On paper, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth has everything I could possibly ask for in a game from RGG Studio: Kasuga Ichiban from the 2020 RPG Yakuza: Like A Dragon co-leading with series legend Kazuma Kiryu–two characters I love dearly fighting alongside one of the most memorable supporting casts in recent years. It’s the best of both Yakuza worlds coming together for a story about life, legacy, and the daunting realities of the world we live in–but, more than anything, atonement and the various forms it can take. It also comes with greatly improved RPG systems that nail the tactical joy of turn-based combat while upholding Yakuza’s identity in remarkable ways. And in splitting its time in Hawaii with Yokohama, you get two robust and detailed locations to explore new and old ideas through the biggest suite of side activities the series has had thus far.
For all its comedic absurdity and optional diversions, Infinite Wealth brings its heavier themes into focus–at times–with the kind of dramatic storytelling the franchise has mastered over the years. It’s unfortunate to say, however, that the main story loses the thread along the way. By putting unearned emphasis on its least interesting aspects and meandering for much of its runtime, the compelling narrative ambitions it sets up are largely left unfulfilled. That’s tough to grapple with for what’s supposed to be a monumental passing of the torch between the two beloved leads and one last hurrah for one whose life we’ve seen unfold across nearly two decades’ worth of games. And so, instead, Infinite Wealth becomes a game about individual moments–moments of bittersweet reflection, moments of heartfelt camaraderie, and moments of hype that uplift legendary characters even higher. These are moments that remind you the Yakuza franchise is much bigger than any one game. Even when Infinite Wealth’s overarching plotline comes up short in crucial ways, those moments still make it worth playing.
Things kick off with a strong opening that puts the realities of normal adult life front and center, almost as if RGG held a mirror up to my face and made a prologue chapter based on some of the things I’ve been through. More than just being real and relevant to the average person, this also tees up a powerful theme about the struggles of reintegrating with society after a life of crime, which has frequently been explored in the series from different perspectives. In Infinite Wealth, the theme is used to show Ichiban’s struggles, as someone who embodies everything good about being the naive goofball with fists of iron and a heart of gold, and as a person driven by the ideals established in his previous game. Furthermore, the recurring theme of public opinion and internet virality dictating reality sharply foreshadows how Infinite Wealth steeps itself in modern social commentary.
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