Yakuza 6 marked the tip of protagonist Kazuma Kiryu’s journey, leaving us with a single query: “What now?” For years, gamers had explored Japan with Kiryu, changing into connected to the character in addition to the template that his video games inhabited. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio may have merely dropped a brand new face in Kamurocho and known as it a day, however that’s not what occurred. In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the studio raised eyebrows by scrapping the standard arcade-brawler fight and changing it with turn-based RPG-inspired battles. And whereas there’s a new face to the motion, he’s accompanied all through his journey in Yokohama with a rotating troupe of like-minded heroes. It’s a pivot that would have resulted in catastrophe. Fortunately, Like a Dragon’s daring gamble pays off, resulting in top-of-the-line entries so far.
Ichiban Kasuga had some massive slip-on loafers to fill. Kiryu’s stoicism and willpower had been a pure match for the felony underworld he orbited, however his attraction and willingness to assist individuals with their issues received audiences over. Kasuga isn’t any Kiryu, and that’s sort of the purpose. This new hero is impulsive, hotheaded, and a little bit of a goofball. At the start of his journey, Kasuga shares his enthusiasm for the Dragon Quest collection with an underling. He sees himself as a hero, even when his skills don’t initially line up along with his aspirations. Kasuga’s willingness to assist is weaponized towards him, resulting in him taking the autumn (and an 18-year jail sentence) for a homicide.
We don’t know a lot about Kasuga at first, which finally ends up being one of the refreshing issues that Like a Dragon gives. Without the burden of half a dozen or so video games and their related histories on his shoulders, Kasuga is a clean slate for this new Yokohama journey. Kasuga actually has objectives and motivations – determining why his father determine within the Tojo Clan betrayed him is chief amongst them – however the truth that he’s such a small determine on this world creates an exhilarating feeling of freedom. This new hero doesn’t have established relationships on this new city, so the primary few hours are stuffed with easy issues like discovering work. What may very well be a boring slog cleverly leans into the RPG programs that underpin your complete expertise.
Like a Dragon isn’t only a superficial tackle RPGs; it holds a satisfying quantity of depth, together with the varied jobs that characters can take. You start as a bat-swinging hero, however it’s also possible to swap to a number of different roles, reminiscent of a chef, musician, or break dancer. Each position acquires new skills as they’re leveled up, just like the chef utilizing an area-of-effect flambé method or the musician strumming a tune that heals the get together. The jobs and the general assaults are fairly foolish, which is suitably on model. Changing these jobs is straightforward, although it requires a fast cease on the employment company – a pleasant reminder that, as goofy because it all could be, it’s grounded in its personal sense of actuality.
I used to be slightly delay by the turn-based fight at first, however I shortly warmed as much as it. Returning gamers will discover some acquainted animations, together with some bike-swinging motion when characters come throughout these props within the subject. Well-timed button presses grant further harm or mitigate enemy assaults, which helped me keep engaged throughout battles. As Kasuga establishes himself within the city, different characters take part on the motion. That permits for lots extra depth and specialization. I loved having a few bruisers soften up my targets whereas the others centered on debuffing enemies or offering heals when wanted. I particularly liked the Poundmates, that are basically Like a Dragon’s model of summons. These are supremely silly, they usually typically are rewards for participating within the myriad substories. I received’t spoil an excessive amount of, however I’ll say that having a bunch of low-level yakuza thugs attacked by crawfish is likely one of the much less weird choices out there. When you’re appropriately leveled, random battles resolve themselves as shortly as they’d in earlier video games, however bigger boss encounters have strategic components that reward planning and persistence.
There is a big felony conspiracy at play right here – it’s a Yakuza recreation, in any case – nevertheless it doesn’t really feel as needlessly sophisticated as a few of the intrigue has been within the different entries. Keeping observe of the essential figures isn’t fairly as overwhelming, probably as a result of Kasuga isn’t aware about numerous what’s occurring. I liked the best way the story progressively involves gentle, too. Kasuga and his pals be taught a lot about Yokohama’s felony underworld by working varied jobs all through town; he’s studying concerning the city and its individuals on the similar time we’re, which is a refreshing method.
It wouldn’t be a Yakuza recreation with out an abundance of aspect actions, and Like a Dragon delivers right here, too. If you’re not having enjoyable with the present activity at hand or desire a break from the story, a number of prolonged aspect actions or pursuits are round to occupy your time. Yokohama is dwelling to a number of nice diversions, together with a Mario Kart-like Dragon Karting collection, full with racing rivals, powerups, and tiered tournaments. I spent a lot of my time within the oddly participating administration sim, the place you rent individuals to run quite a lot of completely different companies to extend income, after which tackle buyers in board-room battles. It’s comparable in spirit to the cabaret administration or baseball simming in earlier entries, and it’s a enjoyable approach to make some huge cash for upgrades and consumables.
Like a Dragon is a departure from the video games that got here earlier than it, however I discovered these adjustments to be revitalizing. As a lot as I loved the Yakuza system, it was positively a system. Like a Dragon has sufficient acquainted components to make it really feel like, at its coronary heart, it’s a Yakuza recreation. All the whereas, I absolutely appreciated how a lot of a brand new id this entry is establishing. Here’s hoping this is step one in yet one more nice journey for the collection.
This assessment was initially printed on November 4, 2020.