On paper, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth has all the things I might probably ask for in a recreation from RGG Studio: Kasuga Ichiban from the 2020 RPG Yakuza: Like A Dragon co-leading with collection legend Kazuma Kiryu–two characters I like dearly combating alongside one of the crucial memorable supporting casts lately. It is the most effective of each Yakuza worlds coming collectively for a narrative about life, legacy, and the daunting realities of the world we stay in–but, greater than something, atonement and the varied kinds it may take. It additionally comes with vastly improved RPG programs that nail the tactical pleasure of turn-based fight whereas upholding Yakuza’s id in exceptional methods. And in splitting its time in Hawaii with Yokohama, you get two strong and detailed areas to discover new and outdated concepts by the largest suite of facet actions the collection has had up to now.
For all its comedic absurdity and non-compulsory diversions, Infinite Wealth brings its heavier themes into focus–at times–with the form of dramatic storytelling the franchise has mastered through the years. It is unlucky to say, nonetheless, that the primary story loses the thread alongside the way in which. By placing unearned emphasis on its least attention-grabbing features and meandering for a lot of its runtime, the compelling narrative ambitions it units up are largely left unfulfilled. That is powerful to grapple with for what’s imagined to be a monumental passing of the torch between the 2 beloved leads and one final hurrah for one whose life we have seen unfold throughout almost 20 years’ value of video games. And so, as a substitute, Infinite Wealth turns into a recreation about particular person moments–moments of bittersweet reflection, moments of heartfelt camaraderie, and moments of hype that uplift legendary characters even increased. These are moments that remind you the Yakuza franchise is far larger than anybody recreation. Even when Infinite Wealth’s overarching plotline comes up quick in essential methods, these moments nonetheless make it value enjoying.
Issues kick off with a powerful opening that places the realities of regular grownup life entrance and middle, virtually as if RGG held a mirror as much as my face and made a prologue chapter based mostly on a few of the issues I have been by. Extra than simply being actual and related to the common particular person, this additionally tees up a strong theme in regards to the struggles of reintegrating with society after a lifetime of crime, which has steadily been explored within the collection from totally different views. In Infinite Wealth, the theme is used to indicate Ichiban’s struggles, as somebody who embodies all the things good about being the naive goofball with fists of iron and a coronary heart of gold, and as an individual pushed by the beliefs established in his earlier recreation. Moreover, the recurring theme of public opinion and web virality dictating actuality sharply foreshadows how Infinite Wealth steeps itself in fashionable social commentary.
As a lot as Ichiban makes peace along with his previous, it comes again round and propels him to go to Hawaii in quest of household, making for a pleasant getaway but in addition a brand new place to get caught in one other complicated internet of highly effective criminals and conspiracies. The streets of Honolulu have been recreated with the identical stage of element as Kamurocho, Ijincho, Sotenbori, or some other location from the collection. As somebody who’s frolicked within the actual areas modeled in Infinite Wealth, it is wild how acquainted all of it felt, from the gorgeous Waikiki shoreline the place the Duke Kahanamoku statue stands, to the backstreets round Ala Wai I walked after late nights out, it is all dropped at life with consideration to element. ABC Shops are round each nook, the Ala Moana mall and different buying facilities have a putting resemblance right here, and even the native boutique 88 Tees has a store the place you should purchase gear and items. It is a welcome change of surroundings, particularly given its spacious streets are dense with facet content material but in addition excellent for busting out a segway and cruising alongside. It is solely becoming that you simply get a devoted button to make Ichiban throw up the shaka and greet passersby with a hearty “Aloha!” too.
Infinite Wealth does not take you to Hawaii for trip, though–therein lies a narrative about an underworld that is simply as insidious as something we have seen in Kamurocho. This comes with some sharp commentary about how the remainder of the US treats Hawaii, the interconnectedness of the police with the prison underworld, and the significance of native charity holding its individuals collectively. Numerous sturdy groundwork will get laid in these opening chapters, however as the primary story goes on, a big period of time will get spent on constantly laying extra groundwork with out taking the narrative in a significant course. At sure factors, Infinite Wealth as a substitute turns into extra involved with establishing factions and comparatively weak villains for the sake of providing you with one thing to chase. By dedicating a lot effort and time to plot threads that both do not quantity to a lot or simply aren’t very compelling, I struggled to purchase into what the complete occasion was combating for more often than not. Yakuza video games have been nice about providing you with one thing tangible to struggle for, and even when you realize a giant plot twist goes to upend your efforts, at the very least there is a convincing momentum towards the story’s larger truths. As Infinite Wealth went on, nonetheless, I could not assist however see the clock ticking on it with the ability to make good on the issues that matter most and I got here away with combined emotions.
