There's a lot of history behind Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, both in the game's world and in real life. This latest installment in the Yakuza franchise pays homage to its past while delivering a truly unique and stylish role-playing experience. Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has blended various gaming elements into an RPG mishmash, resulting in a game that is both fun and fulfilling in countless ways. However, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth does struggle a bit with maintaining the story's momentum amidst the overwhelming amount of things to do and see. Despite this, there's an undeniable charm in the game's manic energy that permeates throughout its world.
For those new to the series or its story, diving straight into Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth can be quite challenging. With so much history to recap, the first chapter focuses on catching newcomers up with the events leading up to the latest entry. Our bat-wielding protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, returns, and the game cleverly uses flashbacks and cutscenes to fill in the gaps. Gangs have been disbanded, unemployed gangsters are seeking a fresh start, and Kasuga is simply trying to help those in need. However, the barrage of names and characters thrown at players can be a bit confusing for newcomers.
The main story revolves around a missing parental figure, but its weight may be lost on new players. Title cards introduce the most important characters, which helps, but early on, there's a sense of being out of the loop regarding certain character interactions. These glimpses of intrigue might even entice players to go back and play the previous entries, just to uncover the history referenced in the game.
Originally known as Yakuza, the series debuted in 2005 and has since released eight main titles, including the 2020 title Yakuza: Like a Dragon. These games took place in fictional parts of Japan based on real-world locations. However, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes players to the island of Hawaii, marking the series' first departure from Japan. This change of scenery will likely be a refreshing break for fans. While the early chapters may not feel small at first, once players reach the main part of the game, the earlier maps seem cramped in comparison. Both the smaller and larger areas offer plenty to do, but this is not a game for those seeking a strictly guided and linear experience. There's just too much to explore, numerous auto-triggered side quests, and an abundance of combat that ensures a lengthy playthrough.
Like a Dragon features a multitude of NPCs, and players will find themselves engaging in turn-based battles with them throughout the game. The combat system rewards positioning and forethought, where standard attacks deal regular damage, but well-timed button presses can yield extra damage or critical hits. Players can even pick up items from the streets, like bicycles and traffic cones, to gain damage bonuses. Moreover, the direction in which enemies are sent flying can impact those behind them, causing additional damage. On top of all this, players have access to various special skills that unleash devastating attacks, often accompanied by special animations or quick-time events for bonus damage.
But the combat doesn't stop there. Attacks that send enemies flying into teammates trigger those teammates to attack the same enemy, resulting in a ping-pong effect that efficiently dispatches regular foes. This mechanic makes positioning crucial, as controllable characters have limited movement radius but will sprint to engage in close-range attacks. However, predicting where a character will end up after a move can be tricky, adding an element of trial and error to maximize combo potential.
The combination of these combat systems creates an entertaining experience that remains engaging throughout the game. However, there are moments when grinding through the same enemies in repetitive city sections can become tiresome. Thankfully, Like a Dragon offers an auto-battle system that allows players to save skill-based attacks for later. Whether the layers of complexity are enough to justify a turn-based RPG battle system is subjective, but fans of turn-based combat will find themselves thoroughly entertained in Like a Dragon.
Right from the opening cutscene, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth captivates players with its stunning visuals. The in-game movies and cutscenes are a treat for the eyes, leaving players yearning for more. The character models are clean and avoid the uncanny valley that often plagues similar titles. Ichiban Kasuga steals the spotlight, carrying the story on his shoulders throughout most of the game. Even when familiar faces from previous games make appearances, Kasuga's infectious grin, attitude, and adorable naivety make him one of the good guys in gaming. His earnest attempts to do the right thing and help those around him add believability and a whole lot of fun to his story and actions.
There's an overwhelming amount of content in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, which will keep players occupied for countless hours. The game features a plethora of side quests and sub-quests, including fetch quests,minigames, and activities like karaoke and kart racing. The side quests are often humorous and absurd, showcasing the game's quirky sense of humor. These diversions offer a break from the main story and provide an opportunity to explore the vibrant world of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. From managing a business to participating in a batting center challenge, there's always something new and exciting to discover.
The soundtrack of the game is a mix of energetic and catchy tunes that perfectly complement the fast-paced action and comedic moments. Whether it's the upbeat melodies of karaoke songs or the intense battle themes, the music adds another layer of enjoyment to the overall experience.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is not without its flaws, though. The pacing can be uneven at times, with certain story segments feeling rushed or underdeveloped. Additionally, the sheer amount of content and activities available can be overwhelming for some players, making it difficult to decide what to focus on. The game's open-world structure can also lead to moments of aimless wandering, as the main story can be put on hold for long stretches of time.
Despite these shortcomings, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a hilarious and entertaining adventure that pushes the boundaries of the Yakuza franchise. It successfully combines elements of RPGs, open-world exploration, and quirky humor to create a unique and engaging experience. Whether you're a long-time fan of the series or a newcomer looking for a wild and unpredictable journey, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth delivers a memorable and enjoyable gaming experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.