Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $109.95 AUD – Available Here
It takes a lot of guts to take a series that used to be niche such as Yakuza and put an entirely new spin on it but that is exactly what Sega did back with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. In 2020 the series shifted focus from everyone’s favorite Dragon of Dojima to the far less serious seeming Ichiban Kasuga but not only that, it also dropped the high-impact action combat in favor of a robust turn-based battle system featuring a wide-variety of jobs and a party of characters. This shift from action to classic turn-based style combat was as much of a shock to Yakuza fans as Dead Souls back in 2012 and could have turned out terrible, but this gamble not only was a success it saw the franchise reach new heights. Now four years later here we are with the continuation of Ichiban’s story in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth in a game that more than lives up to its name.
A few years have passed following the events of Ichiban’s adventures in the previous game and with the dissolution of the two largest Yakuza clans and things seemingly peaceful, Ichiban has found gainful employment at Hello Work where he specializes in helping ex-Yakuza get back on their feet by trying to find the nearly unemployable criminals jobs that can keep them from falling back into a life of crime. However, this eventually backfires on him as a poorly informed Vtuber costs Ichiban and his two closest friends their jobs. While trying to figure things out, Ichiban manages to find a shocking piece of information, learning that his mother, Akane, is actually alive and has been seen in Hawaii.
With a chance at meeting his mother for the first time and fulfilling a promise, Ichiban’s Hawaiian vacation is steeped in meaning but it isn’t long before he finds himself roped in on bogus charges and needing to be rescued by Kazuma Kiryu of all people, who reveals that he has also been sent out on a mission for the Daidoji to track down Akane as well. With both men finding themselves looking for the same woman and the mysteries surrounding her piling up at every turn, the pair team up to try and learn the truth and locate Akane as even the smallest, simplest interactions quickly blossom into complex plots.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a lot. Late last year RGG Studio head Masayoshi Yokoyama called it a “monster-class game” and it shows in almost every aspect and this is especially true when it comes to the narrative here. The small amount mentioned already is barely the tip of the iceberg in the storyline that players will experience when playing through Infinite Wealth as the title feels like a celebration of the franchise so far while also serving as a massive game that works to be a final send off to Kiryu while passing the torch fully to Ichiban. The writers have managed to spin a yarn of emotionally complex characters and twisting plot elements that will constantly keep players on the edge of their seat and eager to see what happens next, be it a tear jerking moment that will pull at a longtime fan’s heart strings or something absurdly humorous or just downright ridiculous but awesome at the same time.
In fact, it feels like Infinite Wealth‘s narrative can be seen as two games in one thanks to how well-written it is and how the story handles the characters. Ichiban’s story and Kiryu’s story both are intertwined masterfully throughout the game with neither character feeling like they overshadow the other despite the emotional investment fans will have for Kiryu. All of this then ties together perfectly with the core narrative of uncovering the mysteries surrounding Akane and why so many people are searching for her. Part of this is due to the game’s massive new Honolulu location where players will spend plenty of time as well as revisiting Ijincho and Kamurocho. The new setting provides players with consistently fresh experiences with brand new characters, all of which feel just as well-written and developed as characters in the last entry. These new characters and factions are introduced all while harkening back to plot elements from the previous game and other Yakuza entries, making nearly every interaction feel worth the player’s time, including the massive amount of substories available. While we won’t spoil them here, the substories found within Infinite Wealth range from some of the simplest interactions around to some of the most ridiculous the series has ever seen and many of them call back to characters throughout the franchise. Even these substories run the gambit of comedy to emotional, with one in particular featuring a franchise mainstay character that is absolutely ridiculous tied together with an emotional loss all involving a set of characters players can simply ignore if they so choose.
There are practically entire game-modes devoted to some substories and while these are almost entirely on Ichiban’s side of things and are absolutely ridiculous in nature, Kiryu has an entire growth mode devoted to nostalgia while also showcasing him as a person, interacting with his friends and allies, rather than simply the Dragon of Dojima. It feels like there is always more to say about how gripping and highly entertaining the storyline throughout Infinite Wealth but in the interest of keeping things as spoiler free as possible we won’t go into detail but it must be said that there are some truly heartbreaking moments throughout the game, especially in the latter half. These developments can hit incredibly hard, and having to experience them firsthand is something truly special, especially in a franchise with as much history as this one. It takes some amazing writing to make a storyline that can have players feeling as emotional as Infinite Wealth can, especially when it manages to balance wonderful comedy and over-the-top moments with some truly heart-wrenching developments and interactions over its easily seventy hour plus runtime, making this a must play for any fan of the franchise and a hell of a starting point for those looking to dive in now.
