Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review – Pinnacle of the Yakuza Series
Sega’s Yakuza series has always thrived on its unique formula, blending gripping narratives with the charm of familiar characters and settings. In the eighth installment, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the developers at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio take this winning formula to new heights, offering a grand adventure that spans continents, introduces fresh gameplay mechanics, and maintains the series’ signature wit.
The journey begins with Ichiban Kasuga, a former yakuza now exploring life in Yokohama. However, the game quickly takes an unexpected turn as Ichiban finds himself in the exotic setting of Honolulu, Hawaii. His adventures in the city kick off with a blend of misfortune and humor. From being robbed and deceived to waking up on a beach in unusual circumstances, the narrative delivers an engaging tale of self-discovery and familial connections. The expansive map, the largest yet in the series, immerses you in the beauty and intricacies of Honolulu, complete with a Segway that complements exploration.
Among the prominent new additions is a Persona-like social link mechanic that is incorporated in the form of an in-game app called Aloha Links. Through the app, you can engage and connect with NPCs to build friendships and raise your Personality level as well as your Bond level with others. This small yet engaging feature adds a layer of realism and humor, epitomized by Ichiban’s tourist persona, and also opens new avenues in combat.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth introduces a plethora of side activities that impact character development and progression. The return of Sujimon, this time trainable and deployable in tactical battles, adds a comical Pokémon-inspired dynamic to the game. Dondoko Island, a nod to Animal Crossing, offers a compelling mini-game where you transform an illegal landfill into a resort. Managing the island involves rebuilding structures and catering to the diverse needs of visitors.
The RPG systems have also received a substantial upgrade, surpassing those seen in the game’s predecessor, Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The weapon upgrade system, gear progression, the aforementioned social link, and a dynamic combat system bring plenty of depth to the gameplay.
The combat system has been modified to put greater emphasis on strategy. Moving around the battle area and properly positioning your character before attacking is vital to success. Hitting an enemy from behind will considerably increase the damage output, and attacking in a certain direction will push enemies in the said direction. Pushing enemies nearer to your party members will allow them to follow up with attacks of their own. Furthermore, the game also introduces tag team moves that you and a party member can perform together.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth features a new job system that is central to the game’s combat, as it facilitates diverse fighting styles and weapons in battle by allowing character classes to inherit unique skills and stats. The system is well-integrated into the social link mechanic, where raising your personality level and bond levels with party members rewards you with access to new jobs for use in battle.
However, amidst the gameplay improvements, the narrative tends to take a backseat for the first thirty or so hours. While the characters introduced are intriguing and the dialogues top-notch, long-time fans will miss the dramatic tones and elegant criminality associated with previous Yakuza stories. That said, the plot does eventually gain momentum, thanks in part to the role of certain familiar faces. The inclusion of Kiryu Kazuma, the Dragon of Dojima, evokes nostalgia and brings a sense of continuity to the narrative. The game does a good job of balancing between Ichiban’s Hawaiian adventure and Kiryu’s poignant struggles.
In terms of visual presentation, Infinite Wealth showcases the Dragon Engine’s capabilities while also showing some signs of age. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s dedication to preserving authenticity and attention to detail shows in the bustling life of Honolulu. However, occasional instances of pop-in and low-quality NPCs tend to break the sense of immersion that the game otherwise does a great job of conveying. Meanwhile, the soundtrack, while not memorable, does well to complement the game’s setting and atmosphere.
The latest entry in the series serves as a bridge between the past and the future, embodying the spirit of the Yakuza legacy while setting the stage for new adventures. The synergy of Ichiban’s Hawaiian adventure and Kiryu’s enduring legacy showcases the developer’s commitment to honoring the series’ roots while exploring new horizons. The intricate web of relationships among the characters adds emotional depth to the narrative, with nods to the past evoking a sense of nostalgia for long-time fans. The game’s lengthy duration ensures that you have ample time to pursue the diverse activities that it offers, ranging from exploring the lively streets of Honolulu to indulging in the subplots and quirky side content.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth successfully captures the essence of the franchise, offering an immersive experience that balances humor, drama, and action. As you explore the bustling streets of Honolulu, engage in tactical battles, and uncover the nuances of the narrative, you become part of a rich fusion that pays homage to the past while embracing the future. The attention to detail is evident in the vibrant cityscapes and diverse gameplay elements. While the initial narrative pacing is rather slow, the eventual payoff makes it a rewarding journey and a testament to the enduring legacy of the Yakuza series.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Game Information
- Price: $69.99
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher