There is a lot of history that came before Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, both in the world of the game itself and in real life. The newest installment in theYakuza franchise pays homage to its past by continuing its main story, bringing back a few old favorite characters, and adding new ones, all while crafting a role-playing game that has a truly unique style and flair. Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has taken a mishmash of different parts of games and blended them into an RPG that is both fun and fulfilling in a multitude of ways. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth struggles a bit with keeping the story going between missions, as there is so much to do and see and experience to the point it’s almost overwhelming. Despite this, there is something undoubtedly entertaining about the manic energy that exudes from the world of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
For anyone unaware of the series or its story before Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, jumping straight into it is a rather difficult endeavor. With so much history for the game to recap, much of the first chapter is merely recounting everything that has occurred up to the beginning of the latest entry. With bat-wielding protagonist Ichiban Kasuga returning, the game uses flashbacks and cutscenes in an attempt to catch newcomers up with what is going on. A couple of gangs have been destroyed or disbanded, gangsters out of work are looking to get on the straight and narrow, and Kasuga is merely trying to live his life helping those in need. It is a bit hit or miss despite the game’s best efforts, as a small barrage of names and characters are thrown at users, so those just starting might be a bit confused.
The main story concerns a missing parental figure, but the weight of this newly discovered info will be lost on brand-new players. Title cards showing names tell players who the most important characters are, which helps, but early on there is a distinct feeling of being out of the loop when it comes to why certain characters react in the ways they do toward each other early on. The glimpses it gives are almost intriguing enough to get players to go back and play the previous entries in the series, even if it’s just to know the history the game alludes to.
Originally titled Yakuza, the series began releasing in 2005 and has released eight mainstream titles since then, with a shift in the title with 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon. These games have taken place in fictional parts of Japan based on real-world locations. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes the series away from the island of Japan for the first time and flies players to the island of Hawaii, and that change will probably be viewed as a welcome break by most fans of the series. The beginning chapters don’t feel very small at first, but after progressing to what could be considered the main part of the game, the early maps feel almost cramped by comparison. There is always a lot to do within both the smaller and larger areas. This is not a game for players looking for a strict, guided, and linear story though. There is simply too much to do, too many auto-triggered side quests, and too much combat to ensure a speedy play-through at least the first time.
Like a Dragon is full of NPC’s, and players will be fighting a lot of them in almost every area in a neat turn-based system that rewards positioning and forethought. Standard attacks do regular damage, with some giving players a chance at extra damage or a guaranteed critical hit if they press a button at the proper time during the attack animation. Users can also pick up items on the street like bicycles, traffic cones, etc., and use these for a damage bonus. On top of this, which direction one chooses to send an enemy flying can impact the enemies behind them and damage them as well. And then, on top of that, players have a variety of special skills that can cause even more damage and feature a special animation or multiple quick time event key presses to ensure extra damage.
But the combat features still don’t stop there either. Regular and skill attacks that send an enemy flying into a teammate can cause that teammate to attack the same enemy as well, allowing for a sort of ping-pong effect that can make short work of most regular foes. This makes positioning especially important, as controllable characters only have a small radius to move in, but will sprint to reach an enemy for a close-range attack. It is sometimes hard to tell where a character is going to end up after completing a move, which makes trying to set up some combos tricky. Trial and error will play a key role in figuring out how to maximize the character’s combo potential.
Stacking all these systems on top of each other makes for an entertaining combat system that stays interesting through much of the game. There are lulls in this enjoyment cycle though, as grinding through the same enemies in the same sections of cities can get a bit repetitive. Fortunately, Like a Dragon has an auto-battle system that comes with the option to turn off skill-based attacks, allowing players to save them for later. Players might be split on whether the layers of complexity are enough to justify a turn-based RPG battle system, but those who adore turn-based fighting will have a blast brawling in Like a Dragon.
From the first cutscene as the game opens, you can tell Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth will be a gorgeous affair. The early in-game movies and cutscenes are so nice to look at, and so well-directed, that players will wish there were more of them. Character models are clean, escaping the uncanny valley that plagues similar titles. Ichiban Kasuga is the star of the show, and he carries the story on his shoulders throughout most of the game. Even when some familiar faces show up from previous games in the series, Kasuga and his infectious grin and attitude along with his adorable naivety make him truly one of the good guys in gaming. His earnest attempts to do the right thing, and his desire to help those around him help make his story and his actions more believable and downright fun.
