Review | Yakuza: Like A Dragon
"Enters Ichi! So, what can I say about the game where main guy is one of the best written character in Yakuza history? I can only say damn you Ryu Ga Gotoku for making this wonderful piece of art and blessed us to play it!"
I haven't tattooed my back yet. After each Yakuza I feel like doing it right away. I fell in love with this little world of absurdity, drama and fist kicking so much that even after 6 sequels and Judgment I simply look forward to every new work of Ryu Ga Gotku Studio.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the seventh sequel to the main series (there are more, but I'm based on the "main"), the first to turn the action brawler into… JRPG! Also, we are no longer Kiryu - the most tenacious dragon among the yakuza, animals and supernatural forces - we are now Ichiban Kasuga!
This direction stirred a sea of fans and skeptics, and I was also one of them. Not only is there no game like the Yakuza, but the blend of testosterone, drama and absurdity has never been better with a dose of ass kicking, while grabbing for justice and purpose. What did they do?
Ichi is a really big Dragon Quest fan; Itwould be a role model for me to do RPG Yakuza as well.
They did something I hadn’t hoped for. They combined all that crazy world, humor and transferred absolutely every little detail into a new genre of already known clothes. Not only is this a phenomenal blend of JRPG and Yakuza, this is also one of the best and most elaborate Yakuza I’ve played. Again, I don’t want to take the game to the skies because there are some pitfalls as well. It's best to go in order.
There was once a villain...
I find it very, very difficult to fall in love with a new hero of an already well-established franchise. Kiryu is my heritage; he is honest, strong, just, sensitive; he is everything. We seldom find such an elaborate character, and now a new one has come, and he is the center of this world. I would just like to mention that the game is connected to the previous ones from the series, but more by in-game references and the appearance of known faces, so the effect will surely be stronger if you have experienced it yourself so far. If not, you can view an overview of previous events through the menu.
Ichi, a young man who has no home or parents, of course solved his problems with his fists. He thus became entangled in a nasty situation from which he was rescued by Masumi Arakawa; patriarch of the eponymous family serving the Tojo clan. I would not go into details, I will just state how Kiryu was (and is) part of the Tojo clan. Masumi cut off his finger to save Ichi from a hopeless situation. Ichi, having no home or any life worth mentioning followed Masumi like a faithful dog until one day Masumi finally accepted him into his family.
Ichi then takes upon himself the murder committed by someone from the Arakawa family. The prison lasted for 18 long years. Not only did his hair grow back, but our Ichi also grew old. He is in his prime now. Every detail of the story is told with a lot of emotion, with impressive voice acting (English and Japanese voices are available) and no scene gives the impression of vagueness. Add to that masterful "light" notes and a great soudtrack.
The level of detail in some scenes looks impressive; Ichiban is definitely the brightest spot of the whole game. And he has the best hairstyle ever.
I enjoyed the story from start to finish. This was an emotional adventure, a reunion of the Japanese yakuza drama, a path of redemption and the mastery of its presentation. After so many sequels and "similar" games, I just don't believe that they managed to tell a new old story again and nail me to a chair so much. Each scene puts the focus on the essentials, gives depth to the characters and thus makes you just grab and not stop. Some of you may not like the fact that the scenes can last a really long time, but those who want a Yakuza game - know what awaits them. Along with the mastery of the presentation, there is also great humor through all the spores of the game that will hardly leave anyone indifferent.
What I liked the most is Ichi. I adore him. I didn’t expect him to make a worthy replacement for Kiryu (if we can call it that). Ichi is an emotive guy foremost, but he acts with his head through the wall. It is his perseverance that will take him far and respond to the injustice he finds himself in and enlighten every darkness in the current version of the world after imprisonment. Everything has turned upside down and it is not easy when nothing is as before.
I would just mention that the impression is a little spoiled by bad models of random passangers and NPCs; their details are sometimes at the level of the last generation which can diminish the impression a bit, especially since the essential characters are ingeniously done. And a huge plus goes for the other characters who are worked out very well and you will definitely connect with them.
