Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
Year: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
In Yakuza 0's cabaret clubs the salarymen of its booming 1980s Japan pay to drink with glamorous, flirtatious women. These businesses are hostess clubs, with strict policies against anything sexual—the staff are just there to pour drinks, light cigarettes, and turn on the charm. Halfway through Yakuza 0 you unlock Club Sunshine, and as owner it's your job to match hostesses with customers, answer calls for assistance, and bring the check. It's a management sim dropped in the middle of a crime drama beat-em-up, and while it doesn't rake in as much cash as the real estate minigame it's a lot more fun.
A customer enters and the clock starts ticking. Maybe he's looking for someone with a high score in Party who is also cute, in which case Ai is the girl for the job, or maybe he wants someone funny with a high Talk score, in which case I bring out Etsuko, a middle-aged woman in a jaguar t-shirt who insisted on joining the club during one of Yakuza 0's many ridiculous sidequests.
You soon get used to spinning plates, juggling hostesses in and out, then swooping when it's time for the check or some assistance. The hostesses use hand gestures you have to memorize—open hands means "bring the menu" and a twist like wringing out water means "we need a towel". There are signals for replacing ashtrays, refilling ice, and two for bringing a drink depending who wants it. When you snap off the right response it improves the guest's mood and refills some of the girl's HP, which stands for Hospitality Points, and as an added bonus you feel like an absolute boss.
There are rowdy guests to talk down or eject, a fever mode to trigger when you need to lift the mood, and battles to steal the customers of rival clubs run by the villainous Five Stars of Sotenbori—who each have their own fever mode debuffs and whose clientele all have different preferences. The deliberately obtuse interface doesn't help, but you get the hang of it after a while.
This frenetic minigame where money bursts out of men like confetti while the clock counts down to a racetrack whistle is only half of it. You have to secure promotional deals with businesses around town, decide which staff to put on and which to rest each shift, and manage your handful of 'platinum' hostesses. That involves play-acting conversations where you pretend to be a customer and get to know them, and deciding what they wear and how they do their hair.
It's a common observation that there's a sharp contrast between the Yakuza games' serious plots and silly substories, and cabaret club management is where I feel that contrast the most. Not 10 minutes ago I was out on the street slamming a baseball bat into some goon's head, and now here I am thinking Yuki can definitely pull off the tiara with the gown—girl's a damn queen, of course she can—but those earrings have got to go.