With Kazama Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima finally out of the Tojo Clan after 7 games, Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a brand new adventure. Known as Ryū ga Gotoku 7 in Japan, the ‘7’ was dropped from the title to indicate that it is not like the previous games. As usual, Ryū ga Gotoku Studio was at the developing helm with SEGA publishing. Yakuza: Like A Dragon was first released in Japan on January 16th, 2020 on PS4. After translations from Japanese to native languages were done, it was later released on November 10th, 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. A PS5 release is also slated for March 2nd, 2021.
“So Comes Snow After Fire, And Even Dragons Have Their Endings” – J.R.R. Tolkein
As a die-hard Yakuza fan, I was very excited. Intrigued, yet fearful of what Yakuza Like a Dragon would be like without my main man Kazama Kiryu. Having spent the best part of 12 months playing Yakuza 0, right through to Yakuza 6, I had grown with him. I had lived his life alongside Kiryu and bonded with him. We played baseball, got drunk, went to the arcades together. I was wondering if I could enjoy that experience with someone else. It almost felt like I was betraying my Aniki. So wearily, I loaded the game and prepared myself for the feeling of infidelity.
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First off, let us address what my main concern was before I started Yakuza: Like A Dragon. All previous Yakuza games were action-adventures games, this was not. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is not that game. It is a full-blown RPG, with Dragon Quest inspired turn-based combat. I use the game Dragon Quest as a point of reference because Ichi claims several times that that particular game is responsible for the man he is today.
To cut a very long story short, our little whelp Ichi is a whippersnapper trying to cut his Yakuza teeth with the Arakawa Family, a subsidiary of the Tojo Clan. Trying to make his way toward being a fledgling, he takes the fall for a murder he did not commit. Covering for fellow Arakawa Family member Jo Sawashiro, Ichi believing himself the hero spends 18 years in prison. Upon release, he learns the Arakawa Family has forgotten him, betrayed the Tojo Clan, and allowed the rival Omi Alliance to move in and seize control of Kamurocho.
If you know Yakuza games, the feud between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance is legendary. So here we are, back in Kamurocho which is based on the real town of Kabukichō, Tokyo. You will however spend most of your time in the Yokohama district of Isezaki Ijincho, another fictionalisation of a town called Isezakichō. As with all previous games, Yakuza: Like A Dragon is heavily driven by narrative. Which, for a soft reboot it only feels natural for it to become an RPG. And, do you know what? It does it well!
Lets Talk About Fight Club
Gone are the brawler style fighting mechanics and in comes traditional RPG-style combat. There were glints of RPG mechanics in previous games with strength and defence boosts, but this is completely different. The best part is, it is still hard-hitting action with a menu akin to that of Persona 5. You still have to think fast and choose your opponent and which attack to use tactfully, and use party members wisely. Add into that a job system to determine your fighting style and you’re all set. Aside from fighting random ‘Menacing Men’ on the streets of Tokyo and Yokohama, there is a very deep, thoughtful, and emotional storyline filled with deception and pain, though a little convoluted.
A few hours into the game and you are granted a whole plethora of things to do to distract you from your main story. Substories are scattered all throughout and the majority make for a welcome break because they are hilarious! Want to play Space Harrier or Fantasy Zone? Go and hit up the SEGA arcades. Visit a cabaret club, invest in property management, play poker, do karaoke, go dragon kart racing, play darts! The list of things to keep you busy is huge. You can even play Virtua Fighter 5 with your player 2 if you wish. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a game filled with colourful characters that you will become emotionally attached to. You will love some, and hate others and feel really invested in the story.
I played this on a PS4 Pro and didn’t experience any graphical glitches. There was the odd one or two gameplay glitches where a party member would get stuck behind an obstruction while making a move, but it sorted itself out.
Graphics and Audio
During the day, the city is your usual concrete jungle, but it’s a good looking one. Come night, that’s when the city really comes to life. The bright lights of Kamurocho set upon a darkened sky is simply awe-inspiring. Character and facial animations are fluid and are set to a high standard. As a result, making the characters more relatable. The sound design has worked excellently too.
Hearing the busy city as you go about your day, it really feels like a living and breathing environment. And, nothing excites me more than the authentic sound of an arcade and a Yakuza chump biting the pavement. The musical segments in cut scenes echo the timbre and tone of the scene itself. For example, if it is something funny, it will be accompanied by music that would go amiss in a 70’s cop show. Or if it is serious, expect a low chorus of strings, and this adds weight to whatever part of the story you are in. In addition to that, if you aren’t a fan of subtitles, then this has also been dubbed into English and the voice acting is actually rather good.
If you were just to do the main story and little else, you could be looking at about 50 hours of gameplay easily. But with all the extra content in there and New Game+, you are looking at 100+ hours. I mean, that is to do everything. Play every mini-game, eat every item of food, upgrade your workshop, max out your stats and job roles. There is a lot to do, a lot to keep you coming back.
Within the first hour and a half, I was relieved. Relieved because they didn’t mess up one of my favourite franchises by changing my favourite thing I loved, the combat. The turn-based combat just worked and my fears were quashed. Without a doubt, this has slipped in as one of my top Yakuza games. There are cut scenes which in length would put a Metal Gear Solid game to shame, but it is absolutely necessary. Throw all this together, with all the extra side content, Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a fantastic game. If you are new to the franchise, or a fan of old, this is a Yakuza experience for you. But I do strongly urge you to go back and play the previous games.
I award Yakuza: Like A Dragon the prestigious Thumb Culture Platinum Award
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.