Hello and welcome back to the Story Arc. Last week I began an adventure where every other day in December of 2022 I examine a minor mechanic in the Yakuza franchise and look at how it has evolved game by game. In the previous articles I looked over how super small mechanics like locker keys and taxis have evolved as well as how larger mechanics like chases and Revelations have changed over the years, so today let’s go over a mechanic that is very prevalent in every single game but is rarely spoken about: alcohol!
To catch those who haven’t played the games or don’t understand how getting drunk in Yakuza works up to speed; whenever you order an alcoholic drink in a bar or a normal restaurant Kiryu’s drunk meter on the right side of the screen will increase. When Kiryu is drunk his heat gauge will increase a lot faster in battle, there are typically 3 phases to his drunk meter that determine how fast his heat will increase and how long he will remain drunk as fighting enemies decreases your drunk meter.
Another alleged effect of getting drunk in Yakuza is that your enemy encounter rate will rise if you’re drunk. On the surface that sounds like it would be true because enemies comment on you being drunk, but how about we do some tests?
I am going to open each Yakuza game, go to a bar, and test a few things. We’ll see how Kiryu’s alcohol resistance has raised over the years by ordering the same cheap drink over and over in each game to see how long it takes before the bar cuts him off and then we’ll walk along a path to the Millenium Tower to see exactly how long it takes for enemies to pick a fight with him.
For this purpose we shall dine at the bar Shellac and leave through the Champion District’s west exit. Then we shall walk up until we reach Shichifuku Street and proceed due west until we reach east Millenium Tower street and walk down until we reach the tower.
Bear in mind this map doesn’t apply to all games because in Yakuza 1-5 and 0 Pink Street extends all the way upward.
With that all out of the way let’s get this man drunk!
Let’s begin our journey off at the game that started it all: Yakuza 1 on the PS2. Originally I wanted all of my bar tests to take place at the bar known as Bantam (Bacchus in original Y1) but unfortunately after playing through five whole chapters of Yakuza 1 it never became possible to drink there so instead we’re going to walk over to the Champion District and our new favorite bar: Shellac! In retrospect this wasn’t the best bar to choose because the Shellac bartender never shuts up so getting the same speeches about what I’m ordering each game got repetitive but whatever.
Because I want this research to be as easy as possible, we’re not going to make Kiryu down the super expensive champagne and just order the cheapest drink in the game: Suntory Malts Beer at 500 yen.
It quickly becomes clear that Kiryu has the alcohol tolerance of a bear! He is able to drink ten whole beers before the bartender finally cuts him off! Good job Kiryu, that’s a skill to brag about.
Next we’ve got our first encounter phase. Upon leaving the Champion District and running along our predetermined path we are able to travel all the way to the intersection of Shichifuku Street and Millenium Tower East before encountering an enemy! That’s several blocks and a good chunk of Kamurocho before we encountered an enemy, if the enemy encounter rate had been raised at all it isn’t noticeable in Yakuza 1.
With one whole game out of the way let’s now move on, we’ve got an entire franchise of bars to drink at!
Moving on to Yakuza 2 we’ve already hit a big roadblock for having consistent, scientific tests in each game: the drink we ordered in Yakuza 1 doesn’t exist in Yakuza 2. Desperate to find a new drink I decided to move on to second cheapest thing on the menu: Suntory Old Whiskey at 500 yen. With a new drink selected I reloaded Yakuza 1 to check if this drink exists there but it doesn’t! Suntory Whiskey does exist in every game from here onward though so Y1 is just going to have to remain the odd one out in terms of drink consistency!
Upon drinking the whiskey I was immediately curious if this drink would effect Kiryu differently than the beer in Yakuza 1. Kiryu was only able to down 5 glasses of whiskey here before the bartender cut him off for the night. For the sake of my sanity I’m just going to assume RGG made this decision and that the whiskey isn’t twice as strong as the beer because I want to believe this test still matters.
Upon getting drunk we once again made Kiryu run along the path we laid out for him, we actually encountered an enemy much faster here than in Y1 as Kiryu got stopped by someone wanting to fight him at the intersection of Shichifuku St and Pink Street. While this is a faster encounter than in Y1 I hesitate to say it’s because of the alcohol because not only is it only half a block of difference but we were still able to walk a sizable distance before any enemies appeared.
With the both games in the PS2 duology finished let’s move on to a new era and examine alcohol in all of the PS3 games!
Going into Yakuza 3 we shall once again be testing the Suntory Old Whiskey in Shellac. It would appear that the bar is getting desperate to sell this as the price has fallen to only 400 yen.
Kiryu’s alcohol tolerance seems to only be getting worse with age as although he was still able to down five whiskeys in Yakuza 2, here he can only down three before getting completely drunk. I wonder if this is going to be a recurring theme as we continue through the Kiryu saga?
