Yakuza: Like a Dragon Review
Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes the tried-and-true formula of the Yakuza series and flips the script. Does this turn-based RPG have the same heat as previous Yakuza games, or should you stick with the older titles? Check out our review and find out.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon Review
Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduces us to a new main character named Ichiban Kasuga. Similar to Kazuma Kiryu in the former Yakuza games, Ichiban is a low-ranking member of the Yakuza. Having no family of his own, the head of the Arakawa family takes Ichiban in and shows him the ropes of being a Yakuza. Still, being only a grunt, Ichiban has to make collections on New Year’s Eve. You make your collections, then return for dinner with the boss.
The next day you get a call from your boss asking you to come to the office right away. You are told one of the high ranking Arakawa members has killed a rival gang member when you arrive. Someone has to take the fall, and Ichiban fits the bill perfectly. Instead of fighting this fate, Ichiban happily accepts, seeing that this is the best way to repay his boss. He goes to prison for 18 years and returns to a completely different world. You might feel a bit of déjà vu if you’ve played Yakuza Kiwami.
Both Ichiban and Yakuza: Like a Dragon wear their new inspiration on their sleeves. Dragon Quest is often referenced, and Ichiban wants nothing more than to be a true hero. You have a new combat system, a new class system, a new party system, and a story about a hero triumphing over “evil.” As a fan of the previous Yakuza games, some of these changes are welcome, and others begin to wear on toward the end of the game.
Let’s start with the most significant difference: The combat. Previous Yakuza entries have previously been very similar to a beat-em-up, but the action in Yakuza: Like a Dragon is turn-based. I enjoyed this change at first, but it begins to grow tiresome as the game goes on. Something I could previously do in roughly 15 seconds now often exceeds a minute or more. There are still some active parts of the combat, such as dodging and special attack button prompts, but even that feels dull near the end. It also felt like avoiding combat was much more difficult than in previous games. For the record, I don’t hate it; I just think they could lower the encounter rate a bit.
Yakuza has had a sort of class system in previous games, but nothing quite like this. Here you select a class, and that decides your weapons and a lot of your skills. Each character has their own unique classes they have and a pool everyone can select from. The classes take from real-world professions like Bodyguard (warrior), Idol (buff/healer), or Breakdancer (damage and debuffs). There are plenty of classes to pick from, and finding the right combo can make things much easier for you down the line. One downside is that you can only change classes at a specific spot, meaning you can’t change on the fly.
As for your party members, most of them play a major role. The characters are directly involved with the story and often have their own motivations for helping out. As you fight and spend time with allies, they become more friendly towards you and will give you side quests. Doing these will let you learn more about your friends’ backgrounds and how they got to be where they are now. The Yakuza series has always had strong characters, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon does not disappoint.
Another thing the Yakuza series has been excellent at is side content, another area where Like a Dragon excels. Side missions will get you new allies, new equipment, and some cash, but the stories that go into them are why you are really there. Helping a screaming baby in a building only to find a 6’2″ guy in a diaper? It must be Yakuza. Assisting a crawfish in getting back to its owner so the owner can eat it? Yup, why not? The mixture of endearment and ridiculousness shines through brilliantly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You also have go-karting, which is like a budget Mario Kart. It is fun, but I didn’t spend a ton of time with it. The big one in my eyes was the business management mini-game. You become the CEO of a company and help it work its way up to become the most famous corporation in Japan. You recruit new people, attend shareholder meetings, and manage who works where. It is one of those things you start and can accidentally slip a few hours into without realizing it. It’s not as good as the Cabaret Club in Yakuza 0, but to be honest, I doubt they’ll ever hit that high again.
The lockers have been replaced by safes that are scattered around the area. You have Silver and Gold ones to find, and they help you gear out your party without needing to spend money. An in-depth crafting system is also present, allowing you to create some extremely fantastic weapons. Baseball bat not cool enough? How about a 2×4 with a purple flame on it. Regular champagne not cutting it? Try the bottle that shoots out lightning. Be warned that you can get lost in all of this and quickly lose track of time. My best guess if you can get through the story in roughly 40 hours, but side content will add another 25-30 hours to that total.
I mentioned how I thought the battles were too frequent, which is never more apparent than in the “dungeons.” I put that in quotations because they are often just long corridors with unskippable enemies and treasures. The most egregious part is how long they take. Picture this: You are already burning out on combat, and now you have a whole hour of it back to back. Quite frankly, it ends up not being fun after the first one. All I am saying is if Final Fantasy XIII gets crap for being one big corridor, Yakuza: Like a Dragon will take some heat for doing it in their dungeons.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has a couple of weak spots, but it overall proves to be a fantastic reinvention of the series. Yakuza fans and RPG fans alike shouldn’t hesitate to check this one out.