Delf Discovers Yakuza

I have been meaning to talk about this topic for quite some time… and yet, it’s really not all that long a span of time in the grand scheme of things. That just makes it all the more important and astonishing, though!

There are very few topics in the gaming world I can discuss at length without stretching at least somewhere back in my long history with the medium for reference. Being able to discuss my experience with a series in entirety from only the last two years and change? That’s a rare gift.

So, after months of mulling it over, let’s talk about the Yakuza series.

I hadn’t originally planned to go too intently over every game I’d played — and indeed, there’s still quite a lot more I could write about each — but instead just give a rough write-up of how I got into the series and what hooked me. But once I started writing it up, the words just kept on coming until I’d gone through the entire series. It’s certainly not in-depth and the coverage of each varies, but there’s a lot here to talk about.

As such, the final word count on this behemoth of a piece is the longest I’ve written for any blog post or published article but a considerable margin. I’ve broken the text up with images, gifs, and video clips to hopefully give you some breathing room. So buckle up, and come with me on a whirlwind tour of the streets of Tokyo.

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Planning A Kamurocho Vacation

In August of 2017, I purchased a copy of Yakuza Kiwami, the remake of the first game. This is the first chance I’d had to pick up and play a Yakuza game, but my story doesn’t exactly begin there just yet. Why did I purchase that game, after all?

In truth, I knew practically nothing about the Yakuza series going into it. Sure, there were probably references to it, glances at the titles on store shelves, or some kind of subconscious understanding of the series existing. That said, I had never really given any serious thought into the games and what they were, or had a chat with anyone who had played enough to fill me in. I was going in largely blind, and that lack of knowledge is actually what drew me to it in the first place.

See, I distinctly remember reading a gaming website (I believe it was Eurogamer, for context) and glancing at an article that featured newly revealed details on Yakuza 6. Something about this stuck out to me, because I remember thinking “there’s a big news article about a 6th game here, and yet I know nothing about the series”. That lack of knowledge stood out to me, and my curiosity lead me to glancing at the article.

I understood nothing, of course, but what I did understand was a link to their Yakuza 0 review. So I clicked on that, and came away very curious about what was being described. I wanted to know more, but at the time I didn’t act on it.

This knowledge eventually bore fruit when I saw an article about the upcoming release of Yakuza Kiwami. Taking the same engine from Yakuza 0, it aimed to be a full reconstruction and remake of the original game, retaining all the same story and cutscenes but modernising the combat and graphical fidelity. There we go: that’s my starting point into this mythical series of which I knew nothing. Course laid in, calendar date set, Yakuza Kiwami purchased in August 2017 when it showed up on my local store shelves. At last, I would get to play Yakuza!

I played for three hours and then put it down for four months.

…Anticlimactic, no?

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Death Stranding: My Brief Impressions, and Long-Winded Statements on Tangentially Connected Subjects

So. I’ve been playing Death Stranding. How to describe how it plays…

Well, you basically run from point to point in a series of missions with occasional combat. You’ll be surrounded by a variety of interesting characters and a pretty intense story, wherein you become the Warrior of Darkness and save the First-

Wait, sorry, my mistake. That describes FF14’s expansion Shadowbringers.

Well, you basically have to move in such a way to maximise the terrain, make sure you don’t lose your footing or become unsteady, juggle all the resources you can acquire out in the field to upgrade your Mech Warriors-

Hold on, that’s Battletech. Sorry, back to Death Stranding.

Well, you basically roam around a big open world, surviving all sorts of weird creatures and threats while you scavenge the materials necessary to build structures, improve your power base, and eventually make a Nether Portal-

Ahh, never mind, that’s Minecraft.

…Do you see the point I’m making, though?

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Subnautica: Breaking the (Surface) Tension

I messed up yet again with the approach to writing these things. The last article on Atelier Ayesha ended up being a full on review and discussion, as well as a look at the series overall. I approached writing this article about Subnautica as much the same approach. Unfortunately, I wanted to write the article to cover just one aspect of the game and the two times in which it broke in a more casual approach, but instead I got sucked into trying to write a full thing.