Going into the enemy encounter section the rate of encountering enemies appears to be identical to in Yakuza 2 as I was able to run all the way to the intersection of Shichifuku St. and Pink Street before encountering an enemy.
Before we move on to Yakuza 4 there is a new aspect of alcohol introduced in this game that we should talk about: alcoholic heat actions! After encountering a specific Revelation in this game Kiryu will learn the Essence of the Drunken Fist, a heat action that can only be performed while he’s completely drunk. After this every Yakuza game would feature at least once heat action that can only be performed while drunk, a nice little addition to this mechanic.
Heading into Shellac in Yakuza 4 we once again see that Suntory Whiskey is priced at 400 yen. This isn’t the only thing completely unchanged between Y3 and Y4 as Kiryu can still only down three of these whiskeys before being completely drunk. With this phase of the test being completely anticlimactic let’s move on to see if the encounter half of the test yields different results.
Going into the enemy encounter portion of the test I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that enemy encounters don’t get increased in Yakuza 4. I tried the test twice here and both times I was able to run all the way to the Millenium Tower before encountering anyone looking for a fight! Sure, enemies will comment on Kiryu being drunk but it doesn’t seem like the encounter rate is increased at all because of it!
The only other thing worth talking about in Yakuza 4 is how Akiyama also has a heat action that can only be performed while drunk, so let’s move on to Y5 and see if there’s anything interesting to talk about
Beginning our journey to Shellac in Yakuza 5 we’re almost immediately hit with a big change to our favorite bar! Instead of one singular bartender running the place there are now two comedians who I can only assume are real actors hired by RGG Studios in charge. When ordering a drink from them they’ll ask if you want to hear their comedy routine. If you say yes you will get to watch their COMPLETELY UNSUBBED routine! Is it good? I don’t know, I do not speak Japanese.
Going over the alcohol itself almost nothing is changed here. The whiskey still costs only 400 yen and Kiryu still gets completely drunk after only three drinks. Since there’s nothing to speak of here let’s move on to the encounter test.
Yakuza 5’s encounter rate is nowhere near as pitiful as it was in Yakuza 4 thankfully. Here I once again encountered enemies on the intersection of Shichifuku St and Pink Street, meaning the encounter rate here is much closer to what it was in Yakuza 2 and 3. With that test out of the way let’s move into the past and test Kiryu’s alcohol Tolerance in Yakuza 0.
Back in the 80s it looks like Shellac was still selling Suntory Whiskey for only 400 yen! That would mean they increased it to 500 yen in 2005 because of inflation but in protest the people of Kamurocho got it pushed back down to only 400 yen in 2008! Or the price of alcohol in these games is completely arbitrary but that is nowhere near as interesting.
Kiryu in this game is only able to drink two of these whiskeys before getting completely drunk and cut off by the bartender. Yes, his alcohol tolerance is even worse here than in the Y3-Y5! However, let’s give the poor guy a break. He only just turned twenty during the plot of Yakuza 0, alcohol is still a new thing to him and he needs to build up the tolerance he had in Yakuza 1.
Now for the enemy encounter test we obviously can’t run to the Millenium Tower as it won’t be built until years after this game, but we can try running to an equivalent location: the empty lot! Running along the streets I actually got pretty close to it while drunk too, not encountering an enemy until I hit the intersection of Shichifuku Street and the Kamuro Shopping Area.
With all of the PS3 Yakuza games tested, let’s move into a new era and new engine as we test Kiryu’s alcohol tolerance on Yakuza 6!
Moving into Yakuza 6 we get hit with an immediate problem for our tests: Shellac and the entire Champion District of Kamurocho don’t exist in this game! With not only our favorite bar but the location we’ve been starting the encounter phase of the tests being completely erased we’re going to need to make a new test for Yakuza 6. Thankfully it’s going to be a pretty easy change to adjust to as the bar directly outside of the Millenium Tower, Bantam, also serves Suntory Whiskey!
Because Bantam is basically right where our previous route ended, when testing the encounter phase in Yakuza 6 we shall run our previous route in reverse until we get to where the Champion District normally would be. With that out of the way let’s get into the drinking phase.
Kamurocho got hit by inflation hard in the late 2010s it seems as the price of Suntory Whiskey has raised from 400 yen all the way to 600 yen! That’s a near 50% price increase! This is outrageous and I shall be taking my business elsewhere in the future, owner of Bantam!
Kiryu might want to give up going to bars altogether though as his alcohol tolerance is easily at its lowest in this game. He can only down 2 whiskeys before being completely unable to drink anymore and cut off by the bartender. Seeing Kiryu be able to drink less and less as he gets older is a poetic way to end off the Kiryu saga I suppose.
