The Yakuza series has never been one to shy away from bold moves and the latest entry, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, takes this ethos to new heights, sending protagonist Ichiban Kasuga on an exotic escapade to Hawaii. Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega, this sequel builds upon the foundation laid by Yakuza: Like A Dragon, with a wealth of improvements that elevate the action-adventure gaming experience.
As the ninth mainline instalment in the series, which was originally known as Yakuza outside of Japan before adopting the more literal translation of the game’s Japanese name, Ryū ga Gotoku or Like a Dragon, there is a rich lore behind Infinite Wealth, including prevailing story beats and noteworthy characters across various criminal factions. Thankfully, the game does a fine job of recapping some important plot points. And by the time Ichiban is thrust into Hawaii, there’s a predominantly fresh cast of characters and adventure to reckon with.
Driven by its cinematic approach to storytelling, Infinite Wealth is often a rollercoaster of emotions—artfully blending wacky humour, heartfelt drama, and thoughtful introspection. Remarkably, it touches upon weighty themes such as familial ties, mortality, redemption, and cancel culture.
The initial hours, marked by extensive cutscenes, may seem like a slow burn, but they are propped up by gregarious personalities. Ichiban’s qualities as a wholesome moron shine brighter than ever, fully embracing his uncanny ability to endear himself to people and turn even foes into newfound pals. After all, this is a game with a dedicated ‘Aloha’ button to make friends. Similarly, brand-new allies swiftly become likeable thanks to their moving backstories and fleshed-out identities.
Infinite Wealth’s spectacular visuals support its epic drama, maintaining the franchise’s incredible facial animation, acting performances, and cinematic direction. The mere flicker of Ichiban’s eyes alone can convey multitudes of emotion. However, the standout is the facial capture of the new character Dwight, loosely modelled after Hollywood actor Danny Trejo (Machete, Death on the Border), as it vividly reproduces every facet of the actor’s sweaty, wrinkly glory. Unfortunately, the female characters don’t appear to enjoy the same level of graphical fidelity as their male counterparts.
Meanwhile, the cities themselves boast impressive detail, with plenty of people and items scattered throughout. The dynamic weather system in Hawaii adds immersion while showing off the game’s lighting effects across various reflective surfaces. The combination of these features enables the environments to feel truly lived in.
When it comes to gameplay, the improved combat system is a highlight. It wisely melds its predecessor’s turn-based role-playing game mechanics with the action-brawler sensibilities of previous entries. The result is greater depth and a focus on character placement as players gain limited movement around the battlefield.
Encouraging players to consider tactical positioning adds a modest strategic element to combat dynamics. For example, lining up opponents maximises damage as they crash into one another like collapsing dominoes. Fellow party members can also dish out follow-up attacks when struck enemies fall within their offensive range.
The job system makes a welcome return with different options to deal with foes. Notably, Kazuma Kiryu, the deuteragonist, revisits his Yakuza 0 roots with his exclusive Dragon of Dojima job. This nostalgic nod to the series’ brawler foundation grants him three distinct fighting styles players can switch between mid-battle, showcasing Kiryu’s adeptness in grapples and Heat Actions.
Beyond the intense combat sequences, Infinite Wealth offers several side activities to keep players immersed in its vibrant world. The tropical paradise of Hawaii is said to be triple the size of Ijincho from Yakuza: Like a Dragon, expanding the game’s geographical scope. Consequently, this raises the number of colourful minor characters populating the locale and the zany antics accompanying them.
There is also an eclectic mix of minigames to keep players engaged. These fun distractions comprise classics such as karaoke, darts, mahjong, and various arcade games like SpikeOut, SEGA Bass Fishing, Virtua Fighter 3, and even claw machines. New additions include Texas Hold’em poker, online dating, and minigames inspired by Crazy Taxi and Pokémon Snap.
Sujimon, the Pokémon-esque collecting minigame in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, returns with enhanced features. Players can now befriend and train the diverse Sujimon of Hawaii and engage in thrilling 3-on-3 Sujimon Battles. Climbing the rankings leads to epic showdowns against the game’s pastiche of the Elite Four and Champion. It’s not nearly as complex as the actual Pokémon games, but it’s certainly an impressive inclusion.
One of the key features gracing the game is Dondoko Island, a hilarious spoof of the beloved Animal Crossing series. Here, Infinite Wealth plays like a different game, trading turn-based street fights for real-time action to bust up garbage and gather resources. This madcap side activity allows players to develop a scrap heap into a five-star resort via construction and crafted decor, offering a delightful reprieve from the gritty narrative.
These various aspects barely scratch the surface of what RGG Studio has managed to cram into a single package. If Yakuza: Like a Dragon boasts a playtime of 40-60+ hours, this sequel is poised to significantly extend that duration, providing players with even more value for their investment. It’s an extraordinary feat that showcases the studio’s ability to evolve while staying true to the essence of what makes the Yakuza / Like a Dragon games truly special.
With a refined combat system, a visually stunning new locale, and a healthy dose of absurdity in its abundant side activities, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth successfully bridges the gap between the familiar and the innovative. Both old fans and the Yakuza-curious will find an entertaining experience that blends drama, action, and humour in a way only this franchise can.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an ambitious game with a massive scope and plenty of activities to keep players engaged, showcasing Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s commitment to innovation while staying true to the essence of the beloved franchise.
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 10/10