That is to not say Infinite Wealth does not have unimaginable touches alongside the way in which, as a result of with these uncharacteristic lows come some spectacular highs. For Kiryu, there is a highly effective stage of introspection that exhibits him coming to phrases with all the things he is struggled with, and he reckons with the broader thought of the yakuza as a company and bearing some accountability for the implications of their misdeeds. What you do with the restricted time you’ve got left turns into an ever-present theme, and each time he seeks closure for one facet of his life, it is a bittersweet feeling for such an inspiring character. Because the major story is commonly targeted on the larger image of factional drama, a number of of Kiryu’s greatest moments are relegated to facet content material. At instances, I wrestled with the concept that an important components of his life have been seen as an afterthought, particularly as soon as I noticed how Infinite Wealth considerably undermines what Like A Dragon Gaiden arrange for him. However at the very least he will get a giant stage at crucial factors. And in the event you’ve been with the collection from the start, Infinite Wealth gives one of many collection’ highest peaks by mixing the franchise’s historical past into an unforgettable gameplay sequence.
Whereas Ichiban additionally will get some nice moments showcasing his unbreakable religion within the individuals round him, I am unable to assist however come away aggravated with what this recreation does along with his character general. Certain, he nonetheless has lots of rising as much as do within the aftermath of the earlier recreation, however he is so usually used as a device for shallow jokes and has a major problem with who he directs his empathy in direction of, so it seems like he is noticeably regressed. Contemplating how the opening chapters reinforce the qualities that made him a lovable character, it is disappointing that we solely see quick glimpses of brilliance all through the remainder of the story.
Even nonetheless, it is a collection that has confirmed character growth is its biggest energy, which comes by in many of the supporting forged. That is significantly true of newcomer Tomizawa, whose arc of humble and doubtful beginnings is fleshed out, permitting him to develop in plausible and human methods, finally becoming into the present band of misfits. Chitose provides a youthful perspective and an essential lens into the trendy world to distinction with the older people who’re all the time simply seemingly down on their luck. Everybody from Yakuza: Like A Dragon returns in some type, and whereas they usually really feel sidelined in the primary story, the instances they do band collectively are heartwarming. A lot of that allure comes by in Drink Hyperlinks, non-compulsory conversations that open up as you improve your bond stage with occasion members. By means of both Kiryu or Ichiban, you get well-written heart-to-hearts that add a layer of nuance to every character, reminding you that typically speaking by your troubles and asking for assist can unexpectedly change your life for the higher. It’s kind of odd that some seemingly essential developments occur by this portion of facet content material, however they’re value working towards regardless.
Having all these lovable characters in a celebration genuinely makes the RPG fight all of the extra fulfilling, as their personalities shine by of their default Jobs and movesets. Whether or not I am combating an enormous shark off the facet of a ship or an in-game Danny Trejo who’s dual-wielding machetes, the turn-based fight places the highlight on every of the occasion members and their distinct character, letting fight additionally drive the story and improve their characterization. As ridiculous as it’s to clean down enemies in a bubble tub or pop bottles of champagne to do water-based harm, for instance, it is also an easy mix of the collection’ unmistakable humorousness and the depth of dramatic high-stakes battles. Moreover, the expanded Job system lets every character tackle totally different roles with some completely ridiculous assaults and spells, just like the surfer-inspired Aquanaut, the lethal ninja Kunoichi, or the gunslinging Desperado. You will discover borderline damaged staff compositions with super-effective movesets, however somewhat than feeling like exploits, it is rewarding within the sense that it comes from a greater understanding of the programs at play, that are noticeably deeper than these of the earlier entry.
Mechanically talking, quite a lot of smaller adjustments result in vital enhancements in fight. With the ability to transfer round an outlined area throughout every flip permits you to line up again assaults, area-of-effect spells, and knockbacks, which add a brand new strategic layer to the system. Bond ranges and Drink Hyperlinks are additionally built-in into development to open up perks like slick combo assaults, freebie follow-ups, and tag-team assaults, and it is a great embodiment of the ability of friendship wrapped into tangible gameplay perks. It is not essentially the most elegant system, since positioning will be imprecise and context-sensitive actions can hinder the precise assault you wish to execute. However the tradeoff is that you simply’re in way more management of the occasion, and the tactical concerns that come together with that management makes for a satisfying and distinctive circulation. And on the finish of the day, the place the hell else are you going to get a turn-based RPG with grown-ass adults taking over imaginary jobs to struggle their hardest foes? Even after I wasn’t absolutely invested within the story, the battles stored me engaged. And because of the stellar fight system I did not even thoughts the occasional dungeon grind that is soft-required to achieve the suitable stage to progress in the primary story.
The best way Kiryu has been molded into an RPG character is good as effectively. His three signature stances give his regular assault flexibility, and his Essence spells name again to the talents he is picked up through the years. However most of all, his Dragon’s Resurgence restrict break needs to be one of many coolest issues the collection has ever carried out, particularly as a story machine. Regardless of fights being turn-based, this provides you a quick window to manage Kiryu within the outdated action-brawler type to indicate he nonetheless carries that Dragon of Dojima spirit it doesn’t matter what. Total, RGG has actually discovered its footing in making its personal excellent RPG fight system, and one which stands amongst a few of the greatest within the enterprise.
