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A UX Analysis of Cabaret Club Czar, Yakuza 0’s Game Within A Game

This piece is a continuation of my last article on Yakuza 0, titled A UX Analysis of Real Estate Royale, Yakuza 0’s Game Within A Game. I recommend checking out that piece first for a primer on Yakuza 0 itself (as well as, of course, my analysis of the Real Estate Royale mini-game).

I will take a moment to re-state the structure of this piece though, as part two follows the same overall style of part one:

  1. Play conditions
    My gameplay setup.
  2. Explanation of Cabaret Club Czar
    A brief overview of the game mode I’m focusing on in this piece.
  3. What would I change, and how?
    Pointing out problems is inexpensive (and not terribly fun). So, in this section, I also propose some solution ideas of my own.
  4. Final thoughts
    Key takeaways from the analysis.

Play conditions

To begin my analysis, I think it’s important to understand my context. I played the game five years after launch, sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of my 37" TV.

I have some advice before playing the game: have fun and explore the environment. Don’t worry if you spend too much time exploring. You have a lot on the side to do and play. I would advise the same to anyone that hadn’t played the game yet.

Cabaret Club Czar

Cabaret Club Czar is the business game you can play with Majima.

It’s a small game, as Real Estate Royale, that takes some time to beat. The premise of the business follows the same “area” appropriation logic but with a different context and mechanics:

Majima became the manager of a cabaret club named Sunshine Cabaret Club — his goal is to rule the cabaret clubs business by stealing business (aka customers) from the Five Stars of Sotenbori. Each Star rules the cabaret club business in a different area of the city.

On the Sunshine Cabaret Club, you only have one type of employee: hostesses responsible for entertainment. They have different stats that indicate which customers are better suited for each hostess. These stats can go up or down during the game. They also have a global rating that never changes during the game. From top to down, they can be platinum, gold, silver, or bronze. Platinum hostesses can have makeovers and special training.

Image 1: Gif of a cutscene from Yakuza 0.

To rule the cabaret club business, you need to:

  • Create partnerships with other types of businesses around the different areas (to help you promote) (image 2).
  • Manage the Sunshine Club (image 3).
Image 2: Screenshot of the game. A card that appears after selecting a business to pay for partnership.
Image 3: Screenshot of the game. Sunshine Cabaret Club management menu.

Create partnerships is the Cabaret Club Czar equivalent to purchasing properties on Real Estate Royale. The impact of finding business partners is not as significant as purchasing properties for the real estate business — you will only gather more fans on the area the business belongs to.

The significant part of the game is focused on the management of the Sunshine Club, which is divided into three main points: prepare for business, open for business, and rival battles.

Every time you finish a shift at the Sunshine Club, you will steal customers from one of the Five Stars. This will get the attention of the Stars — as your fan base on their area improves, you get to fight them, and then you will have a business battle to decide who will rule the area (a rival battle).

If you complete the business game, you get an extra fighting style… and lots of money to improve your skills. Yes, just like Real Estate Royale.

Prepare to Open

The first section inside the Sunshine Cabaret Club menu is “Prepare to Open” (image 4). Here you can:

  • Club Status: compare your club status with the dominant club in each area and see potential (and current) partners in that area.
  • Hostess List: lists all hostesses and get detailed info of their stats.
  • Special Training: platinum-rated hostesses (top-rated) can get special training to improve stats.
  • Makeover: do a makeover to platinum-rated hostesses to improve stats.
  • Cast on duty: compare and select the 8 hostesses to be cast on duty on the next shift.
Image 4: Screenshot of the game. Prepare to Open a section inside the Sunshine Cabaret Club management menu.

Open for Business

The second section inside the Sunshine Cabaret Club menu is “Open for Business” (image 5). Here you can start a new shift by selecting one of the rival club areas to “target” customers.

Image 5: Screenshot of the game. Open for Business cards.

After selecting the target, you will run the cabaret (image 6) by solving issues on tables:

  • Send hostesses on standby to coming clients.
  • Attend “Help” requests from hostesses.
  • Attend “Trouble” signs on tables.
  • Attend “Check, please” request from clients.
  • Start Party mode (when you make enough money).
Image 6: Screenshot of the game during a shift.

At the end of each shift, you will know how much money you made (or lost), the hostesses stats, and the number of fans will be increased.

Rival Battles

Rival Battles (image 7) are shifts done at the same time as a rival club from the Five Stars. In the end, the one with bigger profit wins.

Image 7: Screenshot of the Rival Battles card.

What would I change, and how?