In many ways stepping in to Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth feels like playing a familiar RPG because RGG took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” style of approach to the game’s exploration and combat mechanics and chose to refine them instead by offering a number of new mechanics and elements to nearly everything in the game. This includes the turn-based combat that players will be taking part in throughout the game as the player’s party of four dukes it out with a wide-array of enemies. The turn-based fights now allow players to move their character within a small area, allowing them to better position them for knockback attacks that can trigger chain combos with their allies or send them flying into a wall for extra damage, position themselves near an item to pick it up and use as a weapon, or even just deal extra damage by attacking from behind or with “proximity.”
This seems like a small change but it adds a lot of complexity to how players will often be able to choose their targets and moves. With high bond links, players can trigger combo attacks with nearby allies and the Area of Effect of both healing skills and offensive skills is shown as well, meaning properly positioning a Kunoichi’s ninja star barrage can mean the difference between hitting two foes or blasting all six at once. Even simply knocking one foe into another can deal extra damage to both enemies, making the RPG even more strategic. Nearly all skills and some Proximity attacks still trigger small quicktime events or mashes to help deal extra damage or trigger debuffs and status ailments on their target and attacking enemies on the ground once again deals extra damage as well. It is worth mentioning that all classes from the previous game return eventually though for the most part players will initially be able to change their jobs into a whole slew of new classes ranging from the surging Aquanut, gun-slinging Desperado, dancing GeoDancer, and deadly Kunoichi to name a few.
The only downside is players will need to visit job changing stations to swap their classes and while fast travel is available almost always, it is a bit annoying if you find yourself picking a class that you don’t mesh with. Perhaps the most interesting class of all is Kiryu’s starting one, the Dragon of Dojima. This class allows players to swap between three standard attack styles at any time, his Rush form that allows for two attacks in one turn at slightly less damage, Beast form that is a grapple that breaks through enemy guards and can send them flying with AoE attacks, and his standard Brawler style that can even perform some of his famous Heat finishing moves. Alongside these jobs and the other changes to combat, players will also eventually unlock a Hype meter by bonding with their allies and as this hype meter fills, they can perform powerful unique combo attacks with their party members. In fact, Kiryu can even has a special version of this himself that allows players to temporarily break the turn-based limit and enter free fighting for a short period of time. This level of customization towards player classes, strategy during combat involving placement, and sheer ridiculousness of some skills and enemies players face make combat a real treat at every level. In fact, players can even “Beatdown” enemies ten levels under them in an automatic win at the cost of lower rewards from the fight.
Of course, fighting isn’t all there is to do in Infinite Wealth as there is tons to explore and discover throughout Honolulu and other familiar locations including countless minigames such as returning classics like Darts, Shogi, Mahjong, Batting Cages, and more while even things like can collecting and the new “crazy” food delivery missions are as stylized as possible to give players plenty of things to explore and do when they aren’t taking part in virtual dating, let alone the classic games waiting in the arcade such as Sega Bass Fishing, Spikeout, and Virtua Fighter 3tb, or partaking in some wonderful karaoke with your teammates. These are just some of the most simplest side-activities and mini-games that players can take part in as others, such as taking a trolley ride and photographing weirdos, hunting down photo locations for a vacation app, or even just waving Aloha to strangers and making friends at the drop of a hat while also zipping around on a customizable not-segway.
The more in-depth side-activities are quite enthralling as well as Infinite Wealth has taken two familiar Nintendo properties and decided to put their own spin on things in the form of the Sujimon League and Dondoko Island. The Sujimon League is an expansion to the previous “Sujidex” found in the last game by actually making it so players can “capture” Sujimon that they fight out in the wild by giving them gifts and complimenting them to try and make them join their team or taking part in a gacha for random Sujimon. Players can then take and form a team of six Sujimon and battle against other Suji Trainers throughout Honolulu to raise their rank and power their allies up further to take down the “Discreet Four.” The entire thing is a ridiculously over-the-top side story that is highly entertaining and a great way to earn money early on and players can gather items from SujiStops, take part in Raids for items, and more in a surprisingly in-depth side activity that is far better than it has any right to be.