As such, it started to get bogged down and I lost interest. I was struggling to write the damn thing because I was struggling to get through the filler to the meat of what I wanted to talk about. So enough of that: I’m scratching that off, cutting a bunch of this article off, and getting right back into the topic I wanted to tackle. Let’s start from there!

Pretty much every game I’ve played so far in 2019 has come about as a result of what I’ve come to think of as The Eternal Search. I outlined what that entails a few posts ago, but I’m going to relink it here for posterity. A number of games with heavy aspects of resource gathering, management, crafting and survival were sampled as a result ever since, and Subnautica is among those.

I won’t go any further into the overarching stuff than what’s in the post, so I encourage you to give it a read if you haven’t yet to see what I mean. Don’t worry, this post will still be here when you’re done. I’ll wait.

All caught up? Awesome. Let’s dive right in then.

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Atelier Ayesha Review/Discussion: Atelier Hwhat, Bobby

An atelier is a workshop usually associated with artists or designers. Just putting that there for reference, because I’ve had to define it for at least one person before. Got it? Good.

The Atelier series is a long-running development project and the primary flagship series of Gust, one of the more prolific and constant mid-tier JRPG developers. The core concept behind them is that of alchemy; you gather materials either through exploration or combat, use that to craft items, and then utilise these in battles or for quests and such. While many RPGs contain some kind of crafting or material system as a secondary feature, the Atelier series focuses on it as the primary strength, with everything else being secondary.

With this slightly difference focus, one may wonder: just who is this kind of game for? It’s a question a friend has, in fact, asked off-handedly before. Atelier games lack or have reduced focus on the usual strengths and highlights of the more notable JRPGs; the battles are more about what you bring into them than how you execute strategies with the party on hand. The stories and characters don’t tend to stand out among the bigwigs of Persona or Legend of Heroes, often leaning to fairly plain designs and personalities highlighted from a stock standard list of anime tropes.

Yet the games continue to be made and continue to maintain a decent following. So it was that, during my never ending search, I dug up an Atelier game or two that I had picked it up mostly out of curiosity at the time but had never fully invested myself in: Atelier Ayesha most notably. I started it pretty much the moment the new year began, and then finished it in rapid succession, making it the first game I played to completion in 2019. Now I have quite a few thoughts about both Ayesha, and the series as a whole.

So who is this game for? Turns out it might just be me.

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Pyramid Scheme: Revisiting Pharaoh and Other Sierra City Builders

Back in the early days of high school — sometime in the Mesozoic Era, it feels like — one of my favourite subjects was history. We can probably thank the Civilization series for seeding and Age of Empires for nurturing that interest, but that fascination carried over into my schoolwork. I was always keen for an opportunity to study the past, particularly ancient history.

This was something that my dad took notice of, hence why I found myself gifted a jewel CD case bundle containing Caesar 3, Pharaoh, and the latter’s expansion Cleopatra. Made by Impressions Games under the Sierra banner before their closure, these were (at the time) the latest entries in a series of city building games. I was vaguely familiar with Sim City 2000 by this point, but the notion of a real-time game in which I built cities in Ancient Rome and Egypt was fascinating and immensely alluring.

I ended up playing both games quite a bit during my high school years. They were a couple years old by the time I got to them, which meant they had the advantage of working on the low-specs PC I had in my room that was ostensibly for school work only. This made them staples when I wanted to slack off, so naturally I played them a hell of a lot.

Of the two, Pharaoh had the advantage of improving on the issues of Caesar 3, being a much more enjoyable experience that also had a few more unique elements. It was easy enough to build farmland in ancient Italy, but Egypt had no such luxury, forcing me to make use of the limited Nile floodplains per map and abiding by the whims of the seasonal inundation. Certain resources were much harder to get, trade was more important… but most importantly, Pharaoh demanded that you build some of the great monuments and structures. In the end, this one saw a lot more playtime.

