I knew that diving into Like a Dragon: Infinite Weath, the ninth main title in the long-running Yakuza/Like a Dragon series was going to be a hell of a trip, both emotionally and from a gameplay perspective, but anything my fanboy brain could have possibly conjured up truly pales in comparison to the actual experience Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have delivered here.
The developers had previously hyped up the game’s overall runtime, informing fans that, due to the copious amount of content stuffed into this meaty package, extended play sessions could lead to problems concerning burnout or fatigue. And, believe me, they certainly were not kidding.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is positively bursting at the seams with memorable moments, side content, and character interactions, alongside a central storyline of epic proportions set within several locations to explore – including the sandy shores of Honolulu, Hawaii. The majority of the plot takes place here, as our unflinchingly loyal and righteous protagonist Ichiban Kasuga embarks on an international quest to find his mother who was last seen somewhere in the area.
Accompanied by the Dragon of Dojima himself, Kazuma Kiryu (now diagnosed with cancer), as well as a host of both new and returning faces, Ichiban’s actions inadvertently attract significantly more trouble than originally anticipated. What starts out as a simple search operation swiftly escalates into conflicts with both large and smaller local gangs, contending with corrupt law enforcement, and witnessing firsthand the grim reality hiding beneath the surface of the city’s bright lights and tourist traps.
If you’re curious as to whether completing the prior entries in the franchise is compulsory in order to understand the events of Infinite Wealth, you don’t need to be too concerned. While possessing knowledge of character history and the ordeals and developments from earlier titles will undoubtedly enhance your experience here, it’s not totally mandatory (highly recommended, though). The game does a pretty decent job of explaining necessary information when, and if, it becomes relevant to the direction the story is heading.
Combat maintains the same turn-based style of Ichiban’s previous adventure, consisting of basic attacks, skills, guarding, and item usage – with a small number of fresh tweaks implemented, resulting in a more nuanced and satisfying experience within battles. You can now move around within a circular area surrounding your active character, which is vital for taking advantage of positional attacks – optimising your placement before activating a skill targeting enemies in a line ahead of you, for example.
Attacking from behind or knocking a foe into a nearby ally also does bonus damage, so blindly spamming skills without considering all your available options may likely result in wasted resources. Some enemies are weak to specific types of skills as well, so make sure you’re exploiting those vulnerabilities.
Sujimon, the collective name for the enemies you’ll bump into while wandering the streets, come in all sorts of equally amusing and horrifying forms. Through Kasuga’s eyes, as a direct result of his child-like wonder and overactive imagination, a trio of otherwise unremarkable thugs and criminals may shapeshift into something decidedly more fantastical. Defeating a Sujimon adds its entry to the Sujidex, a sort of digital encyclopaedia that definitely isn’t referencing any other device from another incredibly popular video game franchise. No, sir.
Ichiban’s numerous personality traits can be improved by completing a range of challenges that bleed into almost every action you perform while out and about, including playing minigames, defeating enemies, or simply talking to NPCs. The more you raise these personality traits, the more powerful your combat skills become – and additional bonuses may even provide higher resistance to negative status ailments, for example.
Engaging with your companions is equally as important as traditional levelling when it comes to increasing your overall strength, personality, and combat effectiveness. Whether you’re making small talk at designated spots marked on the map or hanging out at a cabaret club together, strengthening your relationship and increasing your bond levels leads to events known as Drink Links. These personal conversations serve not only as character development opportunities but can actually unlock gameplay benefits such as allowing for party members to perform some hard-hitting tag-team attacks during a battle.
The job system from Yakuza: Like a Dragon also makes a triumphant return, with more roles unlocked through the Alo-Happy Tours Agency’s program listings. Some jobs have certain criteria that need to be met before purchasing the appropriate tour package, however, taking into account Ichiban’s current personality levels and partner bonds.
Hawaii is incredibly gorgeous, by the way. Faithfully realised and crawling with sights to behold, the map is easily one of the largest in the entire series to date, and an early substory thankfully unlocks the usage of a customisable Segway for faster mobility around the area.
