Even though it has been over three years since Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s western release, fans have been treated to two big releases with Ishin and Gaiden last year. Finally though, the series’ long-awaited next mainline installment – Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth – is here, and it promises to be even bigger than the already huge Yakuza: Like a Dragon (or Yakuza 7).
This next game is a continuation of the series’ new turn-based JRPG direction, though it promises to be an evolution in terms of gameplay. That’s because the combat features lots of enhancements that should make gameplay more dynamic.
On top of this, the game is also significant for being the first in the series to be set outside Japan. Specifically, the game’s main setting is the sunny and tropical Hawaii. Though Yokohama and Kamurocho are also back, making this game even bigger.
RGG Studio has released many details over the past months highlighting the game’s combat, setting, and story. Based on these previews, Infinite Wealth should be an easy must-play for long-time series fans like myself.
After playing through the game, I can safely say that this game is one of the series’ best. That’s not just because of its gameplay but also because of its moving story.
The Gang’s All Here and More
As with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Infinite Wealth features Ichiban Kasuga as its protagonist, though he’s not the only main character. That’s because he is joined by the Dragon of Dojima himself, Kazuma Kiryu.
Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, Ichiban Kasuga finds himself on his way to Hawaii in search of his mother. There, he has a chance encounter with Kiryu who is continuing to work under the Daidoji faction. In typical Like a Dragon fashion, the two get roped into another underworld conflict.
The story itself may take some time to get the ball rolling, but make no mistake, the story is still compelling. Thematically, it also works well as the events of the plot reflect the state of the game’s two protagonists nicely.
Of course, you’ll need to be ready to suspend your disbelief with some plot points. The game’s switching between English and Japanese (in the Japanese dub) is also not the most natural at times. But these are just nitpicks as the story flows well and packs a ton of excitement.
What also makes the story work are the characters. Ichiban’s crew from Yakuza 7 is back in this game. This time, even the Geomijul’s Seonhee is here as a party member. They are also joined by two new characters from Hawaii – Eric Tomizawa and Chitose Fujinomiya.
Seeing Ichiban and his friends will no doubt delight those who enjoyed Yakuza 7. But the game doesn’t just retread old ground here. The addition of Kiryu definitely adds extra depth to the returning characters as they surprisingly open up to the legendary yakuza during the game’s Drink Links (which return from the previous game)
As for the new characters, Tomizawa and Chitose have an excellent dynamic with Ichiban. At some points, I was laughing out loud because of how funny and entertaining parts of the story are with them.
That’s not to say that this game is a straight-up comedy. Sure, there are loads of comedic moments, but the game does get serious, and during these times, boy does the story pack an emotional punch.
It’s tough to fully explain without mentioning spoilers, but believe me, coming from someone who played through all the mainline Yakuza games, this is up there with games like Yakuza 0 in terms of story. I can’t say for sure which one is better, but what’s clear is that the loveable cast of Infinite Wealth is exceptional and is probably the best in the series. The only real drawback here is that this story is made for fans who at the very least played Yakuza 7. This means the story may not land as strongly if this is your first Like a Dragon game.
Aside from the main story, you’ll spend a lot of time with the game’s characters through various conversations around the map, and through the aforementioned Drink Links at the bar. Spending time with them is important as deepening your bonds with them will unlock helpful combos and abilities, as well as enable them to do follow-up attacks in combat.
Gameplay: Small Additions, Huge Results
At its core, the combat in Infinite Wealth is the same as in Yakuza: Like a Dragon as the system is still a turn-based JRPG with elemental attacks and status ailments to spice things up.
Personally, I liked the combat in Yakuza 7, though I did find it a bit dull at times as its combat wasn’t as dynamic as I would’ve liked. Infinite Wealth fixes this by adding fresh new combat elements.
One of the main additions is the ability to move before attacking. Proper positioning before attacking is important as attacking enemies from behind results in a critical hit. Attacking them can also result in an automatic follow-up attack if you attack an enemy and they get knocked into the vicinity of a party member. Allies also do follow-up attacks to downed enemies when your bond level with them increases.
Positioning is also key when up against multiple enemies. In most encounters, it’s important to get rid of as many weaker enemies first so that you can focus on stronger foes. This can be done through various AoE attacks, though their AoE differs. Some attacks damage enemies in a straight line, while others have a wider damage circle. Positioning your character well to hit the most number of enemies is key. This is also the case with healing and buffs as some support skills also have a smaller area of effect.
Being able to move is seemingly small, but coupling it with the focus on AoE and combo attacks, as well as the expanded perfect attacks (where pressing a button prompt enhances damage) adds a ton of depth to combat encounters, making them much more fun and engaging. In fact, I found myself truly enjoying the game’s turn-based combat mechanics which is a rarity for me in RPGs. Usually, I find turn-based combat a bit dull sometimes.
Outside combat, the game also brings back the job system from the previous game, allowing players to change the roles and skills of every party member. There are lots of wacky job additions that perfectly match the Hawaiian setting, and while getting in-depth into this is not required (as you can play through the story just fine with the default jobs for each character), it’s still nice to have for those who want to tweak their party to their preferred gameplay style.
