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Uncovering a hidden gem: Yakuza 0

Making a diamond is an extremely arduous process but, simply put, it’s when carbon atoms are formed under high temperatures and pressures. Due to the immense temperature and pressure, the carbon atoms form a very strong bond with four other carbon atoms. 

The result is an extremely hard material and eventually, a beautiful crystalline structure. 

You might be thinking to yourself, “Why is this guy talking about the creation of diamonds when ramping up to a serious Japanese crime drama?” The answer is simple: under the immense temperature and pressures of contracting COVID-19, I was able to find a diamond in the rough: Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0

On June 28, I – along with the rest of my family – contracted COVID-19. My parents work in the medical field and after one of them tested positive, it quickly ravaged my family. Long story short, COVID-19 made our lives hell for more than a month and left us all confined to our respective rooms in our own house. 

That said, not all was bad. Being confined to my room for 18 hours finally gave me time to try out Yakuza 0. Prior to contracting the virus, I had been pushing it off because I felt it was intimidating. 

A single-player experience that might require over 60 hours to complete and almost 15 years’ worth of narratives to catch up on? That’s a tall task, so I kept telling myself I didn’t have that kind of time anymore. 

But once the virus hit, I had all the time in the world and so, I decided to take the plunge.

The two playable characters: Goro Majima (left) and Kazuma Kiryu (right). Courtesy: SEGA

At first, it was a slow draw: multiple high-ranking Yakuza members talking about how and why a small plot of land – called the “Empty Lot” – is important to moving up in the criminal underworld wasn’t the most interesting storyline, especially for someone not versed in real estate. 

Admittedly, after playing the first few chapters, I took a break and went back to playing NBA 2K20 – on my PlayStation 4 – and Saints Row: The Third Remastered because those games weren’t as story-driven and I could hop in and out. However, with Yakuza 0 continually looking at me on my Xbox One game list, I promised myself I would not play another game until I finished Yakuza 0.

Thus began my journey. At first, I was solely focused on the main stories of Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu, two former Yakuza members. Majima is trying to get back into the Yakuza business while Kiryu is trying to clear his name after a botched job. 

Soon after, I began to delve into the substories of each character. That’s where the beauty of Yakuza 0 lies: its ability to mix an extremely serious main story with outlandish substories is second to none. 

It’s innumerable the number of times I played as Majima and sat through a cutscene where a person has just been tortured – or worse – and once gameplay starts back up again, I’m greeted by a man named “Walking Erection.” 

I’ve also helped a street performer – a man performing as a statue – sneak away from a crowd so that he can use the bathroom, among other substories. Also, there have been times when I’ve disregarded Majima’s main storyline completely to focus on his main substory: managing a fledgling cabaret club in hopes of making it the best in the city.

Kiryu “calmly” answers a telephone call. Courtesy: SEGA

Kiryu’s substories can be just as outlandish as well. From helping a shady-looking man selling mushrooms – not that kind – in a back alley to becoming the best pocket racer – essentially an RC car – in the city to helping out pop megastar “Miracle Johnson” film a music video with zombies, there’s so much to delve into. 

That’s not including Kiryu’s main substory: being a real estate mogul, buying properties in a specific area and eventually defeating the miniboss of that area. What’s more, you can go to a karaoke bar as either of the characters and sing to your hearts’ content. Considering how serious each character is, these songs provide welcome respite after such heavy content. 

(Side note: the music videos for “24 Hour Cinderella” and “Baka Mitai,” Majima and Kiryu’s respective songs of choice, are just great.)

It’s those moments of levity that leave you on the edge of your seat, and not in a suspenseful way. With all that Yakuza 0 had to offer, by the time I finished the game, I had invested over 140 hours. It definitely did not seem like the game took 140 hours to complete — it felt like I played fewer than that. 

Yakuza 0 is outlandish, and I mean that in the best way possible: there are numerous YouTube videos showing just how ridiculous it is. If anything, watching what the game is like in a nutshell is amusing in and of itself. 

In all, Yakuza 0 is simply a gem. If it weren’t for the pressure and high temperatures that I had to go through, I would have never found this diamond in the rough.

But I’m really glad I did.

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