I was fashionably late to the Like A Dragon party, only stepping into the world of Yakuza 0 a few years ago. But like many others, I was instantly smitten. It didn't hurt that Yakuza 0 was hailed as the series' pinnacle at the time, boasting polished gameplay and serving as an ideal entry point as a prequel. My initiation into the series with Yakuza 0 set me up for a thrilling ride.
Yakuza 0 is brimming with lovable qualities: its distinctive humor is both politically progressive and sharply satirical, while managing to be a profound exploration of Yakuza culture intertwined with surreal and absurd substories. Moreover, its core narrative is gripping and, on occasion, deeply moving.
Kazuma Kiryu, the longstanding protagonist, is the kind of character you can't help but adore. His stoic demeanor and violent past are counterbalanced by his unwavering commitment to doing good and his tendency to sacrifice his own well-being and happiness to protect others. He's flawed, utilizing violence for his ends, but strives to employ it for noble purposes. Kiryu's evolution throughout the series makes him one of my all-time favorite characters.
However, Yakuza 0 is no longer my top pick in the series. From the moment I got a preview of "Infinite Wealth" at the Tokyo Game Show, I knew it would dethrone Yakuza 0. The turn-based gameplay of Infinite Wealth resonated with me, and its stunning new setting in Honolulu is nothing short of breathtaking. The open world, multiple times larger than Yakuza 0's Kamurocho, is densely packed and vibrant. It's astonishing how the game retained everything I loved while introducing a plethora of high-quality mechanics. I still can't believe they pulled it off so seamlessly. No matter how much time I spend in the game, it never feels repetitive or like a waste of my time.
In addition, Kiryu is no longer my favorite protagonist. That title now belongs to Ichiban Kasuga, the charismatic leader of Infinite Wealth. I adore him because he embodies the kind of person I aspire to be. While I still hold Kiryu dear, his life's path has led him to grapple with nihilism. On the other hand, Kasuga confronts the world with unwavering optimism, which is precisely what I need.
When I look at Kasuga, I see glimpses of myself. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, unafraid to show vulnerability. But his heart is always in the right place. Often, when he spirals or overreacts, it's because he cares deeply. His earnestness sometimes makes me cringe (that scene with Saeko, oh boy), but I can't help but recognize it in myself. Kasuga isn't one to scheme or concoct elaborate plans; he's more inclined to speak his mind, even if it makes him appear silly.
Kasuga's character is defined by his unwavering loyalty, his willingness to drop everything to aid those in need, and his commitment to doing the right thing. Whether he's helping fellow ex-Yakuza reintegrate into society or engaging in brawls, his purpose in life is to bring justice and be a true friend.
On paper, he and Kiryu aren't vastly different. Both strive to do more good than harm, both dedicate themselves to protecting the weak, and both veered away from the Yakuza to pursue their own paths of bettering the world. However, in a world that grows increasingly jaded and dismissive, we need more Kasugas.
For years, I was steeped in cynicism and depression, genuinely believing that pursuing what I loved was pointless because it wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things. If I attempted to rise and seek happiness, I would be crushed once more by the same oppressive forces. Life held no meaning, so why live it?
But then, a shift occurred in my life. My depressive nihilism transformed into optimism. If nothing matters, I can do whatever I want. I can pursue activities that bring me joy, create art without fear of judgment, and hum along to music in public, even if people stare. Even if my actions don't change the world, I can, at the very least, find happiness and make others happy. Optimism revitalized my life and continues to provide me the resilience to bounce back from rock bottom.
That's what Kasuga represents to me. Whenever obstacles arise, he finds a way around them. When situations are beyond his control, he does his best with the tools at his disposal. His dedication to being a good friend and making the world a better place, even in small ways, is inspiring. Whether it's beating up troublemakers on the beach or lending a listening ear over drinks, Kasuga understands thateveryone has the power to make a difference.
So, as I eagerly await the release of Infinite Wealth, I can't help but imagine myself stepping into the shoes of Ichiban Kasuga, embracing his unwavering optimism and commitment to justice. I want to be the person who brings a smile to someone's face, the one who offers a helping hand without hesitation.
Infinite Wealth may be a work of fiction, but its impact on my life is real. It serves as a reminder that optimism and kindness can be powerful forces in a world that often feels cold and uncaring. It encourages me to embrace my own quirks and vulnerabilities, to believe in the power of friendship and the pursuit of happiness.
So, as I dive into the sprawling open world of Infinite Wealth, I'll savor every moment, every substory, and every battle. I'll channel Ichiban Kasuga's spirit, embodying his unwavering optimism and commitment to doing good. And who knows, maybe along the way, I'll discover a little more of myself and find that, just like Kasuga, I too can make a difference, no matter how small.
In the end, Infinite Wealth isn't just a game to me. It's a source of inspiration, a reminder that even in the face of adversity, we can choose to be the heroes of our own stories. And with that in mind, I eagerly await the day when I can embark on this new adventure, ready to embrace the optimism of Ichiban Kasuga in an infinite world of wealth.