I have completed Yakuza Zero and now my life has lost all meaning

I mean, the game is set during the 80s, right?

Yakuza. Oh boy. This was always one of those franchises that stood in the back of my mind saying "What if?" like some kind of edgy anime character propped up against a wall trying to look like they're trying not to look badass, except they are.

I've always wondered about it. Everyone liked it and talked about how everyone should play it, but I just never got it. I remember, way back when, when Yakuza 3 came out in the west, I eventually got my hands on a copy. And I... didn't get it. In fact, I hated the game. I thought this was the biggest, baddest beat 'em up around, and I've spent 3 hours raising children in an orphanage? I tried to stick with it, but I never could, and eventually I sold the game off and didn't think much of it.

It was, how do I explain this? It was like, the same reason I didn't like Demon's Souls is the same reason I didn't like Yakuza 3. The people that were telling me "Oh dude you've GOT to get this game it's mega hella sick sweet broham" but they were never really telling me why. So I showed up to the Demon's Souls party and thought "Man this game is shit" just the same as I ended up doing to Yakuza 3.

Eventually of course I played Dark Souls and thought that was mega hella sick sweet broham, but the thoughts lingered of Demon's Souls and I just had no interest. But with Yakuza, I put it away and left it alone. I had no interest in returning or trying it out again... until recently. Or, recently enough. With the release of Yakuza Zero, a prequel game set in the 80's, I had seen enough content of the game(Thankfully, only the early parts) to see what the game was. It was an extremely narrative heavy game in which you go around interacting with people while living the Yakuza lifestyle and also fight all sorts of gangsters, thugs, and drunks.

That might be selling it short, but that's what I thought if it from the perspective of the passerby. However, once I got my hands on the game, there was this sense of longing in me. It's hard to really put into words, but it was akin to "Where have you been all of my life?". Once I played, it clicked with me. The combat, the story, the super-Japanese overtones that infect everything from the deadly serious to having a guy called Mr. libido.

I think it was actually really early on once I fell in love with the game, when you do the first Karaoke with Nishiki and it starts out all standard "just standing around singing songs" and then transitions into this otherwordly imaginative rock concert where Kiryu and Nishiki are dressed for some kind of kickass music video from the 80's.

The Beginning

Because structure is cool, let's plot this shit out. The game starts up in the year 1988 and it's ja boy Kazuma Kiryu taking center stage as the protagonist of the game. I was quite unfamiliar with this character so I was really excited to be able to experience his "origin story" if you will. The plot seems to be pretty standard: Someone supposedly frames him for murder to get him to comply with their convoluted orders to go to prison and get information from Kiryu's mentor who has information about this Empty Lot that the entire organized crime committee is pooling their money into purchasing because of a Kamurocho Revitalization Project which is set to revitalize the area and earn billions of yen above what they already earn, and as a result everyone and their mothers are trying to do what they can to get their hands on that lot.

If that sounds complicated it's probably because I did a bad job of explaining it but also because it's convoluted to shit. But it's also kind of endearing that way. The thing about this particular plot is how it evolves to be even more convoluted as the game progresses, with each twist and turn in the story being a twist and turn in and of themselves for not being twists and turns(?).

Anyway, this guy Kiryu is trying to get back on good graces with the Yakuza and also try to fix this mess the only way he knows how: Brute force. He punches his way through waves of enemies to get a conversation with the Yakuza Syndicate, the Dojima Family leader(Sohei Dojima) and ask to be expelled from the family. As he was framed for this murder and a lot of negative attention is being levied at the organization, by being expelled he can face these challenges on his own without causing the family any harm. Eventually he gets his wish and sets off for his own journey that is filled with as much hardship as it is fist fights, and boy howdy is it filled with fistfights.

