In a series spanning almost twenty years, it’s amazing to see how far Ryu Ga Gotoku has come. Yet despite all the changes and new mechanics the franchise has seen, Like a Dragon has always had a depth and meaning to its characters and its story. There’s a message of honour and connection, friendship and love, and power and destruction. All of these themes have circled the series since the original released, and here they’re being worn on both sleeves throughout a huge action-RPG. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth marks a turning point with emotional heft at every step, now feeling as though the time to pass the torch might finally be here.
There’s no denying RGG’s latest is the best game the studio has ever made, but it’s the scope that floored me. It’s also a gorgeous game to look out, with so much beauty, colour, and detail everywhere you look. The story is as dense and as powerful as The Godfather, filled with intrigue and violence. At times it shocks you with its brutality, but underneath it all is that silliness that stops it from straying into unnecessary territory. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a masterpiece, and whether you’re on board for the ridiculous elements of it or not, it can’t be denied how good both the writing and the acting is throughout what feels like both a beginning and an end. Sure, you’ll witness stories of a young girl who almost died before getting surgery, only to become a doctor, but then there’s an enemy that flashes you as a light shines from his groin.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth focuses on Kiryu and Ichiban Kasuga as they navigate the fallout of the Great Dissolution, where the Omi and Tojo Alliances dissolved, leaving thousands of yakuza to find their own way in the world. Ichiban has a job at Hello Work, a job centre where he intends to help former gangsters find a new life, but it doesn’t go to plan and he’s thrown to the wolves thanks to the Tatara Channel, a mysterious VTuber who fabricates the truth and twists it for views. While leaving his job unexpectedly, he is given a job to head to Hawaii and track down his mother, Akane. All pretty straightforward so far, right?
What starts off as a job that won’t take too long soon escalates into a hunt to find her across the Pacific, not only by Kasuga, but by every gang of criminals around, like the Barracudas and a thorn in your side known as Yamai. Despite it starting off badly for Kasuga, he soon bumps into an old friend and legend of the series, Kiryu, who takes him under his wing and offers to help him track down Akane. It’s weird thinking back to these opening hours as so much happens in the span of the game that it feels like years ago I was on the plane to Hawaii. There are so many characters to meet and befriend, countless missions and sub quests to take part in, your own personal island to run, a Pokémon-style adventure to go on, and so much more.
It’s staggering to think about the amount of activities there are in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth because there’s so much that makes great use of your time, and it all opens up at a gradual pace. Even twenty hours or more into it and you’ll discover new areas and missions to complete that you couldn’t before. Like many of the Yakuza games before it, you’d think battling, the arcades, and darts were all the games had to offer. Now, you can play a Crazy Taxi-inspired minigame; take photos of flashers whilst riding an on-rails tram; go swimming and pick up litter from the ocean; date via a Tinder-like app; go to university and complete tests; make friends on social media; and ride around on your own personal segway that can be customised and charged for endless use.
Of course, there’s stuff I haven’t mentioned as I don’t want to ruin everything, but the two biggest time sinks and perhaps the most fun, are running your own island and catching Sujimon. The latter return from Like a Dragon, except the concept is so much more fleshed out and addictive. Take part in battles, try to ‘catch’ weird and wonderful fighters, buy gacha balls to unlock new ones, and then fight bosses to climb the rankings. Playing these fights alone can take up hours of your time, and thanks to RGG’s pacing, you never feel rushed into completing the story. If anything, the hundreds of hours available to you are yours to play exactly how you want. Another big addition to Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is Dondoko Island; a whole game within a game where you manage an island.
It’s surprisingly deep, and is obviously a play on what Animal Crossing has done, but it’s fun nonetheless. Keep the island clean, catch bugs and collect flora, upgrade, craft, and expand both the island and the home, and then invite villagers to come and live there. You can find new villagers around Hawaii, but RGG has also thrown in some surprises for fans of the series, and having certain icons appear there is so damn cool. There’s plenty of opportunities to customise everything on your island, giving it your own personal flare, and when you’re ready to head back, just jump on a dolphin and they’ll take you there. Needless to say I spent far too long decorating my house because Kasuga deserves a fancy island retreat after all the bad luck he keeps on having.
