Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Release Date: TBA 2020
Industry rating: Mature
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has, over the years, managed to take a simple premise–of surviving within a criminal underworld filled with dangerous Yakuza members–and turn it into one of the most engrossing narratives one could ever hope to ingest. The Yakuza series is filled with unforgettable characters with as many layers to them as there are memorable moments for them to be a part of.
We’ve seen the highs and lows of longtime series protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, as his legend developed before us and he earned the title of Dragon of Dojima. Kiryu has gone toe to toe with friend and foe alike. He’s lost those closest to him, and fought for both vengeance and to ensure the same doesn’t happen to anyone else. He has impacted the lives of those around him in such a profound way that you can practically watch their world change for the better due to his involvement.
After seven amazing games starring the street-fighting legend, Yakuza: Like a Dragon marks the main series’ first entry to star an entirely new protagonist: Ichiban Kasuga.
The first chapter into the saga of Ichiban Kasuga will bring about quite a few memories for longtime fans of the Yakuza series, as it draws parallels between Kasuga and Kazuma in Yakuza Kiwami. They are both good-natured men destined to endure hardship, their story unfolding into the stuff of myth and legend.
Ichiban spent eighteen long years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, willingly taking the place of the guilty party in order to repay a debt he felt he owed to the Arakawa family (which he was a part of). Upon his release from prison, Ichiban isn’t met by a single familiar face or anyone celebrating his freedom. Confused by the absence of those he held in high regard, of those near to him, he sets out to find out what’s happening in a world that’s radically changed without him in it.
Ichiban Kasuga outright refuses to accept that Masumi Arakawa, the patriarch of the Arakawa family, wouldn’t be waiting for him. So when he hears that Masumi, his adoptive father, is the one behind the rumors that Kasuga is responsible for the Arakawa clan’s expulsion from the Omi Alliance, he’s understandably in disbelief.
Between the potential betrayal and a sea of questions that need answers, Ichiban has to piece together everything that’s happened since he was locked behind bars all those years ago.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon doesn’t just deviate from previous entries in terms of who’s the protagonist, it also leaves behind the beat-em-up style of gameplay fans have become so familiar with. Anyone who’s picked up a single Yakuza game since the series began back on the PS2 knows it’s a brawler first-and-foremost, with only minor RPG elements.
This time around, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has gone all in on the RPG aspect. Yakuza: Like a Dragon will be very much like the Dragon Quest series that Ichiban has been fond of all his life, as the battle system is now completely turn-based. [insert Yakuza: Like a Dragon Quest pun here]
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, turn-based JRPG battle system either. You’ve got to remember who’s at the helm; who’s steering this insane ship. Sure, you’ll have your basics: Ichiban Kasuga will be able to team up with three other characters to form a team as they fight random street thugs and other Yakuza members willing to part with their teeth and money.
Players can use weapons in combat as expected, as well as suit up in various types of equipment. You won’t just be relegated to purchasing them from stores or finding them on the ground, either. You’ll also be able to forge and repair your gear at the Romance Factory (which you’ll become quite acquainted with early on).
“Heat Actions” have become one of the biggest highlights within the Yakuza series’ combat, letting players watch as characters perform feats of strength and pull off maneuvers, some otherworldly in their execution. Yakuza: Like a Dragon uses these to great effect, you can even pull off partner attacks with more than one of your teammates. Naturally, where you’re at in combat will still matter, and the environment will still play a factor in what actions you’ll be able to pull off–just like in the other games.
Depending on the type of Heat Action, or on the weapon you’re wielding, you’ll be able to utilize different types of elemental attacks (such as fire, electricity, etc.). Depending on the types of foes you’re taking on and what they’re geared up with, enemies may be susceptible to certain types of attacks or otherwise merely shrug them off.
It’s not exclusively just your weapons or the skills you’re using that determine the element of attacks. What job you’re currently equipped with may have more focus on a particular elemental attack/defense for Ichiban & Co. Sure, this may not be Final Fantasy Tactics, but dressing up as a chef and peppering an enemy in the eyes, or as a police officer and tazing a group of gangsters in their groins, certainly fills the void Square Enix left in our hearts.
