The Yakuza series has captivated gamers for years with its intense crime melodrama and signature beat ’em-up action. However, in 2020, the release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduced a major shift in gameplay, adopting a turn-based JRPG combat system. While the change was initially jarring for longtime fans, the follow-up game, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, takes the combat system to new heights by enhancing tactical decision-making and introducing more flexible movement. Coupled with its stunning Hawaiian setting, Infinite Wealth delivers a unique blend of the series’ signature street fights and the strategic depth of a JRPG.
Infinite Wealth continues the story of Ichiban Kasuga, the lovable protagonist from Yakuza: Like a Dragon, who now finds himself paired up with series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu. The pair find themselves in Hawaii in search of Kasuga’s long-lost mother. However, their quest quickly becomes entangled in a huge mystery with both crime syndicates and local religious groups. Unlike some of the convoluted plots of the series’ past, Infinite Wealth manages to strike a balance between drama and comic relief, exploring contemporary issues such as environmental mismanagement and online misinformation. Infinite Wealth tackles a range of real-world issues through its narrative, offering thought-provoking commentary on society. The game explores themes of corruption, redemption, and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. It delves into the challenges of reintegrating former criminals into society, questioning whether rehabilitation is truly effective and if society is willing to offer forgiveness. The narrative also shines a spotlight on the abuses of power within the police force, highlighting how they exploit their positions and mistreat both citizens and foreigners.
One of the standout features of Infinite Wealth is its setting: the beautiful Hawaiian island of Honolulu. Departing from the series’ usual Japanese locales, this new setting breathes fresh air into the game. The attention to detail in recreating Honolulu is evident, from the sandy shorelines to the shiny shopping malls. Exploring the island on foot or using a zippy motorized Segway allows players to immerse themselves in this fictionalized slice of paradise. The vibrant and diverse environment serves as the perfect playground to unleash the game’s superior style of smackdown.
While Infinite Wealth retains the turn-based combat system introduced in Like a Dragon, it introduces several improvements that enhance the overall experience. The addition of flexible movement and proximity-based attacks adds a new feat of strategy to battles to traditional Yakuza street fights. Players can now reposition each team member within a set movement arc at the start of each turn, allowing for bonus damage by attacking enemies from advantageous angles. The ability to grab objects like bicycles and explosive barrels adds an extra element of chaos, making battles more dynamic and satisfying.
The bonds between each party member also play a crucial role in combat. As these bonds strengthen, additional supporting moves are unlocked, creating powerful chain reactions. Players can intentionally knock an enemy towards another team member for devastating combo attacks, reminiscent of XCOM-inspired team moves. Each character has their unique fighting style, and controlling Kiryu, with his ability to switch between different stances, provides a nostalgic throwback to the series’ beat ’em up roots.
Infinite Wealth delves deep into the character development of Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu. Ichiban, known for his unwavering optimism and kindness, undergoes significant growth as he confronts personal challenges and finds his way forward in a post-yakuza world. His journey is marked by emotional maturity, grief, and a sense of earnest conviction. The game expertly weaves these elements into the narrative, showcasing exceptional character writing and thematic development. Kiryu, on the other hand, grapples with his mortality as he faces the reality of his cancer diagnosis. The game explores the concept of aging and the acknowledgment that there are no more new beginnings. Kiryu’s story is a poignant exploration of grief, illness, and loss, offering an uncommon level of depth and nuance rarely seen in video games. The portrayal of these complex emotions is a testament to the exceptional writing and performances in Infinite Wealth.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has a lot to offer for those who explore and seek new adventures with a ton of extra side content. The Sujimon system, introduced in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, returns in Infinite Wealth, allowing players to catch and catalog peculiar characters. The game also features an addictive arcade time attack minigame called Super Crazy Delivery, reminiscent of Crazy Taxi. Additionally, there are numerous subplots, mini-games, and optional activities to engage with, such as the Dondoko Island life-sim experience, where players can gather resources and craft furniture. While the side content offers a vast amount of gameplay, some elements may not appeal to everyone. The dating mini-game, for example, feels out of place and lacks the depth and sensitivity of the main narrative. However, the overall range of side activities provides ample opportunities for players to immerse themselves in the game world and discover new adventures.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an impressive achievement in storytelling, showcasing RGG Studio’s growth and commitment to delivering exceptional narratives. The game’s exceptional character writing, thematic development, and thought-provoking exploration of real-world issues elevate it to new heights. While some experimental ideas may not land perfectly, the overall experience is a superb RPG that captivates players from start to finish. The game’s Hawaiian setting adds a fresh perspective to the series, even if it lacks the strong cultural connection found in previous games. The combat mechanics, with their enhanced flexibility and proximity-based attacks, offer a dynamic and satisfying gameplay experience. The character development of Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu is a standout feature, showcasing the depth and emotional maturity of the narrative. Overall, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a must-play for fans of the series and a compelling entry point for newcomers. Its engaging storytelling, vibrant setting, and exhilarating gameplay make it a game that truly stands out in the JRPG genre.