1. Improve rating representation

Just like point 2 on the review about Real Estate Royale, the rating is somewhat of an issue. In this case:

  • The use of symbols to demonstrate the 4 main hostesses stats (yellow rectangle, image 8).
Image 8: Screenshot of the Cast on Duty card.
  • The result of a choice when you are called to “Help” (top yellow rectangle, image 9), “Trouble” or “Check, please”.
Image 9: Screenshot of a Help action.

What needs to change?
The player needs to learn and memorize them. They do not exist in the real world, like the other visual rating representation. Like the use of smiley faces to show the mood rating of customers and hostesses (during and after shifts).

What would I do?

  • The use of symbols to demonstrate the 4 main hostesses stats (image 10).

The use of symbols to demonstrate the 4 main hostesses stats is used in two moments: when you are consulting their info or when you are selecting hostesses on standby to go to a client’s table.

I did not find a solution inside Cabaret Club Czar, so I went back to Real Estate Royale. Employees had a number indicator for the rating of influence. I would use numbers to visualize the hostesses’ rating.

Image 10: Redesign of the Cast on Duty cards.
  • The result of a choice when you are called to “Help”, “Trouble” or “Check, please” (image 11 and 12).

Since the result of choice impacts the client’s mood, we could see a visual representation of happiness/sadness on the client character like we see on hostesses (on “Help”) + highlight on the client/hostesses mood rating if it changes.

Image 11: Redesign of the Check Out action — positive feedback from the customer.
Image 12: Redesign of the Check Out action — negative feedback from the customer.

Why this suggestion?

  • It’s already used on Real Estate Royale. It connects the two businesses, and since the player is first introduced to Real Estate Royale, it already knows how this rating works.
  • Exists in real life.
  • Does not force memorization or/and looking for an explanation.

2. Target selection with more info

When the player clicks to “Open business” (image 13) on the Sunshine Cabaret Club menu, it shows all the available area’s target for the user to select one(image 14). The user should see/know how many fans they already stole from that area.

Image 13: Gif of the Open for Business action.
Image 14: Screenshot of the Open for Business target selection.

Why should it change?

  • Information is essential for the user to select an area before starting a shift.
  • It can select an area already dominated instead of advancing on business.
  • Requires finish shift or pay for a partnership to know info off all areas.
  • Requires memorization of the information before going to shift.

What would I do?
Show the same info like when finishing shift or pay for partnership (image 15).

Image 15: Redesign of the Open for Business target selection.

Why these suggestions?

  • It helps players manage the progression of the business.
  • Does not force memorization.

3. Improve hover/selected table visualization
During a shift (image 16), the player can perform different actions on each of the 6 tables. A yellow line surrounds the card of the hover/selected table at the moment. It’s easy to spot the table selected except on party mode: the card is full of moving yellow dots that make it harder to see the yellow line.

Image 16: Screenshot of the game during a shift.

Why should it change?

  • The player does not know the table she/he is hovering/selecting.
  • To attend a request (“Help”, “Trouble”, “Check, please”), the players have a limited amount of time — not knowing which table is selected increases error and, consequently, frustration.

What would I do?
Surrounding the card to show it’s the one hover/selected makes sense. The main issue is with the color when on party mode — the yellow dots hide the yellow line. So I thought about a new color to use.

Looking to all colors that a table card can have, blue, yellow/gold, pink and green, it is somewhat tricky to find a good color for the line that keeps consistency with the overall visual design.

Since the line is saying “this is the table Majima is focused on,” I would propose to use the frame it’s used for his picture on the shift UI (and on the cards inside the club menu) (image 17 to see movement and image 18).

Image 17: Redesign of the visual indication of the selected card (gif).
Image 18: Redesign of the visual indication of the selected card.

Why these suggestions?

  • Gives a clear indication of each table is hover/selected.
  • It does not interfere with the table information (colors or form).
  • Consistent with the idea that the player is Majima, the frame of his picture is the same as the table he is focused/” working” on.

4. Sound feedback cues improvements

During the shift, sound cues are given to help the players know which table has a request. A similar sound is used every time the player moves from selection/hover over a table.

On party mode, the music changes to a more funky one. The two sounds get harder to understand, especially if you are not using headphones and get the sound from columns.

Why should it change?

  • The two sounds have different goals and places; one indicates player movement; the other indicates a request; they should be easy to distinguish.
  • It creates confusion, and the user loses information.

What would I do?
I do not know a lot about sound design, except for classes I had at my university (focused on Cinema). Based on that, I can’t give many suggestions but probably, choose two sounds that are easier to differentiate. But keep the fun and chaotic vibe of the cabaret.

5. Improve “Help” request visual cues

I had this improvement on my mind, but only after talking to a friend, I understood it was an issue.

When you select a table that needs “Help”, you zoom into that table, and the hostesses give you a signal. You need to interpret the signal (yellow circle, image 19) and choose between 4 options the correct meaning (green rectangle, image 19). A wrong interpretation has a negative impact on the customer’s mood and hostesses’ HP; correct interpretation has a positive impact.

