One cause of trepidation with Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is just how big a departure it is from the Tokyo-life simulator of the earlier titles. Most obviously, of course, that it’s not even in Kamurocho or Yokohama- this time, Ichiban and has fled to the other side of the Pacific and gone to Hawaii.
It’s hard to really understate how diametrically different these settings are- instead of the dark and neon-lit streets of Kamurocho, Honolulu is bright and sunny, but not in the same concrete way that Yokohama was in the last game.
And yet, that Ryu Ga Gotoku magic remains- we got to try a hands-on at Indonesia Comic-Con, where part of the experience included photographing weirdos wearing girls’ panties on their faces as they did bizarre stunts. Why? I’m not entirely sure, and that’s the RGG Studio magic at play. It’s almost like an infinitely weirder Pokemon Snap, which seems almost entirely the point considering the series first entry as a JRPG included a totally-not Pokedex for collecting weirdos.
The Honolulu special even includes the people themselves- while most of the people still speak Japanese despite being a whole ocean apart from Japan, it’s fun to hear English among the barks of random thus you fight. It’s new, it’s weird and it’s delightful.
Unleash The Dragon
The demo also included some brief combat sections. One more point of concern with the gameplay in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was the addition of Kiryu Kazuma as the game’s second protagonist. What was supposed to be a baton pass has evolved into a sick handshake, and the game now has Ichiban and Kiryu both rocking out in the game’s JRPG format.
I gotta say, I’m glad that the turn-based combat is back with some tweaks. Actually letting you reposition slightly during your turn is really fun, and helps sell that little bit of brawler flavor the Yakuza series previously had. It’s still quirky and weird like having Ichiban grab a bicycle to replace his normal attack if he’s next to it.
Of course, where the magic is really at is with our Dragon of Dojima himself- while Ichiban’s cast of weirdos all act like his party did in the last game, Kiryu’s got a rep to live up to- and boy does he deliver. Rather than try to make him fit any one particular RPG archetype, it looks like RGG’s decision was Kiryu should just literally play like Kiryu, which means being able to swap between his three fighting stances just like in the old games.
The stances even feel pretty big in changes too- Rush Style lets him attack twice in the same turn and move around more, while Beast is more for offense, all the while while Yakuza Style acts as the in-between. He plays unlike any other character in the game and absolutely steals the show for it, not unlike those JRPGs where there’s a character designed to break the game’s internal ruleset.
Oh, don’t think I was being hyperbolic about breaking the game’s rules either- Kiryu can quite literally break the rules of the game, smashing apart the JRPG UI and turning the game into a classic brawler. It’s such a neat little bit of fanservice that’s more than just a throwaway level- it’s a baked in part of his moveset. I could have easily seen this just be a cinematic special move the same way every Job had them in 7, but having Kiryu’s real-time beatdown be part of his kit instead feels like a very special kind of love.
I’m not gonna lie and said I wasn’t one of those people originally worried that the success of Yakuza: Like a Dragon was going to put pressure on RGG Studio to keep things safe. In just our short hands-on with the gameplay of Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth we’ve seen that this might very well be their weirdest title yet- adapting a completely new locale into that same RGG flavor of weirdness that we’ve all come to know and love.