One thing you’ll do more than anything else in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is fight. Whether part of a mission or running around the streets of Hawaii or Japan, there’s always a bunch of enemies for you to fight. Each character in your party has a job, and with it, a set of moves and skills that can be playfully integrated in your team’s attacks. While each character has a set job, new ones can be unlocked through building your personality traits, allowing you to switch out at any of the available holiday spots. Samurai, idol, detective, and aquanaut are just a handful of them, each with their own benefits.
The more successful you are in combat, the more skills on the job line you unlock, and at level 30, you’re going be initiating some pretty badass moves. You have HP and MP, both decrease as you get injured or use a skill. There’s always a balance of knowing when to attack or buff your party’s defence or attack, or go after the enemy. If you remember the last game, you’ll have an idea how this works, but diving in and experimenting never got boring. Your standard attacks can be chained with others if enemies are knocked into their line of attack. You can also knock enemies into each other to do damage to more than one, hurt them more with an attack from behind or by hitting them into a wall.
Certain enemy types have elemental weaknesses like fire, electricity, and gun damage, so knowing what characters in your party can be utilised for most DPS is addictive. Combat is exceptional in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, and I never got fed up with it. Even half way through new mechanics were unlocking, with one blowing my mind at just how cool it was. The higher level you are, the harder fights become, but there’s also an option to bypass easier fights by using Smackdown, and instakill the enemy. Gangs are always running up to you, so this is a great feature when wasting your time on them in a full scale battle will lead to little XP. Weird-looking enemies are back as well, with some absolute wacky choices.
Guys in swimming trunks with inflatables that writhe around on you to do damage; metalheads that try to stun you when playing guitar; dudes wearing advertisement boards and punk rockers; stoners, cult members, and perverts; this game has everything. Some of the boss fights are ridiculous as well, like one against a giant shark, though that’s far from the only strange fight. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is about as bonkers as you’d expect, but every fight I had was one I’ll never forget. In the later stages, some of the fights are ridiculous, but the satisfaction of victory only increases as you head towards the dying moments of the journey.
One of the key themes in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is friendship, and you’ll spend a heck of a lot of time with them. You can form connections with them over a drink or chat to them as you travel around the city, and buy them gifts to help increase that bond. These bonds can also be improved in battle, and however you choose to do it, there’re a wealth of benefits to aid you while fighting, such as exclusive team moves that can do significant damage. While building bonds certainly improves your party’s synergy, it’s also something you want to do.
I cared so deeply about my friends, just as I did about Kasuga and Kiryu. Each have their own hobbies and loves, hopes and fears, and learning about them makes those tense moments in the story mean something. Nanba, Adachi, and Saeko all return from Like a Dragon, but there are new characters like Tomi, and Chitose that all make a big impact and impression on you. People with have their favourites, but honestly, I’d die for Nanba and it’s not even close. Even the villains are fascinating, and some are revealed in spectacular fashion. You never know who to trust, but you’d think I would have learned that by now. I love these characters deeply, but it is the two protagonists where the writing is at its strongest.
Kasuga Ichiban is similar to Kiryu in many ways. I often think that if the Dragon of Dojima was able to shed the stoicism and let go, you’d find an identical version of Kasuga inside of him. He would do anything for those he loves, and even when others can’t see past the wrongs someone has committed, Kasuga will. He loves living and loves life, is filled with passion and kindness, and it’s so hard not to adore him. Kiryu has a very different journey in Infinite Wealth, at least on a personal level, but that same fiercely loyal and strong human being is there once more. There’s never been a better character in gaming as him, and RGG has managed to honour his legacy with some of the best segments the series has ever seen. It’s emotional, tense, and has some incredibly moving scenes.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the greatest the series has ever been, and despite those action-orientated games that set RGG on its developmental path, having a turn-based RPG with minor action elements was a big change with the first title, and going one step further and making it even more fun and addictive was the right decision. You can still explore and do tons of activities while uncovering a deep story filled with twists, turns, and emotional beats, but it feels entirely new at times, especially with everything the developer has added. There’s nothing I’d change about this one, and it improves on what’s come before it, and features a story worth investing your time in. Infinite Wealth is a masterpiece.
Tons of side stuff to do
Three games in one!
Combat is sublime
Some scenes are very long