Also after the Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth review Michiel sits in his wicker skirt, swaying to the rhythm of the ocean.
The Yakuza series has had an impressive output of games in recent years. Since the first release in 2005, fans have been able to experience a new main game, spin-off or remake almost every year. It is therefore not self-evident for developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to come up with surprises again and again. However, the release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon in 2020 was a complete change of direction. Regular protagonist Kazuma Kiryu had to make way for newcomer Ichiban Kasuga, and with a completely new ‘turn-based’ combat system, the series moved from the action to the JRPG genre. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth not only builds on the strong foundation of its predecessor, but also introduces Hawaii as a brand new location. The result is perhaps the best Yakuza game ever.
The story of Infinite Wealth continues where that of Like a Dragon ended. Ichiban leads a quiet life as a temporary worker in Yokohama, until an incident takes him to Hawaii to find his birth mother. Instead of a simple family reunion, however, a web of intrigue awaits him with new crime syndicates. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio once again knows how to alternate major storylines with small, hilarious or moving moments. As the protagonist, Ichiban remains the amiable good guy who immediately takes you to your heart, but the rest of the cast – old faithful Kazuma Kiryu in the lead – also contributes to one of the most compelling Yakuza adventures to date.
The biggest innovation in Infinite Wealth is undoubtedly the setting. For the first time you will not explore a district in Japan, but the Hawaiian capital Honolulu. Expect colorful boulevards, exotic beaches and cozy restaurants. However, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio also succeeds in showing the dark side of American society. In the various sub-stories, the clichés about grass skirts and flower wreaths are smoothly alternated with moving stories. At a certain point you are moved to tears by the story of an old man who wants to show his terminal wife snow one last time. But just as well, a few minutes later you go looking for a shaman who has to stir up a storm. The exotic trip to Hawaii is a hit and always makes you want to put on your swimming shorts and drink a cocktail.
Infinite Wealth’s battle system is still turn-based, but some subtle adjustments provide a lot more dynamics and strategy. Characters now have limited movement across the battlefield. This allows you, for example, to better position ‘area of effect’ skills, smack an enemy towards a teammate or quickly grab a bicycle, garbage can or traffic cone to deal extra damage. That extra mobility is not the only nod to the real-time combat system of the old Yakuza games. As a playable character, Kiryu can switch between different fighting styles, for example to attack twice per turn or to break an enemy’s defense. The fighting has been deepened on every level, without making the game less accessible.
LIKE A DRAGON: INFINITE WEALTH | GAMEPLAY REVEAL TRAILER
The job system from Yakuza: Like a Dragon has also been significantly expanded. This time you can train characters to become fire dancers, surfers or taxi drivers, among other things. With more than twenty different jobs, the possibilities to customize your party to your own wishes are virtually endless. Additionally, a character receives permanent stat boosts for each job they level up, encouraging you to try out as many jobs as possible. You continuously switch between surfboards, nunchucks, maracas and many other weapons to make life difficult for your enemies.
A Yakuza game stands or falls with the quality of the minigames, and in that respect too Infinite Wealth is one of the most impressive games in the series. In addition to classics such as karaoke, shogi and darts, Infinite Wealth contains some new activities that will keep you busy for several hours. Miss Match is a Tinder-like app in which you can hopefully score that coveted date by answering correctly and quickly. In Sicko Snap you try to photograph all the perverts in the area on different bus routes. Trust me, it’s less weird than it sounds… And it’s three guesses as to what Sujimon is based on, but it’s certainly fun to tour Honolulu looking for new fighters to join your team and other trainers from to challenge. Gotta catch ’em all!
LIKE A DRAGON: INFINITE WEALTH | Dondoko Island Reveal Trailer
The very best side activity, however, is Dondoko Island. The term mini-game is even inappropriate here, because in this management game you drive pirates out of a run-down resort and then literally build a completely new holiday resort from the ground up. It’s very Animal Crossing-based, including endless customization options. Before you know it, you’ll be busy building new attractions until late at night, looking for souvenirs for your guests and running your own farm. There is even a direct connection with the Sujimon game, because you can also use your fighters as workers on the land. The Yakuza series has previously featured in-depth mini-games, but with Donkodo Island Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio surpasses itself. The main story often had to make way when I wanted to quickly catch some rare butterflies.
2024 has only just begun, but Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is already a compelling candidate for the title of ‘game of the year’. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio continues on the path taken with Yakuza: Like a Dragon and perfects that game in almost every area. Honolulu is one of the best settings in the series; here you want to discover every street and square. Due to some subtle additions, the combat system is a lot more tactical with many nods to the old fighting in real time. Side activities such as Sujimon and Donkodo Island are a creative triumph. The Yakuza games guarantee quality in any case, but Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth still stands out like a proud dragon above many of its predecessors.
The Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth review was done on the Xbox Series X. Do you want to get started with the game yourself? You can buy it via bol.com, among others.