There is so much to do in the game after progressing through the first few chapters that players are going to spend hours upon hours free-roaming around and not even focusing on advancing the main story. Almost every type of side-quest and sub-quest that has been in a game makes an appearance in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The game features etch quests, photography shoots, delivery missions, escape missions, memory games, quick-time events, and even crazier things that shouldn’t be spoiled here but are a blast to experience. The vast majority of them are fun the first time around and usually have a twist that makes them stand out from any other game.
Multiple stores are carrying the standard RPG fair of healing items and items that buff characters’ stats, though they have a much more modern flair to them. Both Hawaiian and Japanese foods, snacks, and drinks are all on the menu in great quantities. There are weapon and armor shops stocked with items but with stat bonuses to boot (i.e. Hawaiian shirts that give defense bonuses and the like). It is an interesting modern take on what was and is a standard staple of the genre.
When playing the game in its natural Japanese language, there are a few parts where the language switches from Japanese to English that are jarring. Otherwise, the voice acting is top-notch, and each actor deserves recognition for working hard to bring their character to life. This also includes most of the side characters and especially the bosses, who may not feel as menacing when you fight them but undoubtedly have the swagger and attitude to make them feel oppressive. It’s an impressive feat for a game this big to have so many well-acted and well-written lines, even in situations other games would avoid to lower costs. There is a lot of joking around and off-the-cuff humor, but the moments of brevity feel more sobering and heavy than they have any right to. Of course, the game immediately bounces away from these real moments into a crazy situation that can undercut a lot of the emotional buildup.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth also has a bit of a walking problem. While many RPGs require more walking than a normal person does in a lifetime, this new Like a Dragon has players doing a LOT of walking around. Some taxis can be used for fast traveling, but they cost money, and money can be hard to come by in the early stages of the game, despite its title. A few other options open up later as well, but before that, players will be trudging from locale to locale fighting groups of enemies on the way or attempting to avoid them. It feels like more of a chore than need be when fast traveling or faster than foot travel costs hard-earned money.
There is also a bit of an issue with side quests depositing players into battles they may not be ready for immediately after finishing the side mission. These are on the rare side, but happen often enough that it feels like they should be pointed out. Too many times Kasuga and his friends are victorious in their side mission, only for it to end and be dropped back into the free-roaming part of the game world with multiple groups of enemies at higher levels than the player. Death doesn’t hurt much when losing a fight in the open world, but it does cost money. The mild annoyance of knowing the user is going to lose the fight is minor, but it still happens often enough. There are even times when the game finishes a story mission and doesn’t allow players time to heal up before being thrust back into combat.
Whether relaxing at a bar, running around the cities, or fighting for their lives, Kasuga and friends are constantly surrounded by music and sounds that help bring the game to life. The karaoke music videos add even more likability to Kasuga, and the faster tempo music adds to the thrill of whatever happens to be going on. There are some weird audio effects when enemies hit certain objects, though it’s not something everyone will notice.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth feels like a movie sometimes. A crazy, zany, over-the-top action flick with moments of brevity and wit that features multiple messages and themes and an extremely likable protagonist who is constantly distracted by things around him and the people he meets. The game does so many things right even while creating something akin to controlled chaos.
Despite the plethora of side missions distracting from the main quest, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth still brings a decently poignant story to the forefront of the series. The turn-based combat might not be enjoyable for everyone, but it certainly will entertain fans of a variety of genres and game types. The game has a knack for keeping a player’s interest, which is something extremely difficult in this day and age. It uses its craziness in such masterful and fun ways that most players won’t be able to help themselves from smiling and laughing along with Ichiban Kasuga and the rest of the cast in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Like a Dragon 8 is a turn-based RPG set after the events of Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon. Like its predecessor, the game’s main character will once again be Ichiban Kasuga, although Kazuma Kiryu will also return as a protagonist.
- Side-missions of all types and styles.
- Entertaining and position-focused turn-based combat.
- Feels like an actual grand adventure.
- A boring weapon upgrade system.
- Enemy repetition gets a bit stale.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth will be released on January 26 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.