Moving into the encounter phase of our test I can also definitively say that there is no way the enemy encounter rate is raised when drunk in Yakuza 6. Not only was I able to run all the way to where the Champion District would be but I was able to make a full loop back to the Millenium Tower before I saw any enemies on my minimap! I am going to chalk this up to Yakuza 6 not having the best performance due to being the first Dragon Engine game but no matter the reason it’s clear that alcohol and encounter rates are completely disconnected in this game.
Before we move on to our next game I would like to highlight a new feature of getting drunk in the Dragon Engine games. When you fill your alcohol meter to max now when you leave the bar you will deal with wonky controls for about half a minute, causing you to goofily run into walls or into NPCs. It’s a fun little detail that I appreciate the new games having.
Moving on to Judgment we’ve got a few major changes that will affect the rest of this article. The biggest being that we will no longer be able to test Kiryu’s alcohol tolerance as Yakuza 6 was his last playable appearance. So for the rest of this article we shall simply test Yagami’s alcohol tolerance (I’ll explain why we won’t test Ichiban’s at the end of this section)
Judgment thankfully brought back both the Champion District and our favorite bar Shellac. However not all is right with the world as Suntory Whiskey is completely absent from the menu! To try and substitute this I once again moved on to the cheapest menu item: Asahi Super Dry (No, the beer from Yakuza 1 isn’t here either). The Super Dry costs only 500 yen so it is cheaper than what Suntory cost in Yakuza 6 but this is the closest substitute we have.
Yagami is a pretty young man being only 38 so you would think he’d have a better alcohol tolerance than the much older Kiryu but nope, Yagami can only down three before the bartender has to cut him off!
Moving on into the encounter phase of our tests this may be the very first game where I’ve felt the encounter rate may be raised as I ran into enemies immediately after I left the bar! Five seconds flat and the thugs of Kamurocho were already trying to rob me!
Under normal circumstances I would move on to Yakuza: Like a Dragon right now and test Ichiban’s alcohol tolerance but I’ve sadly been hit by a major roadblock: not having a save file in Kamurocho. I recently lost my completed Like a Dragon save and while I could technically play through this 80 hour JRPG again to get to the post game where I can freely explore Kamurocho I think I’m going to pass for now.
I will however comment on how alcohol and being drunk is treated in Like a Dragon! Being drunk in Like a Dragon gives you a status effect similar to being confused in most JRPGs, so if your party gets drunk and you run into enemies there’s a pretty good chance Ichiban and company will kill each other within a few turns. It’s hilarious but also I can see it being annoying if you haven’t saved in a while.
The final game in this article we’ll examine is 2021’s Lost Judgment. It is with great joy that I tell you all that Shellac put Suntory Whiskey back on the menu! The price is still at 600 yen but I’m more willing to give the Shellac bartender the benefit of the doubt for doing this because unlike the Bantam bartender he’s never tried to murder me.
Yagami’s alcohol tolerance though? Absolutely pathetic! At the beginning of the game he can only down a single glass of whiskey before getting cut off! Unlike most games in the series though you can increase Yagami’s alcohol tolerance though by buying a skill in your menu, upon fully upgrading this skill Yagami can down…three glasses before getting cut off. That is just sad, Yagami.
The encounter phase lasted longer here than it did in the original Judgment as I was able to leave the Champion District before encountering enemies, but I didn’t manage to get out of Senryo Avenue. Enemy encounters in the Judgment games are either really high or the encounter rate is raised when getting drunk here.
And there we go! Kiryu and Yagami’s alcohol tolerance tested in each Yakuza game and a detailed summary of my tests to see if the enemy encounter rate increases at all when drunk. Now that I’ve tested each game do I think enemies pick more fights with you while drunk?
Nah, I can see no difference between drunk and not drunk encounter rates. Running from the Champion District on a path upward to the Millenium Tower in most games pre-6 you will encounter enemies right as you hit Pink Street whether you are drunk or not drunk. There are a few exceptions but those appear to be based on game and not drunkenness as the encounter rate was the same. For example Y1 encounters happened slower than most but only by about half a block and Y4 encounters were very low as I was able to run all the way to the Millenium Tower three times before encountering enemies in my tests.
I’m actually pretty disappointed with these results and decided to try the same tests over and over to see if anything changed but nope, if alcohol effects encounter rates at all it is a completely negligible change. The only effect alcohol actually has on you is how fast your heat gauge increases and in some games making your controls a bit wonky for thirty seconds.
With these tests completely finished I would like to thank you all for reading the Story Arc, I’ve been Skeith and I hope you’ll read my next Yakuza piece.
1 thought on “The Evolution of Alcohol & Getting Drunk in Yakuza”
Considering this trajectory (which feels consistent enough to be intentional), I wouldn’t be surprised if bars/drinking…aren’t a thing in Gaiden.