Yakuza: Like A Dragon’s Mini-Games Deserve Online Play

Kasuga Worldwide.


This may seem like an odd way to start, but when it comes to devouring media and pop culture, I essentially live my life like the human embodiment of Slowpoke. Sure, there’ll be some media out there that I’ll make sure to be there for on day one, but for the most part, I’m always playing catch-up. For reference, I only started watching Stranger Things a month ago.

It’s pretty good, you know. You should check it out.

Yakuza would typically be a franchise I’d be there for on release, but since SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have been porting their older games and releasing their new ones on Xbox instead of just PlayStation, I’ve been going through the series from start to finish. Two and a half years after Yakuza 0 came to Xbox, I’ve finally managed to start Like A Dragon, and while it takes a while to get used to the overhaul combat system (in between getting run over by cars), it’s been a blast so far.

While the combat and writing of characters like Ichiban and his party members is certainly the highlight, in classic Yakuza fashion, the minigames are also brilliant. Karaoke is as fun as ever, while trying to avoid sleepy sheep as you’re watching films at the cinema is the most absurd yet relatable minigame in gaming history, but the ones that stand out for me are Dragon Kart and Can Collecting.

As the name would imply, Dragon Kart is the Yakuza-ified version of Mario Kart, only replacing red shells and bananas with bazookas and gatling guns. Quite how these ridiculous and over the top weapons are allowed on a race track ostensibly built for kids is anyone’s guess, but you’re also racing against wrestlers, both sumo and professional, former biker gang members, and an assortment of other misfits and weirdos. It’s about as Yakuza as it gets.


Meanwhile, Can Collecting sees Ichiban mount a bicycle, cart strapped to the back, and collecting cans that have been scattered around Yokohama. The goal is to collect as many as possible and make it back to the start in the allotted time, with bonuses for those who hit certain can thresholds. It sounds basic on paper, but what makes the game so compelling is the fact you’re in competition with several AI controlled rivals at the same time, all looking to collect the same cans you are.

It’s these rivals that make me think that the Can Collecting would work as an online multiplayer game. Functionally, it’s not exactly dissimilar to a mini-game from Mario Party, and we all know how much fun that game is with friends. It feels like Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio took the best parts of Nintendo’s multiplayer offerings and loaded them into Like A Dragon’s mini-games, but with no actual multiplayer, it feels like they don’t quite hit their potential.

Obviously, advocating for a lone, multiplayer spin-off for just one Yakuza mini-game feels like a bit much, even if you could add to Can Collecting and Dragon Kart over time with new maps, cosmetics and other items. It’d be a bit of a sparse release, but throw together some other modes like pool, darts, karaoke, the dance battles from Yakuza 0, Pocket Circuit Racing and everything else in Yakuza’s history, and you’ve got an excellent party game worth your attention.

Most Yakuza games have offered modes like this anyway, with Like A Dragon allowing players to enjoy some older arcade games like Virtua Fighter in local play, but there’s room for Yakuza’s home grown mini-games to shine on a bigger stage. If SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are looking for spin-off ideas or ways to keep the Yakuza series going while they develop Yakuza 8/Like A Dragon 2, you can have this one for free, lads.

READ MORE: Attempting To Explain Yakuza’s Appeal Using Psychology

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