Those familiar with Tokyo, will probably know the Kabukicho district of the Shinjuku Ward. It’s basically the closest thing you’ll find in the city to a red light district, and it’s basically synonym of night life and fun, even if nowadays you’ll spend more time dodging big dudes trying to allure you with a “massage” or a “titty bar” basically every six feet you walk.
In the eighties it was different, with the bubble economy in full swing, people used to have a lot of money to throw around, and a lot of not exactly innocent fun was had.
Kabukicho is the pulsing heart of the Yakuza series, even if the folks at Sega renamed it as “Kamurocho,” it’s still very recognizable. Since Yakuza 0 is set in 1988, the team went to painstaking efforts to reproduce the atmosphere of the bubble economy Kabukicho, with its glitzy allure, countless neon lights, and many drunk salarymen.
Of course, like in all Yakuza games, there are some gameplay-related discrepancies. You’ll definitely be able to walk around Kabukicho without getting into a fight every fifty yards (even if you may be tempted after the thirtieth time one of the big dudes mentioned above tries to drag you into a “titty bar” and doesn’t take a no for an answer), and as far as I know, since the first time I visited was seven years ago and not 28, that has always been the case.
To give you a glimpse of the upcoming game and of this very peculiar area of Japan, I recorded about an hour of gameplay. There are absolutely no spoilers, so don’t worry. It’s just me walking around in Kazuma Kiryu’s shoes, beating thugs in the face and playing a lot of minigames, like darts, pool, the batting center, retro video games (here you’ll see Space Harrier and Out Run), Karaoke, Disco Dancing and more.
While I’m not yet allowed to give you my final impression (the review will come on January 19th) I can definitely tell you that up to Chapter 6, which is what I’m allowed to talk about, the game is a real blast.
So walk the narrow streets of Kamurocho with me, and catch a glimpse of Kamurocho/Kabukicho before the redevelopment plans turned it into the more modern, but probably a bit less charming, area that it is now. See the Shinjuku Koma Theater before it was torn down, and get a nostalgic glimpse on a Japan that, at least in part, doesn’t exist anymore.
Considering that we’ll get Yakuza 6 in the west in early 2018 and Yakuza Kiwami (the full remake of the original Yakuza) next summer, you’ll soon get a glimpse of the place nowadays, and in a not-so-remote past, but for now, back to 1988 we go!
Incidentally, the game is recorded on a PS4 Pro, but keep in mind that Yakuza 0 was originally released in March 2015, so it obviously does not support enhancements on the new console.