If you had told me years ago that the franchise that I’ve held near and dear to me for so long was going to turn into a turn-based RPG, I would have laughed and gone back to delivering the smackdown in Kamurocho. However, after seeing how well the slapstick side of the formerly titled Yakuza franchise works in this fashion, I was intrigued if Ryu Ga Gotoku could make magic again. Ichiban, Kiryu, and a wealth of familiar faces return to the spotlight in what could be the biggest and best that the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise has to offer.
A Combat System Worthy of a Dragon
After a successful transition from Beat ‘Em Up to Turn-Based RPG, Infinite Wealth builds upon the already solid foundation found in Yakuza 7 to deliver one of the most satisfying combat systems available. While RNG may still play a major factor in the amount of damage you can deliver, I found the enhanced movement system that allowed me to navigate the battlefield during these encounters to be a blessing.
I would consider myself a fan of the JRPG genre but the interactivity delivered in this entry is going to make it hard to revisit some of my old favorites. I found myself able to move semi-freely during battles, while confined to the newly implemented Movement Circle. During a fight, I could search the area for weapons or other items that could give me a boost in battle, or try to circle my way around the rear of an enemy to deliver a swift dose of judgment and justice with my trusty weapon.
The battle system is just the tip of the iceberg as the reintroduction of series veteran Kazuma Kiryu also brings a special surprise; Resurgence of a Dragon mode. While his combat normally takes place as a typical turn-based affair, you can build up his special to unleash punishment in only a way that the Dragon of Dojima can. After unlocking this particular move, you’ll have a limited amount of time to return to the standard gameplay of previous Yakuza titles, with a free-roaming Kiryu hell-bent on causing as much damage with his fists as possible.
Alongside the addition of the movement circle and Kiryu’s special move, Tag-Team moves can be performed with different members of your party on this globe-trotting expedition. Delivering an overwhelming attack that can eliminate the variety of goons that were encountered during this journey always felt fantastic, with excellent animations that showcased the weight and concise action being performed. While some Tag-Team moves were slightly overpowered compared to others, they felt fair and balanced enough to keep battles challenging and exciting.
As with any RPG, what good would it be to carry the same weapon along for the whole journey? The enhanced Job system allowed me to customize my party by visiting a specific location and partaking in activities that allowed me to form my squad exactly as I wanted them. Be it Ichiban switching from his Hero role into that of an Aquanaut, a fancy term for a Surf Bum, or making another member into a Samurai straight out of the Heian period, the customization options felt near limitless.
Nearly everything in Infinite Wealth has been expanded upon in ways nearly unimaginable. From the hilariously named Poundmates to the grandeur of the world around me, this entry encourages the idea of indulgence. While improving Ichiban’s general Personality traits through Drink Links and even higher education, or spending time with Kiryu to improve his fighting styles, I was encouraged to explore every square inch of the large map before me, and I was rewarded on every adventure I took off of the beaten path.
Exploration has also seen quite a boost due to the lack of a stamina meter and the introduction of the new Street Surfer item that makes rolling through the city easy. This totally-not-a-Segway lets Ichiban and company zoom through the streets at a much faster pace, letting me explore every inch of the Hawaiian turf at my own leisure. I do wish that I didn’t need to step off of the Street Surfer to pick up items that I found littered throughout the city, but it’s a small price to pay for riding in style.
It seems that the development team knew that players were going to go wild for this thing, as well, since the Auto-Cruise function also makes the trip to your next destination a breeze. Simply tag a location on the map, and press the Auto-Cruise to watch your electric companion escort you to the new spot. Sure, I had to stop every once in a while to charge up the battery, but customization to not only its appearance but also its battery capacity made the Street Surfer one of the most used items on my adventure.
The improvements seemingly never stop in this entry since even Weapon Upgrading has seen a substantial upgrade here, alongside the variety of other activities I was able to partake in throughout not only Hawaii but anywhere I find myself roaming. It appears that the development team has been peering into our thoughts to make this one of the most in-depth JRPGs available on the market, with a variety of tweaks that I would love to see make their way into other franchises that I have grown to adore over the years. I could easily sink hundreds of hours into the game before seeing everything that is on offer.
The general grind of a JRPG could be a make-or-break moment for any fan of the genre, and while Infinite Wealth still has a fair number of opportunities to grind for extra experience points, the overall grind has been significantly reduced to make it more accessible for all players. It’s still recommended, as entering a battle below the recommended rank could result in a bad time for players.
