‘Yakuza: Like a Dragon’ Evaluate: A improbable story-driven RPG that welcomes followers outdated and new alike
If you’ve never played one before Yakuza Play ahead, oh baby, are you ready for a ride on the newest track. Coming from SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (RGGStudio), Yakuza: Like a dragon arrives on all major systems on November 10th. It’s the latest in a long line of titles that explore the Japanese criminal underworld with style, humor, and more mini-games than a legendary bat can shake off. But it’s also a pretty big departure from the franchise itself. And while that might make long-time fans a little nervous (it might not be), it means a whole new generation of gamers can step in to experience all of the madness that the yakuza is is.
So what has changed? Well, the biggest change is also the most obvious. The long-time franchise protagonist and player character Kazuma Kiryu steps aside this time for the fresh-faced newcomer Ichiban Kasuga. Fans who have become accustomed to Kiryu-chan’s stoic, expressionless, and somewhat emotionless performance during the Games will be surprised with Kasuga, whose passion is sometimes expressed to his own detriment in everything he does. Yakuza: Like a dragon, Kasuga’s story is through and through, and you will follow him when he gets up, falls, and works hard to get up again. But it’s also a story-driven RPG that puts Kasuga’s friends and party members at the center … and boy, there are lots of crazy characters to be found there.
Need an introduction to what to expect with Yakuza: Like a Dragon? Try this trailer for size:
Ichiban’s search begins on November 10th.
What’s a quest without a party? Have a look around the wild city of Yokohama before making your way up.
Oh and … you’ll want to watch until the end. Don’t be a fool. pic.twitter.com/jKgsVFHrI4
– RGG Studio (@RGGStudio) October 6, 2020
The other major change concerns the combat system. Granted, the new turn-based mechanics take some getting used to, especially for those of you who are used to moving around a bit more freely and timing your attacks, defenses, and item use as needed. Personally, I like a good turn-based rollback RPG and I missed the option to have that experience in modern games like Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Yakuza: Like a dragon it gives me this style of play, just with a little more dynamic action so your characters don’t just stand around waiting to be hit. I love it. RGGStudio has thrown it out of the park again when it comes to special attacks, team attacks and downright funny character animations. The battles are so fun watching that you might find yourself running down alleys trying to take down more street punks and menacing men. But the fight is only half the battle here.
Like a quarter of the battle, actually. Much of this game is spent on expositional cut scenes, especially early on. This sounds right if you’ve played a yakuza game before, but it slows things down quite a bit, especially for newbies. Wait a moment, enjoy the story as it unfolds, and in a few hours you’ll be more or less able to jump into the actual game. (It took me a good 7 hours to get to the core of the story where it felt like I was exploring a bit more and enjoying the full yakuza experience. Rely on about 30 hours to finish the main story if Hurry up. 100 hours are expected for the entire range of games.)
And this story may be about the darker and sometimes dense but definitely lovable outsider Kasuga, but it’s also about his friends he meets along the way. As in a classic role-playing game, Kasuga’s new allies can be added to his group relatively easily and fluently throughout the game. It will only take you a while to get to know them all. What RGGStudio has done with this modern, contemporary RPG system, however, is downright ingenious. Kasuga’s allies are based on traditional tropes like mages and warriors, but they have adorable twists that are fun to laugh out loud. (I’ve never seen a homeless nurse on the run from his criminal past burp a rancid fireball in a street punk. Thanks to RGGStudio for giving me the opportunity.) And as funny as Yakuza: Like a dragon is Again, there is a surprising amount of heart and an exploration of the city’s underworld that you might not expect. I certainly didn’t, but it was an eye-opening experience and a new point of view that few, if any, other great games have tried before.
Most of your team’s adventures will take place in a new franchise location: Yokohama. This modern, lifelike city opens up to exploration, and allows your group to stumble upon (often very funny) sub-stories, discover hidden loot, and meet the many and diverse citizens who live there. This is where Yakuza shines as a franchise and Yakuza: Like a dragon in particular, really. You never know what’s around the next corner. It could be a trio of rival gang members waiting to ambush you, or it could be a mad man hoarding trash despite protests from angry neighbors and dog-tired social workers. There is just so much to discover and see and do that you could forget your main task for a while lost in the sights, sounds, and smells of Yokohama and that is exactly what SEGA / RGGStudio wants you to experience.
The only downside is that there is so much to do and see and it takes so long to get there that so far I have only scratched the surface of Yakuza: like a dragon. So, while I still don’t have a bottom line for the ambitious, accessible, and fun new title (and I won’t do it until at least I’ve finished the main game … if I’m not distracted by crawfish I can’t wait to dive back in.) .
I highly recommend Yakuza: Like a Dragon to both returning franchise fans and the new curious gamers. And after you’ve done it, we can all have a Peking duck together.
Here is the official round-up:
Yakuza: Like a Dragon, SEGA / Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios is a breakout RPG that you never saw coming. Whether you’re already a die-hard yakuza fan or a complete newbie, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a brand new entry point to the acclaimed series.
In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, You Become Ichiban Kasuga, a low-ranking yakuza grunt that the man he trusted most left on the verge of death. Pick up your legendary bat, recruit a group of outcasts and get ready to crack some underworld skulls in dynamic RPG combat against the backdrop of modern Japan.
Yakuza isn’t all about fighting, however. Soak in the sights and sounds of the beautifully realized city of Yokohama, head to the karaoke parlor to listen to a few songs, make friends with a local lobster, or just call in a bunch of pigeons to beat a racket in a trash bag . Ichiban has nothing left to lose so just let it go, have a good time and start your climb to the top!
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is coming to Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One (with Smart Delivery for potential owners of the Xbox Series X | S), Windows 10, PlayStation 4 (with a free upgrade to the PlayStation 5 version, if available) and Steam on November 10, 2020. That Game will be available on PlayStation 5 on March 2nd, 2021.