When it comes to Yakuza 5, some could hypothetically power through the game pretty quickly. The main quests in each character’s chapters don’t take much time if you move from point A to point B with no stops along the way, or perhaps even take a cab to get within feet of the next plot point. The real meat of the game comes from the side quests. These Substories and Side Stories add real flavor to the adventure and flesh out a player’s experience.
Substories are side quests that tend to offer incidental character building. While we get to learn quite a bit about Kazuma, Taiga, Haruka, Shun, and Tatsuo through their storylines, these additional adventures show them interacting with ordinary people. It adds a little extra insight into their character and personality, fleshing them out and honestly making them seem more like ordinary people.
As an example, there are three Substories in Yakuza 5 that I absolutely adored. Keeping with the season, one in Taiga’s fourth chapter is incredibly appropriate. He ends up putting on a Santa suit, ends up swarmed by kids, then runs into a fight with men in masks. He beats them up, to the delight of the children who saw the whole thing. Most of the best Substories are the silly ones. In Haruka’s second chapter, she becomes a Magical Girl after telling a man outside of a Club Sega that she plays video games. Though, my absolute favorite is one of the first Substories you can see. Kazuma runs into a fellow cabbie in distress in his second chapter, and there’s an interesting twist once he finally gets his chance to save the day.
There are 78 Substories in Yakuza 5, which seems like quite a daunting number. Fortunately, Yakuza 5 makes keeping up with and completing them easy. Whenever you have a chance to freely explore between storyline quests, check the map. Question marks will appear wherever there’s an opportunity. They tend to be multipart affairs and the map will update accordingly after events take place. The lead-up tells a little story, with typically a battle or mini-game before a conclusion. However, you need to constantly keep checking for the extra adventures, because these Substories will appear briefly between specific events in each chapter. It can be very easy to miss them.
The Yakuza 5 Side Stories are a completely different thing, despite the similar name. That doesn’t make them any less special. While the Substories tend to add to the characters by offering additional insights into both the playable characters and NPCs, the Side Stories are basically mini-game side-quests. The whole focus is on getting to enjoy a supplemental activity. Each of these tend to have designated quest givers and appear after completing specific side missions or story missions. This means they’re time sensitive, but you have a little more flexibility than you do with Substories. They also each have a rather nice reward for completing all of them. For the sake of full disclosure, I haven’t earned any of the rewards. Yakuza 5 is huge. Those who do take the time to earn them will apparently be rewarded with items that will provide boosts during other activities.
Only four of the five Yakuza 5 characters get Side Stories. Kazuma’s a taxi driver, so he ends up driving around customers, racing yakuza, and customizing his cab. It’s an interesting dynamic, since the customer service part involves being extremely cautious, engaging customers in conversation, and observing the road, while the racing is frantic with its own heat actions, boosts, and drifting. Races are actually easier, since boosting and drifting are fairly intuitive. Save the taxi fares for more low-key days, as they can be rather frustrating. While you and the other cars will absolutely observe the rules of the road, pedestrians just don’t care and will wander out at all times. Go slow, as it’ll keep the customers happy and make it easier to handle conversations.
Taiga heads out into the forest and wilderness, going out hunting and punching bears in his Side Stories. I’m honestly not kidding. He goes hand-to-paw with a bear. In addition to hunting missions, where people need to head into the forest for actual fights, people in-town might need meat, items left in the woods, and specific items found while foraging. The hunting mini-game isn’t too difficult to manage if you’re patient, but it’s important to know what kind of items you’ll get from going after specific animals and how to pursue them. Smaller animals honestly felt easier to trap, though you can use guns to get them. They only provide meat and fur. Larger animals, like deer, bears, and the elusive golden stag, give meat, fur or a hide, antlers, fat, and fat. When hunting, it turns into a first person shooter, so take your time, don’t feel bad if you aren’t bagging animals right away, and make sure you stock up on supplies before sending Taiga into the woods.
Since Haruka and Shun each only have two chapters, due to their stories intersecting, only Haruka gets the Side Stories. Though really, most of Haruka’s storyline is relies on these mini-games. She is trying to become an idol, after all. This means she has work and dance battle events, where she can grab new tasks from a board at work, enter into dance-off battles with people on the street, or go through dancing lessons. Street dance battles are essential to unlocking other dance battles, so it’s best to do as many as you can. While her handshake and quiz challenges are fairly easy to do, so long as you’re speedy and paying attention, the running and dancing mini-games require a little work to master. Yakuza 5’s non-Taiko: Drum Master rhythm games aren’t exactly the best, so it could take a few matches to find your groove.
Finally, there are Tatsuo’s Side Stories. Given that he’s a former baseball player, it means it’s a batting mini-game. Think of it as a home run contest. Each mission, either taken from the board or other people, tends to involve either hitting a certain number of pitches or getting so many home runs out of ten pitches. It’s another situation where timing is everything, as is knowing which action button to press to make sure a ball is properly hit back. Honestly, after getting through Haruka’s dance battles, helping Tatsuo rebuild his skills is easy. It’s more about recognizing which button to push, since Haruka helps you work on timing.
The biggest takeaway is that the Yakuza 5 Side Stories and Substories are massive timesinks. If you pick up Yakuza 5 for your PlayStation 3 from the PlayStation Store, you can sink hours into these supplemental activities. Personally, I feel like I had more fun with the Substories, but Haruka and Tatsuo’s Side Story missions can be quite entertaining and fulfilling. Just be sure not to rush through the game, if you find yourself enjoying any of these side quests.