The Upgrades

You earn money though fighting these individuals which can then be used to upgrade your abilities which are laid out in the form of a sphere grid. There are sequential in nature so in order to acquire the second ability in the grid you must first acquire the, well, first one. Boy. The thing that intimidated me once I started actually looking at the prices of the skills is that the ones you get very early on are very cheap and affordable, but the ones later on cost millions, hundreds of millions, and even up to one billion yen. I was sitting there only getting sometimes four hundred thousand yen per fight, sometimes less, and barely making any headway on it, wondering how the fuck I'm going to get that much money that fast. Well, there is an answer for that, but it comes a little later.

But it's not just one fighting style at your disposal, in fact, you get up to 4. You start the game with the first fighting style, which is a more generalized fighting style, but you get two more fairly early on. One is a very fast fighting style which emphasizes rapid attacks and fast dodges, and my personal favorite: The Beast style, in which you do major damage by throwing people around and slamming them into other people and picking up weapons and bashing people's heads in with motorcycles and shit. I'm ashamed to admit that I'd forgotten about having to upgrade the fighting styles so I ended up playing about 12+ hours with the Beast Style without having put a single yen into upgrading it. It made sense, seeing as how I was having a lot of fun but not doing so much damage, but then I gave the style a little cash injection and started doing much more damage to individuals.

And the forth one is locked until you complete your major source of income which I will talk about a little bit later.

You get these fighting styles from particular people who can then help you upgrade them. Your styles have these "locks" on them in the grid, which inhibit how far you can upgrade them until you get around to "training" and completing certain challenges for these trainers who then release these locks, allowing you to experience your full potential. I also forgot about one of these for the Beast Style because the lady who gives you these challenges was out on a pier that I had to take a cab to get it, and so I basically completely forgot about her because I don't use cabs.

The Other Protagonist

This game threw me for a real loop because I had no idea that there was another protagonist. I saw Mr. Eyepatch on the cover but I figured he was just some important supporting character. I had no idea he could go on to become my favorite...

Goro Majima is the second protagonist of the game. He's got one eye and he manages a cool Cabaret and I love him. Well, actually I kind of hated this surprise a little bit because by the time I got here I had some money, some upgrades, and some stuff cooking in the oven for Kiryu so I had to start all over with this guy which made me kind of frustrated. But, eventually the sting wore off and I began to get right back into the swing of things with this new guy.

Goro Majima is a sorta disgraced Yakuza who has been essentially sent away to some backwater town that he doesn't want to be in, the city of Sotenbori. He considers it a prison, even though the Cabaret he manages pulls in massive profits. As we will come to learn about Majima, he doesn't really care about money, he just wants to get back in the game and become a Yakuza again.

He's a a lot like Kiryu; He's very strong, he has strong convictions that he holds true above all else, even if it could get him killed, and he's super cool. But unlike Kiryu, I felt like there was more range of emotions coming out of this guy. He's rich in personality and it really shines through, from start and especially to finish. Whereas Kiryu is a lot more straight laced, white bread kind of "I do what I must because I am strong" thing.

Anyway, all of the rules that existed for Kiryu exist here. You've got 4 fighting styles that you figure out and one that's locked behind your money maker, you upgrade them in mostly the same ways. The only real divergence to playing as Goro is where Kamurocho is actually quite large, Sotenbori is fairly small in comparison, which makes getting around take almost no time at all.

A Tale of Two Protagonists

The thing that kept me on the edge of my seat while playing this game was the constant switching back and forth between Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. During the fairly early parts of the game it wasn't so exciting, but eventually once the story kicks into high gear they seem to find the perfect spot to make the perspective shift to which drives me wild. Right when we're about to do some crazy shit or learn some interesting factoid, suddenly we're someone else. It does a lot to drive the story forward because I'm so desperate to find out more and I just want to keep playing.

I mean, it was fairly obvious that the stories were going to cross over eventually, but when it does it really kicks off and there were a lot of moments where I was shouting at my TV, neighbors be damned, because shit was happening oh my god fuck yeah.