There are still a few frustrations involving the Dragon Engine, especially when it comes to character movement. Everything the player does is weighty, lending to an overall sense of realism when roaming around but can also result in Ichiban and company slamming up against a wall due to a delayed reaction. Thankfully, compared to other entries in the franchise, it’s the snappiest it’s ever felt, but there are still moments of frustration while trying to time a perfectly cued exit, only to wind up next to the door rather than outside. They’re few and far between, but still worth noting.
It’s Always Sunny In Honolulu City
Once again I found myself in the shoes of the most relatable protagonist in recent history, Ichiban Kasuga. It seemed like things had started looking up for our new favorite hero after the Great Disillusion, but you already know that they couldn’t let Ichi catch a break. His contract with Hello Work has been terminated due to the influence of an outside source and Ichiban’s life is turned upside down once again after trying to rehabilitate himself with a standard 9 to 5, so he’s off to start a grand new adventure in the streets of Isezaki Ijincho while trying to find out who or what could have caused everything to go awry.
Seeing these familiar streets once again filled my heart with joy, but I was already eager to get into the new lands that I knew I was destined for. After discovering that Ichiban’s mother is alive and in Hawaii, I was taken out of Japan and placed on the sun-soaked island in the franchise’s first attempt at bringing the franchise to the United States. And let me tell you, the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku nailed the vibe in this new world. While some caricatures of American Life may be slightly exaggerated, seeing all of the new NPC models roaming the streets, the general feeling of being lost in a new place, all while dealing with the language barrier created and subsequently filled by conveniently timed introductions of characters helps breathe life into an unfamiliar world.
But, here’s the thing; it’s familiar and unfamiliar in a variety of ways. While Hawaii may be a new backdrop for this adventure, I still encountered shops similar to those I’ve seen over the years, all while encountering a variety of new enemies that I had never imagined I would see in this franchise. No matter if it was a Beach Bum that would attack me with a surfboard or a buff man in a knock-off Sailor Moon cosplay, the variety of enemies that I encountered had me in stitches. While some may take an issue with seeing the normally more serious tone of the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise take this much of a shift over the previous entries, I’m personally all in on the change.
As originally explained in Yakuza 7, Ichiban sees the world through the eyes of a child. He’s a big, loveable oaf with the greatest intentions even for those who wish ill upon him. He’s a haven in a heartless world and shares more in common with Kiryu than we could have ever imagined. Sure — he may not be the rough-and-tumble type, but he’s always willing to go above and beyond to help out anyone and everyone in need. A true Hero if there ever has been one.
Something must have rubbed off on Kiryu, as he now understands what Ichiban sees too. Sure — he may be obsessed with things like Pocket Circuit, but he’s seemingly more mature and stoic than the exaggerated Ichiban. Everything said, Hero Vision applies to him on this journey which allows him the chance to see the world through a new lens while being challenged in his own journey and battle with his new illness.
One of my favorite parts of the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise is how new enemies and allies are introduced, and Infinite Wealth elevates these moments to new heights. Introducing a new set of heroes and villains to continue the story through a new generation is difficult, but is carried out with ease here. After playing through the previous entries in the franchise, I found that Infinite Wealth has some of the most complex plot twists around leaving me with a sense of surprise at every turn.
For those worried that the less-than-serious tone of the battles you encounter may take away from the story, you can put those worries aside. The melodramatic tone of the story is here in full effect, with an intricate web pulling the heroes through the wringer once more while weaving one of the most twisted and labyrinthine stories ever told by the developers. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, with pivotal plot points keeping me playing through the roughly 50-hour campaign.
There were plenty of moments throughout the main story that had me in hysterics one moment and on the verge of tears the next. The tale being told here is full of emotion and drama with a bit of extra hilarity sprinkled on the top, leading to a rollercoaster of emotions that never comes off of the rails. The pacing is excellent and it quickly hooked me in faster than even some of my favorite entries in the series, all while continuously weaving a web of intricate details that will shock even the most dedicated of fans.
It’s Like That Bread Scene, But All The Time Now
The Like A Dragon franchise has been using the Dragon Engine for quite a while now, and there are continued improvements across each entry. From the Neon-drenched walkways of Japan to the sunny strip of Hawaii, Infinite Wealth is a stunning game. Yes, there are plenty of reused assets from previous titles that appear again in this installment, but a considerable amount of refinements have been made across the board to make this the most visually appealing entry to date. Yes, the Dragon Engine still struggles with some texture work, but the overarching visual appearance of Infinite Wealth is stellar.
Small, intimate details help bring the world to life in each entry, but Infinite Wealth feels like a breath of fresh air. While I’ll never complain about taking to the streets of Kamurocho, the new map is large and filled to the brim with little details that help push this into a class of its own. The amount of interactivity in this entry is something of a miracle, with countless shops to enter, meals to partake in with your friends, and activities galore that help make this feel more like a grand adventure compared to just a regular JRPG adventure.
