Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth (PS5) REVIEW – An Enriching Experience

YLAD Infinite Wealth
YLAD Infinite Wealth
Release Date
January 26, 2024
Developer
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher
SEGA
Platform(s)
PC, PS5, PS4, XSXS, XBO
MTX
DLC
Our Score
9

As fans, it’s often hard to say goodbye to a beloved fictional character, so naturally it’d be just as hard for a developer to firmly write off their character for good. Even though Yakuza 6 was supposed to be the swansong for the Dragon of Dojima, it wasn’t surprising to see Kazuma Kiryu brought back out from the shadows for Yakuza: Like A Dragon in a supporting role. Between Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and now Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Kiryu’s center stage once again, and while he could’ve threatened to outshine characters from the last game, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth does a great job balancing both its fully-fledged dragon and the dragon-in-training, Ichiban Kasuga.

Seeing the series’ iconic characters head to the West for the first time, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth splits its time between Hawaii and the usual haunts of Yokohama and Kamurocho. Ichiban Kasuga, the hero of Yokohama, is deep into his mission of rehabilitating former Yakuza members, but when his life is thrown into disarray and a face from his past sets him the task of finding his mother, Ichiban finds himself on a plane to Hawaii, with a whole new world of trouble waiting for him as soon as he lands.

Before long, Ichiban reunites with the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu, while also making friends with some of the locals like Eric Tomizawa and Chitose Fujinomiya, to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the Hawaiian Underworld that’s drawn Japan into its wicked web too. While you might think solving this conspiracy would be easy now that Kiryu is on the case, the former hero isn’t doing too great at the minute, as cancer threatens to bring Kiryu’s journey to a close.

Infinite Wealth
Infinite Wealth

For a series as wacky and off-the-wall as Like A Dragon often is, dropping The Big C on one of the main protagonists might seem like too hard of a curve into drama, but Kiryu’s illness adds a completely new dimension to a character we’ve grown to love over the past two decades. After forsaking his own name and identity, Infinite Wealth shows Kiryu at his lowest; depressed and with nothing to live for. He’s always been stoic, but here, he’s straight up broken, and given the life he’s led and the people he’s lost, it’s no surprise.

In that sense, Kiryu represents the perfect reflection of fellow protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, whose genuine zest and love for life permeates his entire being. He’s rapidly becoming one of, if not the best character RGG Studio have ever created, with his optimism and energetic personality feeling like a breath of fresh air in an industry which favors gruff, emotionless protagonists that players can simply imprint on to. Despite that though, he’s not naive — he’s just a regular guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and will always go the extra mile for his friends. Ichiban’s the most endearing himbo ever made, and of course it’d take a special kind of loveable dumbass like Kasuga to really make Kiryu question himself and the self-destructive path he’s walking.

Alongside them are returning favorite party members like Koichi Adachi, Yu Nanba, Saeko Mukoda and the rest of the gang, though the newcomers like Chitose and Tomizawa more than hold their own too, as their walls are slowly but surely broken down by Kasuga’s unyielding cheerfulness. The only real knock is that the villains feel just a bit too cartoonish in their plans and ambitions, which is saying a lot in a game as ridiculous as this. While one villain has at least some motivation, the other is about as one-dimensionally evil as it gets.

Infinite Wealth
Ayame St.

Even if the story has some occasional misses, particularly towards the end of the game where it tries to resolve everything a bit too quickly, the gameplay is what will keep you engaged throughout Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth’s gargantuan runtime. Infinite Wealth retains the turn-based, job system inspired by the likes of Dragon Quest. Just replace the swords and goblins with steel bats and thugs and you’re about there. Still, RGG Studio has made a number of improvements to the formula that elevate it from its predecessor.

The most immediate new change is the fact that you can actually control your character somewhat during their turn, positioning them within a small circle. It might not sound like that much of an upgrade, but compared to the previous installment, having more control over how your area of effect moves are used is always the better option. It also encourages more teamwork within your party, as you try to essentially bounce enemies off your party like a madcap version of Midnight Suns.

On top of that, there’s a new suite of Tag Team moves that you can unlock by increasing your bond with your party members. Instead of being special skills that require MP to cast, these skills recharge over time, meaning you have more versatility when it comes to the tools available to you in a fight while not discouraging players too much from going all out. It’s a much smaller change compared to movement, but one that helps elevate the combat even further.

Infinite Wealth
Infinite Wealth

What’s most surprising is how well Kiryu has made the transition over to the turn-based RPG format, though maybe that’s because RGG Studio have seemingly made the conscious decision to turn Kiryu into the most overpowered turn-based RPG character ever made. His Brawler, Beast and Rush fighting styles have made a return, each offering their own characteristics and attacks, but the highlight is Dragon Resurrection, which lets him ignore selecting attacks off a menu and just batter goons like the old days. The turn-based combat on its own is still fantastic, but it’s extremely cathartic to just let loose every now and then.

If the story and combat isn’t enough to keep you occupied, there’s the usual collection of minigames and additional content to sink your teeth into, and Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth’s minigames are arguably the franchise’s most ambitious. Sujimon has been upgraded to become a fully-fledged Pokémon homage, as you catch various Sujimon to do battle with other trainers across Hawaii, and while it could have just been a simple copy and paste job, Sujimon’s novel approach to 3v3 combat gives it at least some staying power.

Meanwhile, Dondoko Island is Like A Dragon’s answer to games like Animal Crossing and the whole cozy gaming genre. Ichiban travels to a separate island to help a plucky group of underdogs revive their failing resort. In order to do so, you’ll gather materials, craft new items, catch the occasional fish or bug, and use your baseball bat to crack the skulls of some pirates. It wouldn’t be Like A Dragon related if there wasn’t some kind of combat, after all.

Infinite Wealth
Infinite Wealth

As Like A Dragon mini-games go, Dondoko Island is like a completely different game, with its own UI, objectives and gameplay style, but the mode is perhaps a bit too limited to hold player’s attention after you’ve achieved a 5-star rating. There’s no terraforming, and you can only visit a ghost version of someone’s island, instead of hanging out together on each other’s islands, though you can have a Sujimon fight against the Island owner’s selected party, which is a nice feature.

Most disappointingly of all is the fact you can’t actually use any of the items you build and place on the island. While it’s also true of Animal Crossing that you can’t use the arcade machines or other objects you place, a lot of the items you place on your resort are actually usable in the main game. It would be nice to actually use them on Dondoko Island too, as it would help make the island feel like an actual resort rather than just a random string of buildings and items you place to “make number go up”.

Even if there’s some minor issues with parts of the overall package, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is still a definite high point in this long-running series, and yet more proof that Ichiban’s new breed of RPG hero is what’s going to take the series forward in the next few years. Kiryu might have carried the series for a decade and a half, and the reverence he’s given for what could be his last proper ride adds to the emotion ever further, but we’re most excited for what Ichiban and his party get up to next.

A PS5 key was provided by PR

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YLAD Infinite Wealth
Verdict
Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth sun-baked adventure expertly improves on the last game’s formula, while giving enough space for both of its leading Dragons to truly shine.
9