So for plot reasons that I won’t delve into for those interested in playing Yakuza 5 themselves/holding out for a translation of some sort, Saejima ends up finding himself in a really rural mountain town in Hokkaido after going back to prison to finish out his original sentence. Because the area is so remote, everyone in the town has to go hunting in order to survive and naturally, so as to not be a burden on everyone else as a guest, Saejima takes it upon himself to learn how to hunt as well. His chapter in general is very tonally and mechanically different compared to Kiryu’s, but this segment I’ve been playing where you focus on hunting and general survival stuff is really neat and easily my favorite part of the whole game so far. Since I don’t feel like being super articulate and actually try to format my thoughts into coherent paragraphs, I’ll just throw some general thoughts into bullet points. Hope that works for you!
- The change in setting from the series’ urban norms to something distinctly the opposite gives the team a chance to stretch their environmental design muscles in new ways and the results are beautiful. The town itself and the hunting areas you hang out in have the same level of detail you’ve likely come to expect from this series, but that work ethic manifests in a different way because of the literal nature of the surroundings. The houses, for example, are built to look like the natural extensions of the forest that they area and, much like you’d expect to see in such areas in reality, you’ll stumble into small Buddhist statues called jizou, a few of which are pictured above, that are meant to be spiritual guardians in your travels, among other things. As a native of very snowy Colorado and someone who’s lived in Japan, this is every bit the sort of place I always picture personally whenever somebody talks about wintertime mountain towns and I can’t think of higher praise I could ever level at it.
- Considering how absurdly in depth free activities in the Yakuza games tend to be, when I first heard that 5 featured hunting, I was expecting it to be a kind of janky, but charming take on Cabela’s or something along those lines. Instead, given how you’re hunting for survival and not fun, it’s a lot more somber and I think the game benefits greatly from it. For instance, the lack of music you hear most of the time while you’re out scouting for prey lends the hunting mechanics an aura of purity, that you really are out asking permission to take something away from nature for your own survival. It’s not to say that the hunting itself isn’t legitimately engaging or fun by its own merits, as it is, but the mechanics, sound, and graphic design all do a very good job of complimenting and reinforcing the narrative reasons why you’re out doing it.
- The mechanics are pretty straightforward themselves, but not without some nuance that make repeat trips to the same hunting grounds rewarding. When you go hunting, you can get animals either by trapping them or shooting them. Trapping them requires that you learn the geography and figure out where different species of animals tend to congregate so that you can lay down effective traps that’ll net you animals you can come collect later. Bigger prey, meanwhile, often requires that you follow their tracks and stealth shoot them. Naturally, depending on the type of animal, if you miss your shot and don’t take them on out the first hit, they might run away or they might try to attack you, issues that get amplified when you’re dealing with packs.
- Animal attacks aren’t the only things that can make your health dwindle, though. It’s so cold out that even with a good coat, you slowly lose body heat. Replenishing that requires that you either consume some of the meat from animals that you’ve hunted or to go scavenging for local flora and hope for the best. Either way, time can be of the essence for longer hunting stretches, as rest houses and new sources of food are relatively few and far between.
- Hunting is also Saejima’s only way of getting money and engaging in the local economy at this point in the story. As such, in addition to meat, animals that you hunt can also provide you with stuff like pelts and horns, which can then be sold to the lone merchant in town for some much needed yen. As that merchant also works with urban restaurants and whatnot, different animals will also be in demand at different times, netting you even more money. Your profits can in turn be used to buy stuff like traps, bait, and repair kits for your equipment and safe houses you come upon.
- The game doesn’t go out of its way to particularly dissuade you from eating the poison mushrooms aside from saying in the name they’re poisonous the description just says, “Yeah, sure, I guess you could eat them.”
I’m sorry if this post makes you feel even worse than you already do about not being able to play this game in English.
Yet more reasons we need Yakuza 5 in english!