They shot me, I'm surrounded by garbage, I don't have a shirt… Typical Monday.
Yokohama, city of mine...
One of my main concerns was the location of the game itself. Every sequel goes through the same cities and I wasn’t ready to play Kamarucho one more time. That's how it all goes, I thought, "This is going to kill me, it's all the same again!" Rough, I know, each sequel actually perfectly balances activities across the same locations.
But, as ignorant as I can be when I play something that interests me (because I don't watch trailers or anything to spoil my experience), here greeted me - Yokohama! praised be Ryu Ga Gotoku for surprising us with a new city where 90% of the game takes place. Sotebori and Kamurucho are also choices, but to a lesser extent. It’s impressive how much there is in this game to choose from, but I have to mention that Yokohama, while a beautiful town is still a bit poorer in detail. I think it’s simply because it’s bigger so it focuses more on the variety of its parts than on the details of shop windows and cafes. But it’s not that problematic, don’t take me wrong, I love this move because this is a really great move.
Ichiu is all in video games. A homeless person attacks with a torn umbrella, and these attackers are a frequent occurrence throughout the city. Yokohama is a huge city.
You can easily get to any location by taxi, and cafes and restaurants will feed you and maybe you even start a conversation with the team. There are a lot of mini-games and everyone will find their pastime between missions. Something about that a little later though.
Groups of enemies walk through the city, and by initiating the fight they transform into - hehe - people dressed in garbage bags, naked people with air mattresses, Vikings with fairies, 100 other absurdities that will make you laugh to tears. It’s all so silly that wandering the city for any purpose didn’t bore me after 50 hours of playing this game. There are also some hidden safes, items - they all hide some nice item that can be very useful. It is absolutely up to you to what extent you will research.
The weak point of the locations in this game are definitely the dungeons. Dungeons are performed linearly and resemble RPG games of this type. By that I mean hallways, some boxes and of course the enemy. Quite poorly executed and I wish they had invested a little more in dungeon design so that sometimes you would want to go back, maybe explore some hidden passage that unfortunately is almost non-existent. Too generic, but this part isn’t that common after all so it’s not that scary.
Plenty of hallways in the dungeons, and some safes contain enemies. Inside this you will find, I'm not kidding, Degenerate. That's the man's name.
Dragon Quest XII: Yakuza
I don’t know if there is a better description for this game. Imagine the latest Dragon Quest in the world of Yakuza games. What won me over was definitely the mention of the game itself - Ichi is a big fan of Dragon Quest and as a young man he talks about it all the time.
This game is a full-blooded RPG on the move. I had no idea how it would fit into the flow of the whole game, but now I can only say positive things. This initiative came at the right time and enriched the series with a fresh, wacky turn-based mechanic. Everything is the same as before, only this time you lead up to 4 characters into battle and give them the commands they have to execute.
An initial lineup led by a deadbeat who becomes a freelancer and then a hero. You control everything through your smartphone and this main menu.
Everything here is a metaphor of JRPG games: your friends are also comrades who you will level, unlock new skills, equip them with new weapons, armors, etc. This is a real "small" RPG that did that part better than the last couple of titles of this genre that I played.
I don’t want to reveal the humor and the variety of situations you’ll find yourself in, but I’ll mention the jobs. Job is the class under which your characters develop. Each class has its own special attacks and statuses. The initial class of your first comrade is "homeless", which he is (from the attacks there are attacks with pigeons and alchoholic breath). Just one great situation is when you don't have money and the goal is to change jobs. You go to the workstation, and there is nothing less than a counter, and the girl at the counter serves to change your job. I thought I’d go do something, but you’re actually just changing jobs (classes). The game is full of such little things and it was endless fun for me.
Fighting garbage bags - enemies that for attack look for an object in the bag and often find nothing thus missing the turn (DQ perk). Nanba, on the other hand, is a real Eddie.
What greatly spoiled my impression was the pace of the fight itself. In too many cases, you will be far from the target and all the characters will run towards the enemy for a few seconds, often getting stuck in a car, a wall or something else. While it all looks great and is actually quite fluid and interactive (special moves require a button mash or button press at the right moment for a stronger attack), I would still like them to work on the performance and make it even faster. Enemies holds the essence of a sponge. In the end I struggled for 30 minutes to win one boss fight. Boss fights have been more cool and epic in previous sequels.
Everything else is an absolute hit. This is a turn-based gem of the Yakuza universe where you will break sticks, vibrators, purses… There is not a thing you will not have in your hands. The RPG system is good, the only thing that turned me off a bit was the classes because they know to repeat themselves through the characters (only a few classes are unique). But with all that, you’ll have a chance to pick over 30 special attacks with each character and somehow I don’t believe you’ll get bored of the fights.
Remember the summon from the Final Fantasy games? Yes, there are some here. Here it's not Ifriti and Shiva, but dangerous cats, side heroes of side missions and some characters from previous games will be on Poundmaster's list. The first time you call them for free, and every next time you need to pay them. The animations are top notch, I rarely interrupted the animations of those most special attacks and Poundmasters.
Summon summons via your mobile phone and enjoy silly animations. I saved Nancy-chan in one side story and she helps this way. The first time for free, and later for money - some crab eh?
The brilliance lies in the side content
Who played knows. Each game carries the craziest side missions ever told. I didn't experience anything different here either, the side content is a small gem packed in a sea of humour.
Here’s an example: In one mission a woman screams over a man urinating around town. More precisely, a man urinates into a canal and a woman says that the water is already almost yellow like mayonnaise and that she has had enough of it. Of course, you’re there to save the thing, and at the end of the mission you have to choose which of the 4 people pretending to pee is really peeing. I can’t explain to you how much I laughed at those stories. Some are less interesting, but some are pure hilarity.
If you are not tired of having 53 side missions, you can drown your grief in a bar. As you develop characters, you develop bond with them. When you raise the level, you open the scene with a good whiskey and thus learn more about the character. This is all quality content and top production, it's not just meant to be, you'll really learn their life stories and get the bigger picture of the global game story.
There are mini-games on every corner. Mahjong is back. Of those slightly "bigger" games, you have the opportunity to run real estate through employee management and running a company (something similar to previous games, but not as hard).
If this is not for you, there is Dragon Kart. They stole Mario Kart! Defeat your opponents on the karting track and upgrade the little beast of your karting car. There is also an arena where you will surely spend a lot of time due to great weapons as a reward, as well as advancement. Lastly, there’s Part-time Hero which is actually what all the previous Yakuza had for completion - defeat 10 of these opponents, find this, that, etc. All of this carries prizes and money, so choose for yourself what you want. You can live without everything almost, so there is no pressure.
"Why not" - they said! Mario Kart Dragon Kart.
Until next time
I barely pushed the essentials into the review, and I overdid it with length. If you want a turn-based RPG blended into a story intertwined with various twists, good humor… In fact, if you’ve always wanted Yakuza to be a turn-based RPG, here’s your chance to play exactly that. This is a Yakuza game that has directed all its little things to fit this style and to me this works on all levels.
However, not everyone is for RPGs and this segment of the game can turn many down. For anyone ready for something new and fresh in this universe, Like a Dragon is a real little gem, perhaps the most complete Yakuza I’ve ever played. Be sure to add another rating to the genre fan.
The game is full of awesome scenes that made me tingle and inspired me to beat everything so that my Ichi gets what he deserves.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon quality is alongside my favorite Yakuza 0. Ichi is my new favorite protagonist, I adore him (on friendly basis!) and I definitely expect a new game with him. It can remain an RPG and I wouldn’t mind. Ryu Ga Gotoku, you succeeded again, you son of a gun!