I never did finish all the missions and campaigns on offer for either game, but Pharaoh quickly became one of those titles that I would just pick up on a whim every few years to play a couple levels. It even became one of the first titles I purchased on GOG, back when they were still Good Old Games.

From this same platform, I had the opportunity to dabble in the games that followed it: Zeus and expansion Poseidon, the Ancient Greek version steeped heavily in mythology; and Emperor – Rise of the Middle Kingdom, one set in China. Both games ostensibly had more features, improvements, and better graphics than Pharaoh, but I never did end up sticking with them or finding the same satisfaction.

While I had considered this a matter of nostalgia or just preferring the Egyptian thematic over the alternatives, I ended up playing all of these games again following the Christmas search I outlined in my last post. Once again, Pharaoh ended up being the one that stuck with me the most, and this time I was able to figure out why.

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Fantastic Resources and Where to Find Them: Delf’s Search for a Strategy Game

Back on Christmas Day (which was almost a month ago already, where does the time go?), I spent a couple of hours in the evening being somewhat… manic. I don’t recall precisely what initiated this, but for whatever reason I had pictured a specific kind of game in my head, and I was now tearing apart my collection or the internet in a frenzy to find and play it. It cascaded into me playing a handful of games since that point, trying to find something that would absolutely meet the requirements I was searching for.

From this, I ended up discarding or putting aside most of these games when they failed to achieve success, or else playing the ones I did stick with for incomplete or else different reasons. Most of these games I’ll speak about at length in the future (probably their own articles), but by now I feel like I should address the kind of game I was looking for.

In short, I was looking for quite possibly the nerdiest thing I could: a game of resource management, production chains, and logistics. And while I’m sure a few people could see that and immediately list off a few examples — just as I could, did, and started with in my search — I was looking for something more expansive. I don’t just want the end result of the chains, but the acquisition of the resources used, and the utilisation of these to allow me to expand or further my goals.

See, the first title I gravitated towards during my thought process and subsequent search was Black Desert Online. Besides the flashy and graphically striking action combat that the game sells as its main feature, it has a variety of “life skills” to complement this. You can set up farms, buy and sell trade resources in various markets that you can either manually carry or transport via wagons and boats (which you can build, and even breed better horses for), acquire property in towns that can be converted into production centres, and hire workers to work these centres or even gather the resources themselves from some areas if you didn’t feel like doing it yourself.

This was the part of the game that kept me playing for a lot longer than I expected previously. I would frequently go from place to place in order to figure out what resources were available, do smaller quests in order to open them up or else just farm contribution points that let me expand my sphere of influence, or just run trade routes back and forth in the background while doing other things. And it was this model that the manic searching for more games like this was based around.

So why didn’t I just play Black Desert Online when this mood struck me? Well… a few reasons.

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Some Games I Liked From 2018’s Second Half

For the games I liked from the first half, here’s a link to the post. Assuming you don’t want to scroll down a screen’s length, anyway. Don’t say I don’t look out for you~

Just as I am somehow delivering another (hopefully) great post within a week of the last one, so too did it seem that the second half of 2018 was dropping an intriguing title in our laps at much the same pace. This breakneck schedule seemed to continue pretty much until the first week of December, whereupon it took a quite breather for the holiday season and then is slated to get right back to it in just a few days.

Looking at you, Tales of Vesperia. Can’t even give me time to fully digest the FF14 patch updating as I write, can you?

So let’s get right back to it then. First, a couple of footnotes of sorts that I could have included from the first half, then right back to the second half of 2018, culminating in a quick talk about my favourite game of the year at the end. I’ll have plenty more to say about Yakuza Kiwami 2 than what’s here, but keeping to the 2-3 paragraphs trend for this article seems to suit me well.

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