A winter dry spell has had me looking for new, highly time-consuming games to play. At the same time, because I am an entitled millennial raised by smartphones and Toonami, I’ve needed stuff to play on my TV in the background. The result was a return to Yakuza 0 (my favorite game in one of my favorite series) via the Giant Bomb Let’s Play, “Beast in the East.” I hadn’t revisited the game — nor its dual story of Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu battling a real estate conspiracy in 1980s Japan — since it released in 2017. Now that I have, though, I can only come to one conclusion. Give Majima his own game.
Those familiar with Yakuza know that Kiryu is the star. He was the only playable character in the first three games, as well as Yakuza 6. And while other protagonists became playable in Yakuza 0, 4, and 5, the so-called Dragon of Dojima has always been at least one pillar of the narrative. That’s changing with the release of Yakuza 7 (along with the core gameplay). The new leading man is Ichiban Kasuga: a more-or-less brand-new character. And that’s a shame.
A fan-favorite wildcard, Majima was given precious little to do in Yakuza 6. That game acted as a sendoff for Kiryu, but kept the single character whose fate has been entwined with his own since the start of the series mostly behind bars. This was likely done to back Kiryu into a corner. Stripped of his usual allies, the Dragon of Dojima was forced to build new connections from the ground up in his final starring game. That worked out well for the narrative, but it gave basically zero closure on Majima.
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And Majima is a character worth unpacking. The first three games juxtapose him as an unhinged frenemy to straight-laced good guy Kiryu. His popularly then made him a lynchpin in the plots of Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 (where his incarcerated blood brother, Saejima, became playable). But it wasn’t until the ’80s prequel that we got to actually play as him in a canonical game.
Yakuza 0 lays incredible groundwork for Majima. While he battles his own former crime syndicate, and puts everything on the line to protect an innocent women embroiled in the conflict, we see a much less deranged version of the queer-coded masochist. He’s just very, very sad.
The clan that betrayed him and Saejima also locked him in a basement to be tortured for a year, cutting out his eye in the process. It locked him into indentured servitude as a nightclub manager. The start of his story is much like the end of Kiryu’s; he’s cut off from whatever resources he once had and forced to decide what kind of person he really is. Unlike Kiryu, though, Majima doesn’t try to get away from the criminal life. He tries to bury his past in other ways.
The finale of Yakuza 0 re-contextualizes Majima’s behavior throughout the series as a coping mechanism. He adopts the “mad dog” behavior and obsessive affection for his peers that other, shorter lived characters extended to him. He’s a character that, perhaps like the developers themselves, never thought he would survive as long as he did. So he chose to live life to its fullest — trying to pretend his broken past wouldn’t catch up to him. Spoilers: it does.
Return of the Family Man
Yakuza 5, which is getting a re-release on PlayStation 4 this week, is the canonically the last game in which Majima’s former life comes back to haunt him. But it’s not really about him. It’s about Kiryu, Kiryu’s adopted daughter Haruka, and wrapping up an inter-factional war that permeated the background of the series up to that point.
Nearly every loose end in the franchise has been wrapped up at this point. That’s why it’s a good time to try a brand-new character with a brand-new combat system. Even last year’s Judgment — a Yakuza spinoff set in the same fictional city with entirely new characters — proved there’s great ground to cover in these games when they get away from the cast that built them. Except… Majima never really got that.
The return of Saejima let him heal one psychic wound. But we still haven’t seen what comes next. Perhaps Yakuza 7 will pull on some of those threads once again. We know Kiryu himself makes at least a cameo in the new game, so why not his one-eyed friend?
But that’s all they will be: threads. Yakuza 0 put Majima front and center as a playable character, turning him into one of the most well-developed combatants in the franchise in the process. Fully concluding his tale of battling circumstances beyond his control — until he willingly gave up control altogether — requires that same level of player engagement. I don’t just want to know how his grandiose presence impacts the life and times of those around him. I want to be part of it. I want Sega to give Majima his own damn video game.