The Yakuza series is part of a drama RPG about Japanese organized crime and a slice of life about helping kids win the game of claws in an arcade, teaching novice dominatrixes self-confidence and writing the perfect postcard for a radio show. Yakuza 0 is also about hustling as the manager of a hostess club.

If it were possible to see the breakdown of my 65 hours of play, you would rightly think that Majima Goro gave up his life of crime for good and became a full-time stylist, dating coach and bartender, because I love Yakuza. Hostess club management game from 0.

(Image credit: Sega)

Manager wanted

Hours after the heartbreaking drama and distractions of ’80s Kamurocho, Yakuza 0 co-protagonist Majima is pulled from his main daytime gig as the manager of a cabaret to manage a new cabaret club. It’s a smaller joint, but still a hostess club, where men pay a blanket to chat and buy drinks for pretty young women. Trouble is, Club Sunshine’s top rated hostess is terrible at chatting, and the club itself needs a lot of TLC, too.

I didn’t expect to spend a lot of time there. I didn’t enjoy the Real Estate Royale minigame on Kiryu’s plot side and thought club management would be just as bad. There isn’t a single thing about the Cabaret Club Czar game worth ignoring.

It’s part dress-up game, where you’ll choose clothes, hairstyles, and jewelry for your hostesses, all of which impact their stats: beautiful, sexy, cute, and funny. You know, classic RPG stuff. But behind the earrings and the pumps is a really fun real-time management game.

Raking food and drink sales is the name of the game, which my list of hostesses earns during a shift of their customers. It’s up to me to match hostesses with clients they can impress based on their skills – speaking, partying, loving, and “skill” (which is apparently their wit and intelligence).

Things get no less hectic on the club floor each night. Clients show up regularly, have a short or long session at one of my six booths, and need a matching hostess with the skills and looks they prefer. Hostesses lose stamina, take sick leave if I overwork them, and regularly call me to their table to deliver a menu, drink, or ashtray, each of which I have to remember by their hand signals.

Each hostess can only entertain one guest at a time, and I found myself freaking out swapping a shallow-pocketed guest’s wife for one that would cover her with drink orders. Other times I have to risk a woman with a client who won’t like her and hope she hangs on until another woman ends her current appointment.

(Image credit: Sega)

Play dates

It’s just the minigame itself. Throughout history, Majima and her ladies have outclassed the competition, recruited the best hostesses from rival clubs, and grown as people.

As the manager of Club Sunshine, Majima also gets to know the women he hires, taking them on simulation-style training dates to help them improve their skills for real clients. They are adorable, each and everyone, with their own personal stories that take place over several dates: Hibiki who has become the guardian of her little brother, Ai the sweet and lonely, the optimistic sportswoman Saki, Chika, Mana and Sunshine’s Yuki, hostess from zero to hero.

All of the ladies in Sunshine are more than their archetypes, which makes conversation practice dates no joke. More than once I would learn something about a hostess on a date and be asked to call back hours later the next day. I always wanted desperately to fill those pink heart bars but, like in life, I couldn’t always properly understand what they wanted or struggled with when my dialogue choices came out of Majima’s mouth a little differently than in my head. I tried to do good for each of them, supporting them as friends, and the reward was a lovely family of young women found in the big city.

The Yakuza series often dabbles in hostess and dating clubs, but Yakuza 0’s comprehensive management and dating sim is much more than a mini-game. If ever Ryu Ga Gotoku cast it on his own, I might as well put in 65 hours for it.