The numerous additions to Infinite Wealth all share in the advancements, with every map, building, and explorable area being packed to the brim with small details that help it pop off of the screen and into your memory. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re not being rushed, and you’re encouraged to take a moment and smell the roses, so to speak.
The sheer number of activities that Ichiban and crew can jump into is, in every sense of the word, overwhelming. Not only is there the standard story that will take you nearly 40 to 50 hours to complete, but substories, activities, the addition of Dondoko Island, arcade games, UFO catchers, and everything in between. Without a sliver of doubt, this is the biggest adventure the development team has done to date, and it excels in every avenue that it heads down.
With the size of the world, and the immense amount of tasks, side-stories, and adventures you can partake in, it’s exceptional that the game runs nearly flawlessly on the PlayStation 5. There were a few moments during heavy action sequences when the framerate would dip, but when exploring any portion of the game, I encountered nothing under a stable 60FPS.
A Dragon’s Roar Is Not A Call For War
Anyone who has jumped into the Yakuza franchise knows that Ryu Ga Gotoku prides itself in providing not only stellar visuals but also an explosive auditory experience. Even those who haven’t played the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise have heard music, with songs like “Baka Mitai” achieving popularity via social media. Once again, electric battle music and somber strings pepper the soundtrack, delivering the perfect amount of ambiance and emotion during pivotal scenes.
Much like the visuals, there are plenty of moments of overlap when it comes to the auditory experience. Sub-story music has remained the same over many entries, alongside the somber piano music once a revelation has hit our heroes after the events have come to a close. However, the new tracks that are peppered in and tied to specific parties that are encountered throughout this story are some of the best that the series has had.
One new feature added to Infinite Wealth is the MP3 player, which can be used to listen to a variety of not only Yakuza tracks from previous games in the franchise but also a variety of other music from the extensive SEGA library. Ranging from the Daytona series to Hatsune Miku, there’s something for everyone here. Exploring the streets of Hawaii while jamming out to the Super Monkey Ball soundtrack is not something I ever expected to see in a Yakuza game, but I can’t imagine life without it now.
On the other side of the coin, certain aspects of voice acting are a bit mixed. I played through Infinite Wealth in its native Japanese, and have come to expect a cohesive and excellent set of performances from the main crew. Once again, the team has delivered, but some moments that break out of the language barrier are jarring. At specific points of the story, it makes complete and perfect sense. For example, when Ichiban first makes his way to the lands of Hawaii, there is a moment in which the language barrier almost ruins his adventure from the get-go, but the day is saved by a bit of broken English spoken by a native-Japanese-speaking character.
There are other moments, however, where a character that has a primarily English-speaking role is portrayed by their Japanese voice actor, and the results are mixed at best and off-putting at worst. While the main cast and side characters deliver their lines passionately and strongly, these moments of immersion breaking are difficult to fathom, especially after seeing how well they have done in the past. With both subbed and dubbed options available, it’s a confusing choice as to why the team chose not to use them during these parts of the game.
For those that don’t like playing with the original Japanese, however, the English dub is available and at the bare minimum, passable. Characters like Nanba, for example, took me off guard in the English dub. His voice acting in the Japanese version is rather high and nasally, whereas his English voice actor has an incredibly deep voice. Much in line with Yakuza 7, the delivery is well done, if not slightly exaggerated. Karaoke is also a very hit-or-miss affair with the English dub, as there is a heavy and apparent use of autotune technology to tighten up vocals to an almost comical extent.
While there are some irksome moments, the general line delivery is excellent, as expected. The emotional dialogue had me on the verge of tears, with the main cast hitting the mark on every occasion. Rewatching pivotal moments in the English dub hit the same emotional chord, which earns my respect for the cast in the moments that it is needed most.
Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a game all about heart. A main character with a heart of gold, a story full of heart-warming and heart-wrenching moments, and a world that showcases the heartbeat of what makes the Like A Dragon franchise as special as it is.
There are few series out there that could completely swap genres while mastering the swap as well as the transition from Yakuza to Like a Dragon did. Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is nothing short of extraordinary in every sense of the word. From the sense of grandeur on the Hawaiian streets to the sheer contrast of the seedy underbelly surrounding our party, Infinite Wealth is something quite special that new and old fans can love and cherish.
- Near Infinite amount of content
- Fantastic improvements to combat system and exploration
- Gorgeous visuals and great new location
- Story beats keep you on the edge of your seat
- Some iffy voice acting on both Dubbed and Subbed
- Some physics based movement frustrations