For nearly 20 years, the Yakuza, or “Like a Dragon”, series has been steadily and diligently marching forward, unbeknownst to many. For me, it wasn’t until Yakuza 0 and again with Yakuza: Like a Dragon that the series became an undeniable part of the industry. Now, with the latest mainline entry, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has given us the second game in its move towards evolving series into a Turn-Based JRPG with what looks to be its most impressive, most expansive game yet. Having played over 30 hours thus far, I can say that, as a fan of the series, I’ve been grinning from ear to ear with its continued ridiculous yet serious tone, lovable characters, and somehow still over-the-top turn-based combat. There’s a lot to say about Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth and I hope this post helps to provide impressions and a better understanding of the game for those interested in this bombastic entry of the long-running series.

What is Yakuza/Like a Dragon?

To begin and for the uninitiated, I’d like to start with some background on the series. The Like a Dragon series, originally called Yakuza in the West until more recently, is a long-running crime drama franchise of games centered around Japan’s infamous yakuza. From Yakuza 0 through Yakuza 6, the majority of the franchise focuses on the story of Kiryu Kazuma, the legendary Dragon of Dojima, in 3D “Beat ’em up” style action games. More recently, however, Yakuza: Like a Dragon (the 7th entry) and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (the 8th entry) are centered around the story of Ichiban Kasuga, the new face of the series, and features turn-based JRPG-style gameplay as the eccentric Ichiban views the world through the eyes of a Dragon Quest game. The hallmarks of the franchise are its highly serious, melodramatic main story juxtaposed with its often over-the-top comedic side content that’s rich in Japanese flavor. Now 30+ hours into the game, it’s safe to say that Infinite Wealth continues the trend as it further embraces the serious with the weird. For a town under the thumb of the yakuza, there are just as many freaks and perverts waiting around every corner.

Perfecting its Turn-based Combat

When Yakuza: Like a Dragon was released in 2020, it, unexpectedly, reinvigorated my love for the JRPG genre with its unique tone, uncompromising vision, and simplistically satisfying turn-based combat. Now, four years later, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth looks to capitalize on and perfect much of what the previous entry made so special. With the change from the series’ hallmark action combat to a JRPG, there were some unforeseen issues with Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s combat due to the inability to control your character’s movement in conjunction with enemies continuing to move about during your spell animations. This presented a challenge where characters would perform area-of-effect moves without ever knowing if those around the target would move out of range while waiting for the animation to complete. Luckily, this has been fully addressed in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Now, player characters have a ring in which they can freely move within to position themselves and plan for knockback attacks to further combos, adding a simple, yet satisfying combat loop of positioning attacks to optimize damage. Additionally, once an attack is selected, enemies now stop in place to ensure AEO effects hit the intended targets making combat that much smoother and strategic. While small changes, Infinite Wealth addresses my concerns about the shift to JRPG combat and provides one of my continued favorite experiences in the genre making it easy to spend dozens upon dozens of hours running through the streets of Hawaii to lay the hurt upon sickos and criminals.

Continuing the Tale of Ichiban Kasuga

While Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth presents a new story, it’s very much the continuation of Yakuza: Like a Dragon and the tale of Ichiban Kasuga. To that end, the game will spoil the ending of the previous entry within the first few hours as it expects you to understand Ichiban’s origins and how that plays out in the modern timeline. For newcomers to series interested in the JRPG gameplay, I recommend at least starting with Yakuza: Like a Dragon before jumping into Infinite Wealth as tempting as it may be. Additionally and despite being focused on Ichiban, Infinite Wealth does look to draw more upon past entries of Kiryu’s story to further fill the world and bring conclusions to old threads on the side. While not a deal breaker for some like me who have not gotten to every entry yet, I think it’s fair to warn that this game does build upon everything that came before it to bring a much deeper experience to long-time fans. As for the main plot, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes place four years after the previous entry and sees Ichiban Kasuga traveling the streets of Hawaii in search of a woman who finds herself in the crosshairs of Hawaii’s various gangs. With the aid of allies old and new, Ichiban is in a race against the clock as he tracks down Hawaii’s most popular target before she meets her untimely demise.

Infinite Content, New and Old

After four years of development and continuously building and refining locations, gameplay systems, and side content from each previous game, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth looks to be the largest and most robust entry in the series. With an all-new map in Hawaii, rivaling the size of Yokohama’s map, which is also included and filled with content, the game also includes a new slew of substories, the continuation of the Sujimon story from Yazuka: Like a Dragon where you compete in battles against the Descreet Four to be the very best Sujimon Master, and a new Animal Crossing-inspired island called Dondoko Island where you build an island resort, which I spent around 15-hours on to complete. Throw in every mini-game from previous entries (darts, karaoke, etc.) and new games like Sicko Snap (Pokemon Snap but with perverts) and Crazy Eats (Crazy Taxi meets Uber Eats), Infinite Wealth packs in a lot of bang for your buck. Furthermore, and adding to the reasons to play Yakuza: Like a Dragon, a good portion of the substories are direct continuations from the substories of the previous game, which can feel redundant in some ways, but, ultimately, brings a fun way to introduce returning characters and threads to Ichiban’s story, something the series has done in past entries. Of the new additions, however, I lost countless hours within Dondoko Island as I gathered materials, collected fish and bugs, and built structures to create and manage a 5-star island resort to my exact specifications. To some, there may be an overwhelming amount of content packed into the game but, if you take it slow, I’ve found it’s an incredibly worthwhile experience.

And there you have it. Between substories, dungeons, minigames, and more, I’ll be roaming the world of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth for weeks to come and every moment has been a joy for me thus far. Despite not having the same budget as AAA games out of Japan or in general, there’s no denying there’s a lot of heart and passion that goes into this series and you can feel it with the consistent effort to aim higher with each new release. In an era where even the biggest names in the industry can release a questionable product, it’s always great to see studios like Ryu Ga Gotoku continue to deliver directly to their fans, above all else. There’s so much more to talk about with this game so I hope I was able to distill some of the more important highlights to give a better idea of what Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has to offer. If there’s anything you feel could be elaborated on more or any questions about the game, feel free to leave a comment!