Aside from making the combat more exciting, the game also fixed the biggest problem (for me and many other fans) of Yakuza 7 – how grindy it felt. In Yakuza 7, there’s a major difficulty spike in one of the later chapters which necessitated grinding for most players. Thankfully, that’s not the case here with Infinite Wealth as I did not feel the need to grind. Do take note that I didn’t rush through the main story here. This means if you play with a nice balance of main story and side quests, you likely won’t feel the need to grind here.
What also helps is that large main story “dungeons” typically have a note for a recommended level and equipment rating. With this, even if you rush through the main story, you’ll know if you’re underleveled before proceeding. Again, this is a small addition, but it helps so much in removing frustration as you won’t find yourself stuck and hopelessly underleveled in a dungeon.
One final addition worth noting is that the game has the Smackdown mechanic which players can select when facing off against weak foes in the map. Doing so will automatically defeat enemies, though they’ll also reward less. This is a nice quality of life change as it means you won’t have to needlessly beat down weak opponents.
Thanks to all of these additions and enhancements, the combat in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is already incredibly fun on its own. But for those who want a bit of a breather from combat, the game offers up so many side activities and mini-games that will keep players occupied for hours on end.
You Won’t Run Out of Things to do
A Yakuza game isn’t complete without a wide array of side activities to do. In this regard, Infinite Wealth does not disappoint as you likely won’t run out of things to do in your journey.
As always, there are lots of substories here, and they are again incredibly wacky and memorable. There are also substories with heartfelt stories that make them well worth playing through. This means if you see a substory icon on the map, you won’t regret rushing through the map to get to it.
There are also lots of mini-games here such as darts and arcades, as well as more involved activities like the online dating mini-game. But the highlight side activities of the game are no doubt the Sujimon battles and Dondoko Island, both of which are funny parodies of popular games.
As its name implies, Sujimon is a parody of Pokemon. While Sujimon played a role in Yakuza 7, Infinite Wealth features full-blown Pokemon-style battles where Ichiban faces off against other trainers. There’s also a funny capturing mechanic, as well as a leveling system. Coupled with the surprisingly engaging storyline, Sujimon is a fun game-within-a-game that will have you entertained for hours.
If you want a break from Sujimon battles, the game also features Dondoko Island which is the series’ take on the popular Animal Crossing franchise. In this large mini-game, Ichiban’s goal is to help a struggling island resort get back on its feet by cleaning up the island and decorating it with all sorts of items, as you would in Animal Crossing. Of course, some enemies are out and about on the island that Ichiban must defeat to drive away.
I’m not a huge fan of Animal Crossing games, to be honest, but I surprisingly had a fun time with Dondoko Island. This might just be my Yakuza bias shining through, but the fact that there’s a storyline and a goal gave me the incentive to play through the mini-game.
If you ask me though, the best side activity in the game is Kiryu’s Bucket List. It’s not a huge game-within-a-game like the previous two as it’s more of a collection of side quests. Without spoiling it, if you have played through Kiryu’s journey in the series, you’ll no doubt love the Bucket List just as much as I did.
Honolulu, Hawaii is an Excellent Setting
What I also loved about the game is its brand-new Honolulu, Hawaii setting. Because the Like a Dragon series has been synonymous with Japan for me, I wasn’t sure how the move to Hawaii would work. Thankfully, RGG Studio worked its magic to make Honolulu one of the best settings in the series yet.
Firstly, the map is huge and dense. It’s even denser than Yokohama, complete with huge indoor areas. These all make the map feel more like an actual bustling city.
The size isn’t the only thing that makes this map great. There’s also the fact that the game’s version of Honolulu looks excellent thanks to how colorful and varied it is. If the virtual tourism aspect of the Like a Dragon games is something that you enjoy, you’ll have a great time with Infinite Wealth.
To top it all off, Hawaii is the perfect place to set Ichiban’s next adventure. As the game’s version of Hawaii is a bright and sunny place with a dark underbelly, it’s a great reflection of the game’s darker underworld that stands in sharp contrast to Ichiban Kasuga’s infectious positivity.
Hawaii on its own is already a worthy setting, but the game also brings back the large Yokohama map. And of course, no mainline Yakuza game will be complete without Kamurocho, so players can also return to Kiryu’s old stomping grounds in this game.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Final Verdict – 9/10
Even though the Like a Dragon series has been ongoing for nearly two decades now, the series shows no signs of slowing down as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an excellent JRPG with an engaging combat system that improves upon its predecessor. This is complemented by a moving story with a loveable cast, a dizzying array of side activities, and a setting that’s incredibly dense and fun to explore.
By all accounts, if you enjoyed Yakuza 7, then you’ll no doubt love this. I would even go as far as to say that this is right up there with Yakuza 0 as one of the best games in the series.
[This article was reviewed on PC via a game code provided by the publisher.]