For every gamer, there is one game which stands out above the rest. Whether it is because of how well it plays or the memories associated with it, every gamer has a game they wish they can experience again for the first time.
As someone who has been playing games for most of his life, I have played many both good and bad. However, I recently picked up a game for the first time and was so enthralled by it that I did a review on this particular game and I am now hooked on the franchise. While I am glad to have finally played this particular game, it is bittersweet because I wish I can play this game again for the first time.
That game is Yakuza 0.
If you have followed my work here on Stropse, you know that I am a massive fan of the series, and it all stems from Yakuza 0. Initially a randomly-downloaded game on my Xbox One, after spending more than 120 hours playing the game, I can honestly say it is one of the best games I have played in the last 10 years.
As I have previously touched on in another piece, I was put off by Yakuza 0 in the beginning because I was used to playing games that did not require immense time commitment, like NBA 2K20 and Saints Row: The Third Remastered. However, after contracting COVID-19 and being isolated in my room for weeks, I mustered the courage to dive into a world I had been neglecting.
Safe to say, I am glad I did because, in doing so, I discovered a hidden gem.
Not only did Yakuza 0 provide me a way to forget about the pandemic I was literally experiencing, the game was also a way for me to appreciate the greatness just sitting idly on my hard drive. Now, that may seem like I am exaggerating, but I promise you that I am not.
Like I mentioned in my review of Yakuza 0, the game is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The characters and story are well-written, the gameplay is easy to pick up and play, the soundtrack is phenomenal especially with the 1980s setting, the substories are quirky yet fun, and so much more.
Yakuza 0 is packed with so much to do that it never felt like I was begrudgingly doing a side quest — rather, it felt like a natural progression of the story in a strange but effective way. It is innumerable the amount of times I was running from point A to point B to complete the objective only to be sidetracked by someone needing batteries for their bagged phone or dragged into a Pocket Circuit Stadium to race against young children to see who’s the best. I would not be surprised if a massive percentage of the 120+ hours I devoted to the game was strictly just doing the substories, especially the “Cabaret Club Czar” and “Real Estate Royale.”
(Side note: there is nothing more exhilarating than beating a group of children in RC car races. I swear, it is a lot more difficult than it sounds.)
While Yakuza 0 can get overwhelming at times – especially in the beginning where there are so many aspects of the game to take note of – developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios (RGG) does an excellent job reminding players what happened in the story. For example, because there are two main characters – Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima – it’s often easy to confuse what happened in their respective stories, especially since it is so easy to get sidetracked with substories.
However, RGG is able to remind players what happened quickly and concisely. Additionally, credit has to go to RGG for expertly crafting Majima as a deuteragonist with his own issues and story instead of putting him in the game for the sake of putting him in the game.
In my honest opinion, although Majima is the secondary protagonist, his story is more riveting and engaging than Kiryu’s, which is saying a lot since Kiryu’s story is filled with intrigue, betrayal and sadness. This goes back to RGG’s ability to turn one of the main secondary characters in the series into a bonafide protagonist and that, in of itself, is an accomplishment in game development and writing.
Moreover, the world RGG built in Yakuza 0 – mainly through Kamurocho and Sotenbori – is what I imagine the 1980s to be: brightly lit, extremely shady and unnecessarily excessive to the point of conspicuous consumption. This level of immersion only helps Yakuza 0’s world feel more lively and welcoming, as if to say: “Welcome to Yakuza 0! Your life will change forever!”
In the end, I can’t think of any more superlatives to describe Yakuza 0. It is truly a remarkable work of art that has to be experienced, regardless of what kind of game you play. Considering that is relatively cheap depending on the system – it is free on Xbox Game Pass – there is no excuse not to play this game.
I just wish I can be like other gamers and experience the sights, sounds and story of Yakuza 0 again for the first time. But alas, that is not how life works, and the fact that I can’t play Yakuza 0 again for the first time is a tragedy.