In fact, one other facet that’s important to the spirit of a Yakuza/Like A Dragon recreation is the non-compulsory actions that litter the maps of Honolulu and Yokohama. Small issues like background conversations you may provoke whereas roaming the world give somewhat increase to social standing with occasion members and add some good taste to them. The in-game Tinder equal is as outlandish as it’s plausible, with writing you may inform comes from individuals who’ve had experiences on courting apps. And as is custom, substories are round each nook. The collection has made its fame on a few of the wild issues that occur in these facet quests–for Infinite Wealth, there are just a few cases of comedic gold and neat callbacks, after which there are some main flops. Typically it felt like RGG went excessive for the sake of it, or tried to ship a poignant message however woefully fumbled the supply. It is also actually disappointing that they put Ichiban in some gravely uncomfortable conditions for goofs, so in some respects, the substories have overpassed what made them good to start with.
The massive swing Infinite Wealth takes is in Dondoko Island, the Animal Crossing-style crafting and administration exercise that form of exists in its personal realm. I am hesitant to name it a minigame given how concerned its mechanics are. From clearing trash as a way to broaden into new zones to farming supplies throughout the island, a sure stage of effort is required to start out constructing out your resort. A worthwhile facet story can be hooked up to advancing your rating in Dondoko Island, and this entails keeping off hostile pirates, inviting guests to generate income off of, and crafting more and more subtle constructions. A part of me misses the simplicity of Ichiban Confections from the earlier recreation, the place constructing a enterprise and appeasing stakeholders have been wrapped in a briskly paced management-sim minigame. Nonetheless, I do not thoughts the trade-off for having extra to chew on with Dondoko Island, and fortunately I had the urge for food for participating with these types of programs.
To deliver issues again all the way down to earth, Memoirs of a Dragon are Kiryu’s bucket listing of facet actions for him to both take pleasure in his life for as soon as or mirror on the life he is led. These are available in varied kinds, like quick traces of dialogue the place one thing on the planet triggers Kiryu’s reminiscence of a selected occasion from a earlier recreation or full-on substories that go deeper on reopening sure plotlines from the previous. Like the remainder of the collection, they will vary from hilarious to heart-wrenching. Whereas knocking these out might really feel formulaic, it offers a sure heat and reverence to a personality who additionally reveals many regrets and acknowledges the errors he is made in life. Kiryu’s extra complicated than he usually leads us to imagine, and that facet of him surfaces in moments all through Infinite Wealth.
A microcosm of these nice moments is present in karaoke. It is all the time been a staple of the franchise and the go-to minigame that completely captures Yakuza’s character. The sport straight acknowledges the significance of karaoke and the position it has performed all through the collection with a small however lovely second to enhance the best hits songlist included in Infinite Wealth. Each character will get to leap in on the enjoyable for catchy tunes each new and outdated, and there is even a religious successor to the traditional “Baka Mitai” by Kiryu himself. It is one other of these particular person moments I discussed earlier that maintain issues collectively, stopping the sport from crumbling underneath the burden of its ambitions.
There’s additionally the lingering thought that Yakuza: Like A Dragon had a strong message to ship and which it stated with its entire chest–and that is about exhibiting dignity and humanity to the individuals who stay on the margins of society. Infinite Wealth begins with a promising tackle that theme, then largely drops the notion because it’s extra involved about chasing mysteries and plot twists that lack the chunk and emotional pull that the collection has traditionally carried out so effectively. Going to Hawaii opens up quite a lot of methods to strengthen the ethos established by the earlier recreation, however as a substitute it too usually performs on the situation for gags or to create an excuse to beat on big-bad others who merely exist to be punching baggage. Very similar to the idea of language obstacles being an enchanting narrative theme, which will get dropped shortly after it is launched, it seems like Infinite Wealth bit off greater than it might chew and needed to roll with undercooked execution in the long run.
In my review of Yakuza: Like A Dragon from 2020, I stated the way forward for the collection was in good fingers with Ichiban as the brand new lead, and I nonetheless imagine that as a result of there’s nonetheless loads to adore about him. For as inconsistent as Infinite Wealth is in reaching the heights of its predecessors, it delivers fragmented however unforgettable moments for individuals who’ve been on the Yakuza trip all this time. This sequel proves that RGG is a reputable participant within the RPG area with a vastly improved fight system that’s so uniquely consultant of the collection’ id that it seems like an ideal match, and it is used to nice impact by merely spotlighting its incredible supporting characters. As a swan track for Kiryu, I am conflicted on the way it all comes collectively, however it’s not possible to not get emotional in regards to the methods it lends a deserved weight to his legacy. So, I am not going to recollect this recreation for its villains, their motivations, or the explanations for combating in Hawaii, however I’ll keep in mind it for the wild Yakuza hijinks and the sobering messages about what we do with the time we now have left.