Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the series at its very best

It’s easy to get breathless talking about Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.

There’s so much going on in the eighth mainline entry in the series formerly known as Yakuza. Infinite Wealth would be a generation-best RPG if we were here to discuss the excellent turn-based gameplay, the huge array of different jobs and skills that characters can take on, and the compelling sun-soaked adventure.

But it’s so much more than that. Sega‘s RPG is incredibly mechanically rich, has so much side content that you could literally spend 100+ hours strolling around Hawaii and not see everything, and it’s also simply one of the weirdest games we’ve ever played.  And even after all of that, it’s the way it pays tribute to the Like a Dragon/Yakuza series as a whole that makes Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth such a victory lap, and a can’t-miss RPG.

Infinite Wealth is a turn-based RPG. Following the genre change with Yakuza: Like a Dragon and now a total series title change into Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, we’re firmly in a new era for Kamurocho’s finest. Speaking of, our hero is still Ichiban Kasuga, a happy-go-lucky former Yakuza who turned his back on the world of organized crime, no matter how often it threatens to draw him back in.

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Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (Xbox)
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (PS5)

We meet back up with Kasuga following the events of the previous game, now attempting to put his life and the lives of former Yakuza members back together. After a short spell in Japan, the plot sends Kasuga to Hawaii, a brand new destination for the series, which serves as the game’s main hub world.  However, when Kasuga arrives, he realizes that the tendrils of the Yakuza can stretch across the Pacific, and he’s soon back to throwing people through tables and smashing them over the head with a barbed-wire bat.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth’s turned-based combat allows players to move their character around set areas to gain advantages in battle. For example, if you attack an enemy from the back, they’ll take more damage. Similarly, you can attack an enemy, throwing them towards another enemy, which will knock that second enemy down. This becomes essential in crowded fights, as a well-placed kick can send a group flying. Similarly, when an enemy goes to attack you, you can press a button to guard yourself.

Do this with the right timing and you’ll significantly dull the impact of the attack.  While the combat starts off simple, the game later introduces elemental attacks, such has one taxi driver character who can electrocute enemies with car batteries, or a character who can lower enemy attack stats with a novelty bottle of perfume. The animations are all extremely inventive, and keep the battles feeling fresh.

The game is consistently difficult but never overbearingly so. It strikes a great balance between having to pay attention, and not having to heal every character after every fight. Boss fights are very tough, with some of them taking us several hours, but if you take the time to explore your party, you’ll find that the game has often just provided you with the exact party member that can solve that particular problem.

Speaking of the party, Infinite Wealth features a stellar cast. Returning friends from the last game meet new faces in Hawaii, but the star of the show is the ever-present Kazuma Kiryu. The face of Yakuza, Kiryu handed the mantle to Kasuga in the previous game. However, his role in Infinite Wealth is significant. As revealed in pre-release material, Kiryu informs the gang that he’s battling cancer. The once jet-black slick-backed hair has fallen across his face, grey and dying, and his impeccable physique now cuts a hollow figure.

“The game later introduces elemental attacks, such has one taxi driver character who can electrocute enemies with car batteries, or a character who can lower enemy attack stats with a novelty bottle of perfume.”

He’ll still smash your jaw against a bar and then sing some karaoke, but Kiryu knows his days are numbered. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio takes Kiryu facing his mortality as the perfect opportunity to reflect on the series as a whole. While Yakuza has always been a fan of having an abundance of easter eggs for older fans, LAD takes it one step further.

This almost feels like an acknowledgement of just how far the series has grown in recent years. A moment to stop and thank Kiryu for carrying the torch when the series was an oft-talked-about but little-played PS2 import title. RGG handles this chapter of Kiryu’s life impeccably in a way that doesn’t drop focus from Kasuga, or take up too much room for new characters to shine.

That said, it’s not like it doesn’t have much room to play with. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an extremely long game and as chock-full of dialogue and extra optional conversations as any Persona. However, where Persona excels in style, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth trades in absurdity.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the series at its very best

The moment we truly fell in love with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was one day between missions we were walking on the beachfront, and we were stopped by someone with green hair and a yellow and red shirt. He told us that he wanted us to race around the island, delivering food as fast as we could. Picking up orders and then racing to large glowing green circles. It was called Crazy Delivery. Later, once we’d completed our task, we were then able to summon the guy from Crazy Delivery into battles as a supporting fighter.

There are hundreds of moments like at the Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Stuff that would be fun fan service or a throwaway cameo becomes extremely rewarding by feeding into the main gameplay loop and making your team stronger. It’s genuinely incredible how well everything is interlinked, and how it manages to do it while staying outrageously funny throughout.

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Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (Xbox)
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (PS5)

And if all of that weren’t enough, RGG also included a shockingly deep Animal Crossing homage, that doesn’t even open up until you’ve played nearly 20 hours. Not satisfied with the Pokemon homage from the first game where you’d document and battle with the oddities of Japan, Dondoko Island is exactly what you think it would be.

Kasuga has to clear the island, collect materials, and build houses and other objects to improve the island’s rating. You can invite characters from the main game to come to stay, you can catch bugs, you can fish, or, you can ignore absolutely all of it beyond 30 minutes of the main campaign. You shouldn’t, because like everything in LAD, it feeds back into the main game and makes it a better experience, but if you don’t fancy it, you absolutely can.

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