It doesn’t stop there. You may think the four of you will be able to take on the world, but why stop there? Ichiban can bust out his smartphone at any time and drop some cash to summon someone to show up and lay waste to the poor saps who wanted to butt heads with you. This is Yakuza, though, so it can’t always be normal right?
How about a juiced up crayfish with anger issues who claws up the opposition? Yes, you do have him on speed dial, and yes, he will come and defend your honor at the right price. This is honestly an extremely serious game. Honestly.
(Though you have to remember: This is also the same series that allowed you to leave a chicken in charge of a real estate company, which you won the services of through a few games of bowling. Just one of the many reasons why we love the Yakuza games to no end.)
You can also change up the style of combat Ichiban Kasuga is capable of through an all-too-familiar job system which many of us RPG fans will be right at home with. For Yakuza fans, this will also make sense, since Kazuma and Majima were–throughout their games–both capable of switching between different styles of combat, each with their own skills and moves to use and level.
Ichiban gets to do the same exact thing, except the job system in Like a Dragon is also its own series of sidequests through the Hello Work office. Rather than solely acquiring EXP, you will be able to take up a number of different jobs in order to obtain new moves and work your way up that job progression tree, unlocking even more devastating attacks in battle.
Speaking of sidequests: Something the entire series could win a number of awards for is its comedic writing–often embedded in these sidequests. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is going to have plenty of that, and plenty of sidequests and minigames for you to tackle, too.
Kart Racing makes its series debut and it’s exactly what you’d expect from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. Sure, we could be presented with a realistic racing sim, pulling off drifts around dangerous curves and along steep cliffside roads ala Initial D, …or you could equip a go-kart with rockets and gatling guns and hope they didn’t program in a Blue Shell for good measure.
Yes this is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds, but racing games and Sega go together like Majima and stalking Kazuma through the streets. We’re absolutely on board.
You’ll also have your usual suspects of the optional minigames we’ve all come to know and love, such as going out with your team and performing a few songs of karaoke between bouts of beating random gangs into submission. We’re always happy to accept their generous offerings for wasting your time and bruising your knuckles.
Perhaps a few rounds of shogi or darts? A couple rounds of golf can’t hurt, unless of course you take the club with you while walking around (then that will certainly be a different story for the clueless goons trying to pick a fight with Ichiban). You can even test your luck on a Fist of the North Star slot machine or play a few hands of cards instead. It’s all here and much more.
We’ve gotten a glimpse of characters from throughout the series making brief cameos as you progress through the game, which for anyone who’s been following the series for long, will be a welcome reprieve from wholesale asskicking.
That will help Yakuza: Like a Dragon not feel too disconnected from the previous installments, despite very much being able to stand on its own two feet. You may even run into some very fearsome familiar faces in the battle arena, perhaps even as summons. You’ll just have to play it to know!
We cannot express enough at how excited we are to get our hands on Yakuza: Like a Dragon once it’s released stateside, and we will certainly have a review available for it when it does.
The more we’ve seen of Ichiban Kasuga in action, everything he has to overcome, and the way he tackles the drama that besets him has us looking forward to experiencing it all first hand. The Yakuza series has always managed to be one hell of an experience, and Like a Dragon seems to continue that tradition in big ways.
As translated by Siliconera and reported by Bahamut, Daisuke Sato and Hiroyuki Sakamoto--of Ryu ga Gotoku Studios--recently visited Taiwan for the January 16 launch of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. At the event, the Yakuza series creators discussed their hopes for the as yet unannounced (but inevitable) Yakuza 8, and the [...]
As reported by Niche Gamer, the new theme song for Yakuza: Like a Dragon has an accompanying, Yakuza-themed music video to go along with it. Titled Ichiban Uta or "The Best Song", the music video features in-game facsimiles of the song's creators and producers, Shōnan no Kaze and DJ Nakata [...]
The eighth game in the Yakuza mainline series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, is nearing its Japanese, January 16 release date. Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has released a new gameplay trailer to highlight some of the upcoming game's features; specifically the new turn-based RPG combat that has been the focus [...]