It is time to step back into the world of Yakuza. Meet Ichiban Kasuga, our new protagonist. Ichiban is loyal to a fault and it is his loyality that takes him on an adventure that is a stand alone new entry to the Yakuza Franchise. Will he become like a dragon similar to Kiyru or will he stay the dragonfish that he currently is? Let’s take a look in our review for Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Xbox Series X
Xbox One X
Windows 10 PC
PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Xbox Series X, Xbox One X, Xbox One, Windows 10, PlayStation 4, Steam: November 10, 2020
PlayStation 5: March 2, 2021 (free upgrade from PS4 to PS5 once released)
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
*Special Thanks to Sega PR for providing a Playstation 4 review key*
From the Press release:
In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, players take on the role of Ichiban Kasuga (played by Kaiji Tang), a rough around the edges member of the yakuza who is on the hunt for the truth after being mysteriously betrayed by his clan after voluntarily serving an 18-year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit in order to protect his patriarch and father-figure, Masumi Arakawa (played by George Takei).
Along the way, Ichiban meets a rag-tag cast of characters including rogue cop Adachi (played by Andrew Morgado), ex-nurse Nanba (played by Greg Chun) and Saeko (played by Elizabeth Maxwell), a hostess on a mission. Together, Ichiban and his crew must rise together to become the heroes they never anticipated becoming.
While there is some references to the previous Yakuza titles, this game is very stand alone. The game is all about Ichiban and his gang seeking the truth. In order to discover the truth, Ichiban and the gang take a journey that none of them ever expected.
The game takes a turn compared to previous Yakuza titles. I will write about the gameplay changes in that section. What is different this time around is the world-building, character-building, and team-building elements. It is all very Persona 5 like. The team takes the focus from one character and focuses it on a whole team. From there, it becomes their story and the player sees those characters develop.
In short, it is Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes what we loved about previous titles, adds it here, and then refreshes it with new components. It breathes new life into a Franchise with a new entry, and a very lovable cast. This game is so far my Game of the Year and with one month to go, I highly doubt a game will come out that will change my mind.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon changes up the traditional action beat them up combat to a turn-based combat system. The transition did receive a number of different feedback from fans. However, the development team did well with this transition. The turn-based combat is very smooth, and how the game explains it is very Yakuza.
The protagonist, Ichiban is a huge fan of Dragon Quest. So when the player encounters a battle, the enemy “transforms” and everything goes turned based. This is because this battle format is a byproduct of Ichiban’s mind. He visualizes the battle as a turn-based battle (similar to Dragon Quest). Therefore the battle takes place turned based. It is hilarious in the game’s explanation but it works really well. This also explains the “job class system”
The Job class system is like other RPGs that have this component. You choose the job you want, which is really what type of fighter you want in combat (hence Job class). Each class has different fighting styles and combat abilities. It is up to the player to optimize what classes they want their party to be in combat.
This also explains some of the other elements in Yakuza that seem very “video gamey”. It is because we are playing from Ichiban’s perspective. He sees things as a video game and speaks several times as if life is similar to Dragon Quest. It is very refreshing compared to Kiryu. No disrespect to Kiryu because he was a wonderfully written character, but the change-up in a protagonist makes a complete difference.
Outside of this, the game is very Yakuza. That means it is very serious and very silly all the time. The Ichiban POV of everything is similar to a video game just intensifies it.
Other elements players will notice that are similar is that the social stat system from Persona 5 returns in this game. Ichiban can raise his base social stats (confidence, kindness, style, etc) which opens up different things in the game that could be found.
Speaking of social stats, team-building is done as well to level their bond level up. Players can eat out with their party and drink at the survive bar to unlock the party’s backstories while leveling them up. It is very well done even compared to Persona.
Visual and Audio:
Visually, the game looks fantastic. It looks like a Yakuza game on the dragon engine, and it has no issues. The character models, the random NPCs, the environments the player visits are all well done. From roaming the streets to exploring an underground dungeon, Yakuza’s visuals works no matter the location. It is gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing.
Audio-wise, I am not sure what to say. This is easily the best audio experience I had in a video game this entire year. From the atmospheric sounds, the soundtrack, the voice work, the “video-game” chip tunes, and much more, Yakuza: Like a Dragon does everything well. The voice work can be in Japanese Dub or English Dub with multiple subtitle options. The last time this franchise had English Dub was for the very first yakuza game back on the Playstation 2. The English voice work is done by an all-star cast, which works to bring these characters even more further to life. Hats off to both Japanese and English dubs as they are fantastic!
Yes, Yakuza is fun. Every aspect within Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a fun game. There is so much the game offers in such a small package.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has a great deal to do and for players to come back to. There is NG+ options as well so it is worth at least two playthroughs.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a video game, that knows it’s a videogame and has zero hesitation throwing that in the player’s face. This is a change-up from previous Yakuza titles. It is silly, serious, and wonderful all at the same time. Veteran fans of the franchise will love this new entry. Newcomers to Yakuza will be finally introduced to what Yakuza is all about.
Yakuza itself is it’s own Genre. While writing this review, I spoke to several colleagues and newcomers to the franchise. I also watched a few livestreams on Twitch for the game. Seeing genuinely new individuals introduced to Yakuza is a wonderful thing. It starts with something along the lines of “What the hell is this? It went from this huge story moment to picking up cans on the street.” Basically it went from serious to confusion, to entertained. No other game I have seen does this formula so well.
Just from my own experiences, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is easily my Game of The Year. This year had some amazing games, but Yakuza has easily been the best gaming experience I had this year. I highly doubt anything will top it. Yakuza itself is one of a kind, and I consider Yakuza it’s own genre. I had way too much fun with it. It has a well written story, easy to play, and amazingly fun to play as well. No words can describe how much I adore this game. I recommend veterans and newcomers to play Yakuza: Like a Dragon. You will not be disappointed.
Until next time, Mgs2master2 out!
*Special thanks to Sega PR once again for the Playstation 4 review key*