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Infinite Wealth Makes It Hard To Get A Good Cup Of Coffee

You can buy a coffee in Yakuza, but can you truly enjoy it?

Yakuza coffee machine

Ever since Starfield I've been unable to play a video game without looking way too deeply at its coffee situation. This means that, in addition to actually playing a game and trying to follow its story, at every given chance over the last few months I've been poking around in shops, empty rooms and dead ends to see just how a particular world's inhabitants are served their daily brew.

More specifically, I want to see if those people are being served good coffee. It's one thing to mention coffee in a video game, or to occasionally show someone drinking a cup; but we live in a world where virtual environments can now be decorated down to the most minute details, which in loads of cases means we get to actually see how that coffee is being made. And judge it accordingly.

My first subject was Alan Wake 2, which--as you might expect for a game about fine details set in the Pacific Northwest--got off to a very good start before I had to stop playing it because...I don't like horror games. But I hear it has a whole sequence set in a coffee theme park, sells coffee as merch and also has some lovely espresso machines, so well done Alan Wake 2.

Next up was Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, a game which also featured a lot of coffee because the streets of Yakuza are always full of little cafes, some you can enter, many you can't. As I took snaps of various layouts and machines, though, I realised: I should probably hold up, because a bigger Yakuza game (Infinite Wealth) was about to come out, which would span two countries and thus present us with loads more coffee options. So I shelved plans to write about The Man Who Erased His Name's coffee situation, deciding to wait until I'd played a bunch of Infinite Wealth instead.

And so here we are! I'm nearly done with Infinite Wealth--they weren't kidding, this game is long--and having surveyed the cafes, offices and hideouts of Kamurocho, Ijincho and Honolulu, I present to you my findings: the game's coffee situation is weird. Deeply uneven. At some points it knows exactly what it's doing, while at others I don't know if anyone involved has ever made a decent cup of joe in their life.

Let me show you what I mean. This is the Ijincho branch of Pocket, one of the game's major coffee chains. It's got multiple espresso machines lined up, it's got cups upside down and ready to go, it's even got a couple of drip filter machines brewing up on the side. At first glance, this looks OK! At second glance it doesn't, because those espresso machines are way too small to be useful in a commercial setting; as we covered in the Starfield blog, busy cafes normally employ machines with three or even four groupheads at a time, allowing them to brew up to eight drinks at once.

At third glance, though--or fifth, or 187th if you're checking every damn shop across three locations--it's back to being OK. See, Yakuza games have a lot of detail, and as such have a lot of assets. I totally understand the desire to have only one model for an espresso machine; it's good and realistic enough for 99.8% of people, and its small size allows it to be used everywhere from a large cafe like this to a small office or even home kitchen.

So, Pocket is OK! Many of the game's smaller cafes, however, are not. Like Hawaii's Gourmet Coffee, which despite being a dedicated coffee retailer--of gourmet coffee, no less--is operating a single espresso machine. A machine surrounded by what look like bags of fresh coffee beans, but which are actually bags of...pancake mix.

Meanwhile an actual pancake place, Honolulu's Cream & Berry Pancake House, has a fantastic setup, featuring not only multiple espresso machines but multiple types of flasks and pots for drip/filter and tea enthusiasts as well:

I would now like to shift our attentions to Cafe Umaine, which appears from the outside to be a delightful little hole-in-the-wall, the kind of place that would only serve the finest specialty coffee in Hawaii. Despite having a coffee cup served and ready to go on the counter, however, this place only sells water, soft drinks and slushees:

Just so you don't think the weirdness is only present in the game's tropical locations, let's head back to Japan and take a look at Shooting Star Coffee, another chain store. To be fair to the developers, this isn't a venue that you can enter and see up close, so decorating it authentically probably wasn't a high priority. To be fair to the local residents of Ijincho, though, who would presumably enter a coffee place to buy a coffee, this is a coffee place that has one small water machine and three water jugs.

See what I mean when I say it's weird? There's no consistency here, something I also found with Starfield, which leads me to believe the same thing is up here as it was there: multiple people were obviously responsible for modelling and dressing these retailers, and some people knew more than others, some cared more than others and some probably just had different priorities than others. That's not just what (probably) happened here, that's how all game development works; making a game is, at some level, just an endless conflict between loads of competing priorities and ideas bouncing off each other, all the time. How accurately each café is presented in a game that has hundreds of other stores clearly isn't (and shouldn't have been!) a high priority for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.

It is, however, a high priority for blogs like this, and so in closing I'd like to show you that there are people at the aforementioned studio who absolutely know what they're doing, and they focused all their efforts on Plage, a large cafe in downtown Ijincho that has previously featured as a main story location in the Judgment games.

This is the only place in the whole game that has everything where it should be. They've got loads of espresso machines, the fridges with fresh milk and other stuff are right underneath them, there are fancy black coffee cups ready to go and even the menu is nice and simple: you get coffee, you get tea, you get donuts, that's it. And that menu is 100% accurate, because...

Donuts, coffee and tea are all you get! What I especially like about Plage--and again, this is likely to be because it was once the setting for story cutscenes, and so had to be modelled in more detail--are the extra, fancier ways of getting coffee you don't really see elsewhere. Those beer tap-looking things in the middle there are likely serving fresh cold brew, while the Nikola Tesla-ass contraptions in the background are actually a series of incredibly elaborate cold drip makers. Somebody at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio really wanted this place to look like it actually gave a shit about coffee, and I appreciate that.

So there you have it. Like the real world, the coffee situation in Infinite Wealth is deeply uneven. Some places care, others don't, others care a lot. My tip if you're visiting the game's various locations and want to make sure Ichiban and crew get the best coffee available, then, is to do exactly what you would if you were visiting somewhere IRL: if all you need is to get your HP and MP revived, any coffee will do, but if you really want something good, find a place that-

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