Real Estate Royale / Sunshine Cabaret Club

This is the way you earn money in this game. Or, I guess you are constantly earning money from battles, but this is where you earn the real money. Chapter 5 marks the point of the game where I threw the story to the sidelines and grinded to my heart's content in what I can only call gross profits, because those gains were sick.

Somewhere near the beginning of this chapter, Kazuma Kiryu gains the ability to partake in Real Estate Management where you can go out, purchase property, and earn money off of that property. It's actually pretty simple, but it's so out of left field for what I was expecting with this game. While it's not that complex, it's like, imagine you're playing Call of Duty: Future Shooty 3 and all of a sudden you unlock some kind of Mother Base management from Metal Gear Solid V. That's sorta what it's like.

You join this fellow who tasks you with managing his real estate company, but these 5 bad guys named the 5 Kings decide that they don't like newcomers to the Real Estate game and they are going to make life difficult for you in your work. So, this mode because extremely formulaic after a while as it tasks you with buying property which allows you to upgrade their rating(Grade D to S, and the amount of money you earn from them increases as they level up) and then rake in the profits. At first you're going to start out making, what, hundreds of thousands? But eventually you're going to be profiting in the millions and hundred of millions.

The fun thing about this mode is that once it's given to you, you don't really need to progress through the story to complete it. I finished the entire thing in the first chapter it was given to me, spending roughly 30-40 hours just on this mode. I was collecting my money, beating these 5 Kings slowly but surely, and buying out entire sections of their zones with my mass stacks.

It was actually quite fun, but as I said before, it becomes painstakingly formulaic. The formula goes something like: Beat a king, gain access to their area, buy their properties, gain a certain percentage of their properties, get challenged by them to a fight, fight them, win, a new king issues a new threat, rinse and repeat.

I mean, I was able to pretty much max out my abilities aside from a few big ones, but I definitely spent quite a number on this thing, so much so I honestly sorta forgot about the story for a little while.

But by the time you get back into the story, you go back to your old friend Goro Majima, where he too gains access to a side activity that allows him to earn money, and that is called the Sunshine Cabaret Club.

You go around collecting Hostesses, Pokemon style, putting them to work at your club where you must match what your customers want with what abilities and charms your hostesses possess to maximize the customer's happiness and your profits. I think this is more fun than the Real Estate mode because that involves a lot of "go afk, remember to collect your money every 5 or 6 minutes, rinse repeat" whereas this is a lot more active on your part, requiring you to actually participate in a series of timed challenges where you respond to your hostessessesess calls for aid, in which they on the sly make requests through a series of hand signals which correspond with a list of options on a menu. For example, when a hostess calls for aid, she may want you to refill her drink, the hosts drink, swap the ashtray on the table, bring a refill of ice, or a menu for the customer. And if you guess correctly, the customer makes another order which gives a boost of how much money they spend.

This mode is timed with about 3 minutes worth of gameplay, and once the timer runs out, the session is over and you collect your profits. The goal is to gain a large number of fans in the surrounding areas, and once you reach a certain number, you will be noticed and challenged by a number of villains called the 5 Billionaires(You can see where this is going).

The mode itself is quite enjoyable and I sort of wished there was a little bit more depth to it because while I do have a lot of fun with it, it can be a little monotonous sometimes especially since I figured out all of the hand signals and have leveled up my hostesses so their stats are better.

You have a list of hostesses that are on staff, so while you can have something like 30 hostesses working for you, only 8 of them can be assigned to their shift for that night. There is also an "HP" gauge for them, which indicates how "tired" they are in the workplace. So if you keep using the same hostess, they will get more and more tired and their skills will gain penalties, so it's wise to switch them up every now and then. But then, you've got what are called "Platinum Hostesses" which are hostesses that actually allow you to customize their appearance, from their hair, hair color, contacts, what they wear, accessories, on and on. It's so in depth I was taken aback by it. It's basically your own waifu creator, except they work for you and will make you a bunch of money if you play your cards right, which I always did.

