Over the years Yakuza has remained one of Sega’s most successful series, resulting in seven mainline games and a couple of spin-offs. With Kazuma Kiryu’s adventure finally reaching its conclusion in the last adventure, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio hopes to find success with another outing. This time we have a new protagonist and with him another location to explore, style of gameplay to enjoy, and plenty that returning fans will enjoy, but is it enough to keep the series going? Here’s our Yakuza: Like a Dragon review.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduces a new protagonist named Ichiban Kasuga. Just like Kazuma Kiryu, Ichiban Kasuga is a newbie when it comes to being a Yakuza. With Ichiban having no family of his own, the patriarch of the Arakawa family takes him and shows him how to become a Yakuza where his life focuses on missions like collecting money from various people to taking care of the patriarch’s disabled son.
The turn of events of Ichiban’s life changes when the patriarch of the Arakawa family asks Ichiban to take the fall of the murder of their one high ranking member against a rival gang member. To show the patriarch of the Arakawa family his full loyalty, Ichiban agrees to take the fall and is sent to prison for eighteen years. After being in prison for almost two decades, things have changed for Ichiban and the patriarch he treated like his father has changed. It is up to Ichiban to see what has changed and the reason behind it.
In Ichiban’s quest to find answers, he will meet several people that will join his party. Unlike in other RPGs where characters will just join your party without a cause, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is quite different. Each of the characters that join Ichiban has a back story and a mission that they will need to tackle with Ichiban’s help. The writing and the story behind these other characters is well written and certainly something to look forward to for fans of RPG and great writing. Not to mention the main plot is well written as well that tackles a father-son relationship.
With Ichiban’s passion for playing JRPGs like Dragon Quest games, you will see several times where he will make references to it. Unlike Kazuma’s seriousness in his mission, Ichiban thinks of himself as a hero who will save the world from evil. From the beginning of his adventure to the end, you will see some aspects of the game being overly similar to it, hence why Sega probably made this entry a JRPG.
One of the notable changes in Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the combat system. Unlike in previous Yakuza games where it’s purely beat-em-up in real-time, it has now changed to a turn-based system. For the first few hours, the new take of its combat system is fun but it can be tiresome later down the road. To add flair to its turn-based battle system, Ichiban and other characters in your party can dodge an attack by pressing a button at a right time. Sometimes, when doing special attacks, it will give you a brief quick-time event but it’s not complicated at all.
Fighting through enemies will not be random like in other RPGs. They can actually be avoided at times. When you set on an adventure in a dungeon, you will go through various paths where fighting enemies is inevitable. Sadly, going through these dungeons in the game can be tiresome as they can have endless corridors and unskippable enemies. Mix it with its combat that can be boring at times and a dungeon that can feel overly repetitive, this may just be a let down to some.
Just like in a JRPG where each of the characters has classes, Yakuza: Like a Dragon will have something like that as well. Depending on the class you equip Ichiban and other characters in the party, their weapons of choice and skills may vary. The classes that will be available are based on real-world professions such as breakdancer, bodyguard, and idol. Of course, each of them corresponds to a class in a JRPG like a bodyguard class mirrors a warrior and an idol to a healer. With many classes that you can pick from, it certainly adds flair to the battle system.
Increasing the bond with other party members is quite important in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. For certain actions that Ichiban does to other party members like bringing them to party and win battles, to other actions like having conversations with them, players will be able to unlock more of their backstory or personality that increases the bond level. The higher level of bond that each character in the party gets, the more jobs and more likely they are to execute a follow-up team-based attack.
In addition to the main plot, there are side stories that Ichiban can tackle. There are about 52 substories that are available in the game. Some are the available substories are an introduction to other activities but others are multi-part stories. Expect the substories to be a lot better in this game compared to the previous entry – where the majority are heartwarming stories of a Yakuza being a good person. As far as mini-games, they make a return in Yakuza: Like a Dragon along with new ones like Dragon Kart. Those who want to step away from the long-winded journey of Ichiban can stop by at arcades or other places to play some of the new and iconic mini-games of Yakuza.
As far as performance goes, the Xbox version of Yakuza: Like a Dragon plays phenomenally on Xbox Series X. You will have an option to play the game on Normal Resolution which is 1440p at 60 frames per second, or the High-Resolution which targets 4K resolution at 30 frames per second. In my playthrough, I enjoyed playing the game at 4K Resolution at 30 frames per second. There were no frame rate dips and for a game like a Yakuza: Like A dragon, which is an RPG, 30 frames per second is more than enough. There were very few texture pop-ins and the load times are significantly reduced. Expect the load times to be at around two-to-three seconds at max.
For those who have a PC, the Xbox version that you purchase digitally will give you access to the Windows 10 version of it as well. It also has the Play Anywhere feature meaning you can continue your progress whether you are playing on an Xbox console or PC. Sadly, I’ve experienced several crashes when playing on PC but it certainly looks the best on PC running at max settings on an RTX 3080.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon Review – Verdict
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is certainly a phenomenal game that does not disappoint. When a new game in the series gets introduced like this one, many are hesitant as to what direction the game will go. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon, it’s a step towards the right direction that offers an enticing plot, a great cast of new characters, and a new combat system that may be monotonous at times but can be fun.
[Editor’s Note: Yakuza: Like a Dargon was reviewed on Xbox Series X and a review copy was provided to us by the publisher.]