Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review
Back when Yakuza: Like a Dragon first arrived on the scene, it was certainly a game-changer as it swapped out the action-heavy gameplay of the acclaimed RGG Studios’ series for a turn-based experience. While it may have been a big change to get used to, it was hard to deny that it refreshed the franchise and made it possible for new fans to jump in and have a taste.
Now, with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the developers have gone even further to elevate the combat while continuing to refine everything fans love about the games, resulting in a Hawaiian escapade where the fun never ends.
It makes perfect sense then to bring back both Ichiban Kasuga as well as Kazuma Kiryu for this blockbuster of a sequel, such is the scale and scope of the activities involved. The former continues in the vein from the previous game, a charming albeit innocent individual who brings much-needed lightheartedness to the proceedings, whereas the latter is the stoic presence that fans have come to know and love.
The stakes are raised higher with Kiryu’s cancer diagnosis, a state of affairs that leaves him in a more pensive mood that dovetails well with Kasuga.
The pair will find themselves traveling to Hawaii as part of the quest to reunite with Kasuga’s supposed biological mother, but in true Yakuza style, things take a wild spin shortly after. Think ridiculous scenarios, conspiracies galore, and a lot more goons to beat up, the usual fare that remains just so entertaining to engage in. What is even more apparent this time is the focus on more contemporary issues, such as fake news and environmental concerns, which are quite masterfully woven into the chaos unfolding on the island, again demonstrating RGG Studios’ mastery of storytelling with plenty of twists and turns.
The pair is backed up by a strong supporting cast as well, with familiar characters returning from the past and joined by a couple of new faces that steal the limelight whenever they appear. The main attraction is undoubtedly Dwight Mendez, played by Danny Trejo, who straddles the line perfectly between fact and fiction as a mob boss and delivers a convincing performance with aplomb. Whether you are pushing hard to progress the story or taking some downtime to explore, the conversations between characters in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth are always a highlight to look forward to.
All of the fun interactions and story beats of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth will unfold across two countries, with the shift to Hawaii being the biggest change this time around. Gone are the concrete jungles players might be used to, with sandy beaches and a more laidback culture taking center stage. With a gigantic map, even for the series’ standards, players will have an incredible amount of things to see and do, and that is only the beginning.
The familiar locations of Yokohama and Kamurocho also return, with Kiryu at the core of the journey back home. Needless to say, it will elicit pangs of nostalgia for returning fans to be back at these places in the shoes of the deuteragonist, and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth makes sure that there are many opportunities to reminisce on this trip down memory lane and into the future.
Both locations are chock full of different diversions to get busy with, as well as the iconic substories that will often astound and entertain. Even though many of them will be optional, it is always a good time to take a look through the lens of different people in varying situations, all enhanced by the humor and unique charm provided by Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
Who knew that having ex-Yakuza members run a resort island would be so fun? Dondoko Island may be a riff on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, but it is strong enough to stand on its own, even as a supposed side activity that players could very well ignore. The sheer depth of the experience is a pleasant surprise and could be a timesink that easily takes Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth into hundreds of hours for the more dedicated resort managers.
Then there is the Sujimon collection activity, tasking players to capture all sorts of colorful characters to do battle and raids if that’s your kind of thing. Other notable activities in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth include the hectic and fast-moving Super Crazy Delivery minigame, or Sicko Mode which takes photo-taking to a whole other level by involving scantily-clad muscleheads and a healthy dose of Pokemon Snap thrown in for good measure. All of these join the already large selection of minigames that are always present in the series, a true playground for anyone looking for a distraction.
Naturally, a role-playing extravaganza like Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth wouldn’t be complete without combat, and Kasuga and the crew are well-versed in all their chosen forms of fisticuffs. Unlike the previous game, however, turn-based combat is made better thanks to the ability to move the active party member during their turn, allowing for more tactical strategies that make use of positioning for increased damage.
Players can utilize environmental objects in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth to deal more damage, get in close for a proximity bonus, or line up multiple enemies to be the target of a powerful skill. Furthermore, as party members better their relationships and build on their Bond Links, more and more supporting moves are added to the fray, making endgame encounters a spectacular show when things line up perfectly.
For those who are still pining for the combo-heavy combat of yesteryear, the closest you will come to that in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is experiencing that rush is controlling Kiryu, who brings his signature Brawler, Rush, and Beast fighting stances into battles. Together with his fillable Heat gauge that allows for free movement and potent combos, and combat in the sequel manages to deliver the best of both worlds.
Being able to use the returning jobs system is also a plus, with more added to the mix to give players the flexibility to kit out their squad to fit any play style. Each job can fulfill different types of roles in battles, and while it may not always be the priority, the entertainment value involved can often make it easy to choose a particular job over others just for the fun of it. This way, players are always encouraged to try out new combinations and see what sticks, all while laughing at the sheer zaniness on display.
It is also the fact that Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth springs all sorts of challenges at players for them to overcome that makes combat so satisfying. While there is certainly more cannon fodder to plow through, more significant encounters can modifiers like poisonous gas, environmental interactions, and more to shake things up, keeping players on their toes all the way to the very end.
The way Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has been designed is also geared towards ensuring players don’t have to go through the grind to be powerful enough for the challenges ahead. Almost everything you will get up to will earn XP, making your party stronger while unlocking more useful skills and moves, feeding back into a less-than-vicious cycle that constantly rewards you for putting in the time and effort.
Add in perhaps the strongest writing of the series thus far, and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is undoubtedly a shining example of how far along these games have come. From the improved turn-based combat and job systems, the compelling activities dotted around Japan and Hawaii, to characters that are hard not to root for or to beat to a pulp, the notion that this is the zenith of RGG Studios efforts over the years is hard to argue against, and we are all the luckier for it.
What we liked:
- Combat and job systems are even better than before
- Progression feels natural without being grindy
- Writing is compelling with a great cast of characters
- Substories and side activities are even deeper and more entertaining
- Quirkiness remains a key highlight that always brings a laugh
What we didn’t like:
- Graphical performance is not at the high standards of everything else
Verdict: Buy it!
A poignant story that will matter more to longtime fans but is otherwise still accessible to newcomers, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth delivers a robust adventure that takes advantage of its turn-based system to make combat even more enjoyable, aided by an expanded jobs system that continues to impress.
With more cohesive writing and storytelling, the cast of familiar and new faces come together for an engaging tale that strikes a great balance between the absurd and the serious, constantly driving players along for its main storyline and providing a plethora of distractions along the way to entertain.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is undoubtedly the best work RGG Studios have put out in recent times, and the team will have a hard task ahead of them if they hope to surpass the greatness that is now available for everyone to enjoy.