This has been a busy time for the Like a Dragon franchise. For starters, the “Yakuza” branding in the West has been replaced with its original name in Japan which is Like a Dragon. This change alone has caused a bit of confusion in the West, particularly when it came to the release of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.
Many thought this was the direct sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which it was not but as you can see the name change did get confusing for those not fully immersed in the franchise. With that said, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth IS the direct sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon and in my opinion STILL the best series in the Franchise.
While this review is spoiler-free for the main story, there will be a couple of references to the first game which I highly recommend you play before this release. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth fills you in on what took place in the first game as the story progresses but overall it pretty much assumes you played the first game and is aware of the outcome. The game starts back in Japan after the fall of the major clans. Ichiban Kasuga now works at Hello Work with his main goal to help other former Yakuza members find legit work and become predictive members of society. His friends Koichi Adachi, Yu Nanba, and Saeko Mukoda are also doing well and thriving (avoiding spoilers). Like someone out of today’s headlines, a popular online influencer misinterprets some of Ichiban & friends’ activities and posts a video that pretty much destroys the new lives they’ve created.
While this is happening, a man from Ichiban’s past returns to deliver some rather unexpected news about Ichiban’s parents, particularly his mother. To obtain more answers and unravel the full story requires him to leave for Hawaii. Now this location change happens in chapter 3. There is a large amount of storytelling that takes place in the first 2 chapters, including a multiyear time jump. I must admit, in the 20+ hours I’ve put in thus far, the first 2 chapters were my least favorite in the game. I understand the need for the plot buildup but I felt many of the cut-scenes went longer than necessary. Thankfully everything changes and the real game begins when you reach Hawaii.
Developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are absolute masters in creating vibrant color-filled open worlds that feel alive. Once you land in Honolulu Hawaii it’s instantly noticeable that the devs have taken Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth to the next level. From watching the beautiful sunset while shining a stream of warm light over the sandy beaches to just looking out at the ocean and seeing the light reflect off the water is stunning. There are numerous times Ichiban will look out at the ocean and point out this beauty not to mention the variety of missions that will also take place in the water, proving this is not all for show. The team went as far as to get permission to add real-world businesses in Honolulu such as Hilo Hattie and 88 Tees to produce a bit more authenticity.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth introduces some new elements to the turn-based combat which adds another layer of strategic planning. Once engaged in combat, you will see you are in a proximity circle. This means you can move freely anywhere within the circle during your turn. So, let’s say there is a bike rack to your right, and it’s within the circle, you can walk over to it, press (A) to pick up the bike, and swing it around as a weapon toward your selected target. You can also knock multiple enemies down if they are lined up behind each other or in close contact with a falling enemy.
It’s also worth mentioning that while you are moving around in the circle, your enemies are doing the same. So in some situations, one enemy will walk in front of another and if you dish out your attack at the right moment you will see them knock down like bowling pins. You can also use this feature to get behind an enemy if they find themselves within the circle. At times, the action gets so frantic that I forget its turn base and feel the need to perform my attacks quickly.
As you progress and level up, you along with your team will obtain new skill attacks that require MP. Now I’m sure anyone interested in a turn base RPG knows all about HP, MP, collecting items, and upgrading weapons and armor. All that is present in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth but as a helpful tip please be mindful of your recovery items. Try to make it a habit whenever passing a store to stop and check out your inventory, ESPECIALLY before you head to the airport to leave for Hawaii.
I was on a role taking minimum damage in my battles and DID NOT check my inventory before leaving. Again, no spoilers, but I will just say I was unprepared for the first battle on the island which led me to reload a previous save file back in Japan so I can better equip myself for the journey. This leads to another helpful tip, save often and not just before big battles. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has some long-cut scenes that often end in an unexpected battle.
Now if you did not play the first Yakuza: Like a Dragon and you’re not familiar with turn-based combat have no fear for this franchise also includes one of the best features ever, which is auto battle. If at any time you feel overwhelmed in a fight or not sure what to do next regarding attacks, who to attack or heal then all you have to do is press (LT) this will have everyone in your team auto battle by selecting the best possible choice. The only time you will need to interact when in auto-battle is when prompted to power up an attack via (X) or (y) buttons and when trying to deflect incoming attacks with (B).
I find this extremely helpful when I’m heading over to an objective and encounter random street thugs which I know my team will wipe the floor with. At any point during the fight, you can press (LT) again to disable auto-battle. Now it’s no spoiler in pointing out the franchise legend Kazuma Kiryu is in the back since he’s also on the cover art. He is also a key member of your team in Hawaii. Unlike other team members (including Ichiban) Kiryu joins your party with 3 fighting styles thanks to his job which is Dragon of Dojima. You can switch between styles by pressing the D-pad up for Brawler, left for Rush speed attacks, and Right for Best which is a power attack. I’m bringing this up just to point out that like in in the first game, your job can greatly enhance your gameplay experience.
You now have a cool new way to travel around Hawaii thanks to the Street Surfer (aka segway. This is something you will obtain by interacting with an NPC near the beach. Once obtained press down on the D-pad to see your street surfer magically appear. Now you along with your team will be able to roll around the island in style. Just make sure to keep an eye on the battery meter. Once it starts to get low pull up your map and look for a charge station. They look like upright surfboards.
This will cost you some money but thankfully a full charge lasts a good amount of time. You can also pin a marker on your map and then press RT to auto-ride to the marker. Note, you can still trigger random battles while on the street surfer. On that note, the taxi fast travel option has been upgraded. Simply pull up the map, select the taxi closest to your destination, and press (X). A prompt will appear asking if you would like to travel to this location. You will still be charged the fare as if you were getting into a taxi but this removes the need to run around looking for a taxi and then selecting the destination in the taxi menu.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has a lengthy main campaign clocking in at over 50 hours. However, every experienced RPG player knows you don’t run from objective to objective. You will want to explore and interact with the bizarre locals who will give you some over-the-top side missions that can provide some much-needed money or items. Honestly, I spend most of my time doing side missions and playing insane mini-games, some of which can be played in multiplayer mode. And for those wondering, yes, the Sega arcades are also in the game.
When Yakuza: Like a Dragon was released in 2020, I praised it to the heavens and gave it a glowing review. Its fresh and unique take on implementing turn-based gameplay into a brawler franchise sounded absurd but was in fact genius. In Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, I am constantly finding new items with special abilities, whacky locals with laugh-out-loud problems, or helping my pet crawfish Nancy reach her full potential. Returning players will be pleased with the new features and quality-of-life improvements that can be found in every part of the game. There is so much more I haven’t discussed in this review because seeing is believing and if you take the time to explore you will have one hell of a good time.