Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

by Matt Kamen |
Published on

Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PC

Sega’s Like A Dragon series – formerly known in the west as Yakuza – has gone from strength to strength over the years, growing from a niche title with a small-but-dedicated Japanophile audience to something of a global phenomenon. It’s a trajectory that continues with this latest instalment, which builds on 2020’s Yakuza: Like A Dragon to create the biggest, strangest entry in the crime saga yet.

Infinite Wealth kicks off in the familiar Yokohama setting of the previous game, with ex-yakuza member Ichiban Kasuga trying to do good by helping other former criminals find legitimate work, re-integrating them into civil society. It’s not long before he’s drawn back into the criminal underworld though, sent to Hawaii to track down the biological mother he’d never known, whose own fate is entwined with the yakuza clan Kasuga once served.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

The tropical setting makes for the series’ first international outing, a sunny vacation from the neon-lit streets of Kamurocho that defined earlier entries. This is no attempt to westernise the series though – leaning into the long history of Japanese migration to Hawaii, Infinite Wealth maintains the unique identity of previous games, while still allowing space to explore Kasuga in a fish-out-of-water role as he explores the darker side of paradise. He’s a real delight of a lead character, simultaneously fiercely heroic and adorably naïve, and it’s great to see his continued development over the course of the game. And, while the game is packed with gags – an extended Austin Powers-esque scene where a naked Kasuga wakes up on a beach after being drugged, his modesty maintained by well-placed objects and carefully chosen camera angles, is particularly funny – it’s also punctuated with moments that retain an ability to shock, either with visceral violence or heartfelt drama, making for a surprisingly emotional rollercoaster.

Less developed is the game’s approach to combat. The returning turn-based system from Yakuza: LAD is lightly finessed, resulting in battles that offer a largely satisfying balance of tactics and skill. For example, it’s now more obvious how to position your party members to grab items around them to smack enemies with, while an improved relationship system with party members allows more varied team-up moves and combo attacks. It’s also perpetually delightful to see how JRPG staples like magic and status effects are worked into the real-world setting with a knowing wink, such as new ally Tomizawa filling a “mage” role, delivering electric attacks by hot-wiring a car battery or a fire one by setting off flares in an opponent’s face.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Other aspects feel restrictive though, such as the Jobs system. While there are a host of different combat roles for Kasuga and his team to take on, such as ‘Aquanaut’ (beating bad guys up with a surfboard), the ability to switch Jobs takes so long to be introduced that it almost feels like an afterthought. It’s part of a bigger problem with pacing that has long plagued the series – even the fairly rudimentary feature of upgrading equipment doesn’t come in until chapter four here, which, if you’ve been chasing every side story and bit of content, may be as much as 25 hours in.

Yet while the approach to combat makes it easy to pigeonhole the game as a JRPG, the real strength of the series has always been the sheer variety of play options it crams in. Infinite Wealth takes this to another level, with not just the usual array of minigames such as darts, arcade machines, and karaoke, but whole games-within-games.

The deliriously strange Sujimon from Yakuza: LAD returns, now evolved to a full-on Pokémon parody where you catalogue the assorted weirdos you’ve been beating up around Hawaii, then battle with them through a fighting league, aiming to be the very best. Elsewhere, Dondoko Island is essentially Animal Crossing, turning a trash-filled island into a five-star resort by clearing, cleaning, and crafting. Fancy a dating sim instead? Check out Miss Match, where the socially inept Kasuga tries his hand at wooing Hawaii’s eligible bachelorettes through text exchanges. There’s even a _Pokémon Snap-_style minigame having you taking photos of masked perverts lurking around Hawaii, and a twist on Crazy Taxi where you pull off ridiculous stunts to earn tips as a bicycle courier. The sheer volume of stuff to do in Infinite Wealth is staggering, as is the quality of these side hustles – it’s easy to imagine some of these as their own distinct releases, and the elegance with which they’re integrated into the greater whole of Infinite Wealth is masterful.

Yet despite that raft of content, Like A Dragon feels held back by that ever-present pacing problem. Between some extraordinarily long cutscenes and dialogue sequences, and a tendency to drip feed features to players, Infinite Wealth can feel padded, restrictive. If developers Ryu ga Gotoku Studio can ever overcome that tendency for overly cautious handholding though, Like A Dragon could conquer the world.

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