Dondoko Island is another massive side-story featuring yet another ridiculous premise and group of characters that may start slow but eventually becomes as ridiculous and engrossing as Sujimon. Players will find themselves on a resort island that has fallen from its heights to becoming a mere dumping ground for “Washbucklers” to pollute and with the help of Ichiban’s bat to destroy junk piles and pirates, it’s up to the player to restore the island to its former glory by clearing the land, crafting new facilities and attractions ranging from a toilet or ramen stand to a giant gold Oni statue or Cabaret Club, taking care of guests as they arrive, and of course gathering all manners of fish, insects, and misc. materials to sell for Dokobucks that can be used to expand their island activities further. This entire thing is ridiculous in nature and, as mentioned before, ends up being an engrossing activity that players can sink hours into without even touching the main game if they so choose, Of course, just like the Sujimon League, Dodonko Island is entirely optional to complete outside of the short stint players are forced to do to introduce the substory.
The breadth of side content on offer in Infinite Wealth is simply stunning and the thing is, nearly all of it is entirely optional. This means that while players can choose to sink as much time as they want into these fun little distractions, they can simply choose to focus on the main story and that’s all but even then the runtime and content on offer here is quite impressive. This doesn’t even touch upon gathering items for various weapon upgrades, raising Ichiban’s personality stats or Kiryu’s awakening, and more to explore in what is truly a massive offering of a game. Sadly, New Game+ is something that players currently cannot enjoy in the base game as Sega has made the awful choice to lock it behind paid DLC. This is an incredibly strange move, especially since the base game features achievements and other options that are only available in New Game +, making this a bit predatory in nature and a dark spot on an otherwise shining game.
Audio & Visuals
With a brand new setting of Honolulu Infinite Wealth looks absolutely beautiful at times. Traveling along the beachfront populated by men and women in swimsuits or jumping in the ocean and going for a swim look wonderful and that only happens to be the beachfront, as the rest of Honolulu is also lovingly created with a variety of different areas to explore, including seedier areas and back alleys. The familiar locations players return to as well look amazing in this title, something that is to be expected given the company’s familiarity with these areas. The character models are highly detailed and nearly every job and attack look wonderful in combat, with some truly ridiculous looking enemies to take on at times, especially when it comes to boss battles both story and optional. Of course, the cut-scenes themselves are also stunning in design and detail with every major scene being a top-notch looking production and even simple interactions handled well.
Like the previous game, and eventually Man Who Erased His Name, Infinite Wealth has launched with an English dub to accompany the standard Japanese voice track that everyone is familiar with. This is something of a point of issue here as English feels like a perfect fit given the majority Hawaiin setting and how natural Ichiban and nearly all of the returning characters sound thanks to their talented voice actors, but there is one fairly bad exception and it happens to revolve around Kiryu. Rather than using Darryl Kurylo who handled Kiryu perfectly fine in both the very first game in the franchise and Yakuza: Like a Dragon Sega has opted to replace the English voice actor with Yong Yea, a voice actor that just doesn’t quite fit the image and portrayal of Kiryu here, especially given how emotional the second half of the game is. This is made worse by the fact that he doesn’t even attempt to sound the correct age for Kiryu more often than not. Thankfully the Japanese voice actors have all retained their roles including Kiryu’s original voice actor so players who grow too annoyed by Kiryu’s English voice can easily choose to swap to the Japanese dub if they wish. As for the game’s soundtrack, Infinite Wealth features a great collection of background music and karaoke songs to enjoy and even incorporates an MP3 player of sorts that allows players to collect CDs featuring music from other Sega properties and listen to them as they travel around gathering items or beating up bad guys. Nothing like enjoying some Hatsune Miku or Persona while searching through the trash for upgrade materials.
It was going to take a lot for RGG and Sega to outdo themselves following Like a Dragon, especially when it involves bringing Kiryu into the mix, but they have managed to do it with Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The developer’s statement was true, the game is something of a “monster-class” game that not only manages to offer such a massive amount of side-content alongside its core storyline but also tells its core tale in such an emotional manner that can still make players laugh even as it prepares to rip apart their hearts. Infinite Wealth may have a few issues, including its DLC practice, but this title is one that everyone even remotely interested in the franchise needs to play.
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