If you play the game for the first time, or if you are not playing the Cabaret Club Czar on one sitting, you don’t know or remember the correct meaning of the signals.

Image 19: Screenshot of the Help action, with the hostess making a hand sign.

Going back to that conversation with my friend: you can get the answer if you wait for a few seconds, the hostess will give up on giving signals and say what she wants. I did that from the beginning of the business, or every time I forgot the meaning. The impact is null for customer or hostess.

That was a surprise to my friend. He never tried or thought that was possible. I found out he was not the only one. People purposely choose a random answer to learn the correct meaning with a 75% chance of making a mistake, impacting both customer and hostess negatively.

Why should it change?

  • Requires memorization of 6 different signals.
  • The “no impact” solution that would help the players and make them learn is hidden.

What would I do?
Place a button that the players can use to politely ask the hostesses what she wants, instead of waiting for her to explain herself. It would make sense for the character Majima to do that instead of putting the hostesses in that situation.

If the players selected that button (image 20), it would have no impact on the customers or hostesses, just like waiting for the hostesses’ explanation would.

Image 20: Redesign of the Help action with the button “Ask Help”.

Why these suggestions?

  • Does not force memorization.
  • The “no impact” solution is easy to find and keep the mechanic.

6. Show defeated clubs on club status

The “Club Status” cards (summary + map, potential partners, and local rivals cards) (image 21) appear on the pause menu and the “Prepare for Business” section inside the “Sunshine Cabaret Club” menu.

Image 21: Screenshot of the Club Status cards.

In both cases, the summary tells how many clubs were defeated, but as you scroll through the areas and see all clubs, there is no indication which ones are already defeated.

Why should it change?

  • Requires memorization of the defeated clubs — lacks info.
  • The info is never showed anywhere, but it influences player’s decisions on club management.

What would I do?
Place an indication inside the local rivals’ card that it was defeated. Always indicate on the map the defeated clubs by using the star icon in grey and broken + always indicate the club location with a star (image 22).

Image 22: Redesign of the Club Status cards.

Why these suggestions?

  • Does not force memorization.
  • It’s easier to manage the selection of targets and to understand where the player should invest in potential partners.
  • If incentives advancement on the business.

7. Show more business info on maps

This is a summary of what I already spoke about on points 6 to 9 on Real Estate Royale. There is a general lack of business-related info on maps.

  • No distinction of business location on the map (use of blue like to indicate hideout and story locations).
  • World map with no indication of business-related info.
  • No indication of the location of already paid partnerships anywhere.

Why should it change?

The reasons are the same as points 6 to 9:

  • Forces memorization of already paid partnerships.
  • Forces memorization of Club Sunshine location.
  • It requires a lot of steps to understand the state of paid partnerships.
  • A comparison between club status map and world map requires memorization and a lot of clicks and movement.

What would I do?

  • Create a unique mini-map business marker (image 23).
Image 23: Redesign of the mini-map with the business icon.
  • Business map (= “Club Status”) inside the world map (image 24).
Image 24: Redesign of the World Map with the business icon + button for business.
Image 25: Redesign of the Club Status inside the World Map.
  • Indicate existing partners on “Club Status” maps ( business section on pause menu + Open for Business on Sunshine Cabaret Club menu) (image 25 and 22).

Why these suggestions?

  • Does not force memorization.
  • Easier to manage partnerships and target selection when on Sunshine Cabaret Club.
  • More comfortable to look for potential partners when exploring.
  • Incentives advancement in the business game.
  • Incentives exploration and looking for partnerships.

Final thoughts

Like I’ve said in part 1, I enjoyed the exploration of the city and the impact of interaction on business evolution.

I prefer the Real Estate Royale business exploration side. It feels more like you can own the city if you know it… you need to make an effort to interact with people actively.

In Cabaret Club Czar, that stills happens but most of the exploration is done inside itself: you get to know the owner of the club and the hostesses. You can see how they act outside the workspace, understand their goals in life, know their hobbies, their relationships with family and friends… and try to ask them to cook for you as smoothly as you can.
As you get to know them, you manage the hostesses better. You already know their best traits and how they act. On the other side, they trust you and each other. The work environment is light and fun.

The concept of a Cabaret Club is still a bit strange to me even after finishing the business. As I write this, I’ve just played a bit on Yakuza Kiwami (the next game if you follow the story chronological order), where Majima says, “It wasn’t in my nature to use ladies as a source of income”, and I do felt that when playing this business. At least, the player can be a character that looks at them as a big brother rather than just a manager.

Image 26: Gif of a cutscene from Yakuza 0.

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