It’s rare for a game to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was surprising that Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth addressed this real-life event in a heartfelt way through Ichiban Kasuga.
For many, the pandemic is all but over, though its effects can still be felt by some, be it through lingering health reasons or otherwise. Thus, addressing this real-world tragedy in any fictional story is tough, so it’s not surprising that there’s practically no video game from a major publisher that mentions it. Even in other media, it’s rare that the pandemic is mentioned; I can only think of Glass Onion and Drive My Car as two fairly recent movies which reference the pandemic (not event that overtly, in Drive My Car’s case).
Because of this, I was surprised that the latest Like a Dragon game addresses the pandemic, and it does so with grace and in a heartfelt manner — a tough task to be sure.
[NOTE: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth spoilers follow]
So, how does the game mention the pandemic? Well, it does so early into the story via the protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga.
The game starts with Ichiban working for Hello Work, and his goal is to help former yakuza find jobs. In one case, Ichiban mentions that he helped a former yakuza member get a phone plan so he can work a job as someone who places fake bids for masks, cold medicine, and antiseptic.
Ichiban mentions that this happened during the time when people were hoarding. Ichiban didn’t explicitly mention the pandemic, though it’s pretty clear that it is the event he’s referencing. After all, hoarding of masks a was a huge deal early into the pandemic in real life.
It would’ve been easy for the game to simply go and say “glad all that trouble was over” to reference the pandemic, though the way that the game handled it was much better as it acknowledged how difficult the pandemic was.
What’s more, the scene also affirms just how kind-hearted Ichiban is, making him a truly loveable character. Plus, the fact that the scene throws shade at resellers is definitely a plus in our book.
In case there was any doubt about the pandemic happening in the Like a Dragon universe, Koichi Adachi also mentions it early into the game.
When Adachi, Ichiban, and Nanba make a trip to the homeless camp, they see an unfinished structure that the folks at the camp turn into their own castle of sorts. Adachi says that this was supposed to be a building project, though the pandemic hit, leaving it unfinished.
These are just small mentions of the pandemic, but they are handled well and fit the story along with its protagonist. Plus, these mentions are respectful and heartfelt ways to acknowledge the real-world event that continues to have ramifications today.
For more on the game, you can check out our review here.