the adventure (the girls are digital characters, but based on real models, and the videos are the real models doing their gravure thing), playing some baseball, pool, or darts, or just dropping into restaurants to eat food that just reading the dishes makes my mouth water – Yakuza’s greatest strength has always been its ability to let you live in its cities just a little, and that tradition continues on with style here.
I’m new to the Fate series. I’ve actually only just started watching the anime, so I’m going into Fate/Extella with only a limited understanding of the characters, plot points, and context surrounding the game. I thought that would mean that I’d struggle to really enjoy the game, and indeed I didn’t bother finding out anything about the game before I started playing it.
Imagine my delight in finding that it’s basically a Dynasty Warriors game, then? Even though I still don’t really know what’s going on (because, as with so many anime tie-in games, knowledge of the source material is assumed), the combat itself is fast, frenetic, and exciting, which has kept me glued to the screen anyway.
As with many of the Warriors games, the goal is to move from one key area to the next, defeating the enemies to capture “bases”, while also stopping enemies from capturing your own. Basic enemies don’t put up much of a fight, but after you’ve defeated enough of them, bosses start showing up, and they take more work. Then, after you’ve captured enough areas, it’s time to get into a battle with the level’s boss.
There are a lot of characters in the game, which will obviously be appreciated by the franchise’s fans. To me, what appealed most was that each character is based on a historical figure. There’s something really amusing about Elizabeth Bathory being turned into a demonic lolita girl, and Lu Bu somehow manages to be utterly terrifying in every game you ever see him in.
There’s some heavy fanservice in Fate, which isn’t surprising given the franchise got its start way back as an adult visual novel. After creating a character at the start of the game, you then periodically get to go back to the bedroom with Saber as she talks lovey-dovey at you. These sequences actually behave very much like a VN, though it’s interesting that you’re able to create a male or female character; I’m pretty sure the lore of Fate has Saber as a straight woman. Not that I’m complaining.
Full reviews of both games will be coming as embargo lifts on them, but basically, for fans of Japanese games, between what has already come and what is coming yet, you’re in for a very busy second half of the month.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld