Yakuza 6 marked completion of lead character Kazuma Kiryu’s journey, leaving us with a single concern: “What now?” For years, gamers had actually checked out Japan with Kiryu, ending up being connected to the character along with the design template that his video games lived in. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio might have just dropped a brand-new face in Kamurocho and stopped, however that’s not what took place. In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the studio raised eyebrows by ditching the standard arcade-brawler fight and changing it with turn-based RPG-inspired fights. And while there is a brand-new face to the action, he’s accompanied throughout his experience in Yokohama with a turning performers of similar heroes. It’s a pivot that might have ended in catastrophe. Fortunately, Like a Dragon’s strong gamble settles, causing among the very best entries to date.

Ichiban Kasuga had some huge slip-on loafers to fill. Kiryu’s stoicism and decision were a natural suitable for the criminal underworld he orbited, however his beauty and desire to assist individuals with their issues won audiences over. Kasuga is no Kiryu, which’s sort of the point. This brand-new hero is spontaneous, hotheaded, and a little a goofball. At the start of his experience, Kasuga shares his interest for the Dragon Quest series with an assistant. He sees himself as a hero, even if his capabilities don’t at first line up with his goals. Kasuga’s desire to assist is weaponized versus him, causing him taking the fall (and an 18-year jail sentence) for a murder.

We don’t understand much about Kasuga initially, which winds up being among the most revitalizing things that Like a Dragon uses. Without the weight of half a lots approximately video games and their associated histories on his shoulders, Kasuga is a blank slate for this brand-new Yokohama experience. Kasuga definitely has objectives and inspirations – determining why his dad figure in the Tojo Clan betrayed him is primary amongst them – however the reality that he’s such a little figure in this world develops a thrilling sensation of flexibility. This brand-new hero doesn’t have actually developed relationships in this brand-new town, so the very first couple of hours are filled with easy things like discovering work. What might be a dull slog skillfully leans into the RPG systems that underpin the whole experience.

Like a Dragon isn’t simply a shallow take on RPGs; it holds a gratifying quantity of depth, consisting of the numerous tasks that characters can take. You start as a bat-swinging hero, however you can likewise switch to a number of other functions, such as a chef, artist, or break dancer. Each role acquires new abilities as they’re leveled up, like the chef using an area-of-effect flambé technique or the artist strumming a tune that heals the party. The jobs and the overall attacks are pretty silly, which is suitably on brand. Changing these jobs is simple, though it requires a quick stop at the employment agency – a nice reminder that, as goofy as it all can be, it’s grounded in its own sense of reality.

I was a little put off by the turn-based combat at first, but I quickly warmed up to it. Returning players will notice some familiar animations, including some bike-swinging action when characters come across those props in the field. Well-timed button presses grant additional damage or mitigate enemy attacks, which helped me stay engaged during battles. As Kasuga establishes himself in the town, other characters join in on the action. That allows for a lot more depth and specialization. I enjoyed having a couple of bruisers soften up my targets while the others focused on debuffing enemies or providing heals when needed. I especially loved the Poundmates, which are essentially Like a Dragon’s version of summons. These are supremely stupid, and they often are rewards for engaging in the myriad substories. I won’t spoil too much, but I will say that having a group of low-level yakuza thugs attacked by crawfish is one of the less bizarre options available. When you’re appropriately leveled, random battles resolve themselves as quickly as they would in previous games, but larger boss encounters have strategic elements that reward planning and patience.

There is a large criminal conspiracy at play here – it’s a Yakuza game, after all – but it doesn’t feel as needlessly complicated as some of the intrigue has been in the other entries. Keeping track of the important figures isn’t quite as overwhelming, most likely because Kasuga isn’t privy to a lot of what’s going on. I loved the way the story gradually comes to light, too. Kasuga and his friends learn much about Yokohama’s criminal underworld by working various jobs throughout the city; he’s learning about the town and its people at the same time we are, which is a refreshing approach.

 

It wouldn’t be a Yakuza game without an abundance of side activities, and Like a Dragon delivers here, too. If you’re not having fun with the current task at hand or want a break from the story, several lengthy side activities or pursuits are around to occupy your time. Yokohama is home to several great diversions, including a Mario Kart-like Dragon Karting series, complete with racing rivals, powerups, and tiered tournaments. I spent much of my time in the oddly engaging management sim, where you hire people to run a variety of different businesses to increase profits, and then take on investors in board-room battles. It’s similar in spirit to the cabaret management or baseball simming in previous entries, and it’s a fun way to make a lot of money for upgrades and consumables.

Like a Dragon is a departure from the games that came before it, but I found those changes to be revitalizing. As much as I enjoyed the Yakuza formula, it was definitely a formula. Like a Dragon has enough familiar elements to make it feel like, at its heart, it’s a Yakuza game. All the while, I fully appreciated how much of a brand-new identity this entry is establishing. Here’s hoping this is the first step in yet another terrific journey for the series.