Strangely though, this mode makes considerably less money than Kiryu's Real Estate business, which means I had to change it up for Majima and go hunt down a special enemy called "Mr. Shakedown" who will take all of your money if they defeat you, but once defeated give you a massive reward. They have their own individual storylines associated with them, but eventually once you defeat them enough times, they start carrying roughly one billion yen. And since Sotenbori is so small, it's very quick and easy to hunt them down and defeat them for some quick cash, which ironically means I had Majima mostly statted out before I did Kiryu, even though I had played Kiryu a lot more by this point.

Eventually, all total, I must have spent about the same amount of time on the hostess club as I did Kiryu's Real Estate business. I found all of the storylines interesting and the personalities of the hostesses a fun addition to the story. The thing I love about these Japanese games is that the story can be the most dour and depressing, serious shit ever, yet the main character can go do side missions with hostesses and even run a business where he takes care of them and even fears for their safety so much that he follows a hostess having a dinner-date with their father, whom the character fears is a pimp taking advantage of the hostess. It adds a real sense of lighthearted humor, but also a nice personality injection.

Personality Injection

While we're on the subject, one of the things this game is a masterclass about is the sheer fucking personality in this game. I cannot tell you just how many of the side stories in this game are so fascinating and deep, but so off the wall and hilarious a the same time. Like the time you meet Miracle Johnson, who is definitely not a parody of Michael Jackson, no sir, or that time you help Miracle Johnson's dance routine by protecting him from a hoard of zombies, or winning a Chicken named Nugget after bowling a turkey in the bowling alley, which then becomes a manager for your Real Estate business, or the Pocket Circuit Racer thing which allows you to build and customize a Hot Wheels inspired car set and race them on elaborate tracks, BUT NOT ONLY THAT, ALSO BEING ABLE TO BUILD YOUR OWN CUSTOM TRACKS THROUGH A PRETTY IN DEPTH TRACK BUILDER. It. Just. Keeps. Going.

Everywhere I look in this game there's something so unexpected and amazing that I can't believe it. There's always something there to dig into, be it side activities like the Pocket Circuit Racer's stadium, the fact that I can play Outrun whenever the hell I want(And even get a Waifu out of it), or having deep philosophical conversations with a man named Mr. Libido. Or the way Kiryu picks up the phone during the telephone club segments.

Shamelessly stolen from Kotaku
In Conclusion

This game is amazing. I don't know a lot about the franchise aside from eventually the series has FOUR protagonists, and there's a couple of samurai spin-off games and even a zombie spin-off, which by all accounts looks terrible.

I think Goro Majima becomes a bad guy at some point? I googled him after I was done with the game and even before I clicked on anything all I saw were a bunch of "GORO MAJIMA BOSS BATTLE" videos, which is a shame, because I think Majima is a lot more interesting than Kiryu. He seems like a deeply troubled individual who got so frustrated with being forced to play the straight-laced, laid back type of guy that, when he saw certain individuals living life however they wanted by putting on this over the top persona, he decided he wanted to have a little fun by doing that too. And so he becomes this over the top psychopathic type, which in my opinion is a way to mask his true feelings and act as a caricature of himself. Some sort of defense mechanism, I think.

The post game followup vignettes seemed to paint the future of the series, or at least the immediate future of these characters as a very, very dark period, not even shying away from the fact that Kiryu goes to prison for 10 years at some point later on.

There is a remake of the first Yakuza game coming out near the end of the month, which is fucking exciting to me. I'm an immediate fan of this series and I'm so excited to see what the future holds for Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu. Hopefully they bring out all of the older games to PS4. If they are doing the first one logically I can assume they will do the rest, but that's all idle speculation and hope, so, in the words of my friends Asia, only time will tell. Until then, Yakuza Zero is a fucking incredible game.

All in all, I give Yakuza Zero...

There are no good pictures for this, so I had to make do.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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