If you’ve placed a marker near your destination, you can even let the machine do all the work and automatically drive you there. You’ll have to keep its battery full and healthy, however, which can be done at one of the various charging stations found around the map for a fee. Alternatively, fast travelling by taxi is another option to consider, especially if you’re looking for a more affordable source of transport.
When you’re not making story progress, a colossal amount of side content awaits you. The substory variety on display here is truly impressive, featuring both hilarious encounters and some of the most heart-wrenching side scenarios Ichiban has ever had to face. From helping a man fulfil his wife’s dying wish to assisting our protagonist’s pet crayfish, Nancy, with romancing a hermit crab, or even becoming an impromptu stuntman and sprinting directly into oncoming traffic for a film director – you never know what manner of drama and insanity the next adventure will drop you headfirst into or have you engaging with. Many substories will additionally unlock extra Poundmates – powerful allies that can be called in to assist your party mid-fight for a substantial fee.
The sheer amount of side activities and minigames in Infinite Wealth outside of the substory department is kind of ridiculous. You’ll find the usual series staples like the dreaded mahjong (which I still have no clue how to play), karaoke, batting cages, darts, arcades (featuring titles like Virtua Fighter 3 and SpikeOut: Final Edition) and gambling. The newcomers to the ever-growing list of distractions are in a league of their own when it comes to pure madness, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hop on the Miss Match mobile dating app and witness the trauma of catfishing and subsequent self-loathing firsthand or photograph local scantily clad degenerates running amok for the police in Sicko Snap. Greet total strangers on the street and add them as buddies to your Aloha Links social media account, similarly to the selfie mechanic from the recent South Park games.
And if you’re looking for something a little more high-octane, do a couple of delivery runs for the Crazy Delivery food service. Inspired by the classic Crazy Taxi series of games, the more stunts you pull off before safely handing over that hamburger, the higher your rank rises.
There are two noticeably more time-intensive side activities on offer. The first involves collecting the aforementioned Sujimon through a post-battle gifting and pleading system, and “raising” them through fights and enhancement items. Your ultimate goal as a Sujimon trainer is nothing less than ascending the ranks of the underground Sujimon fighting arena and becoming the best trainer out there – like no one ever was.
The second time-sink is known as Dondoko Island, which sees you restore a once-great island resort to its former glory through crafting, gathering, destroying trash and dealing with the local gang of illegal garbage dumpers. To echo every other reviewer and YouTube video out there, it’s basically Animal Crossing in Like a Dragon.
Kiryu has his own set of optional tasks to accomplish, namely visiting locations of note from his past while reminiscing about times long gone and crossing off items from his recently drafted bucket list. Both of these sets of tasks increase the potency and strength of all three of his fighting stances, so if the bittersweet trip down memory lane wasn’t enough of an incentive, the gameplay benefits surely will be. If this is your first Like a Dragon rodeo, the blast of nostalgia won’t be nearly as impactful for you as it would be for the hardcore crowd, unfortunately.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an incredibly important entry in the overarching storyline of both Kazuma Kiryu and Ichiban Kasuga. The title is positively overflowing with charm and things to do – serving as a powerfully worded love letter for long-time fans of the franchise that have stuck it out alongside Kiryu for all these years. Aside from a few framerate dips in crowded areas, shadow pop-ins, subtitle errors, and rare pacing issues related to how some side content is initially presented, I never ran into any serious problems throughout my playthrough.
Bafflingly, though, New Game+ and difficulty options have been locked behind the Master Vacation Bundle DLC (currently R379 on the South African PlayStation Store), which has rightfully upset many people out there. Questionable business practices notwithstanding, whether you’re an RPG enthusiast, a die-hard fan, or have ever held any interest at all towards the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series, this is an absolutely essential experience. And there’s plenty more out there to discover in Hawaii (and beyond) that I couldn’t cram into this review, trust me.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is available to purchase for R1,299 on PS4, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Reviewed by Ryan Pretorius
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is overflowing with great content, well-written characters and an epic storyline that hits big emotional notes. It’s a must-play for Yakuza fans and one of the best games in the series.