Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is ridiculously entertaining

Do you like Yakuza, or Like A Dragon now, despite everyone pretty much clinging onto the Yakuza title as though it was RGG Studio’s Twitter? If the answer’s yes, then Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is more than eager to bring that same zany energy that has made it so beloved since the series first appeared in the early 2000s.

Sitting down with the game at EGX 2023 at the London ExCel, one of the first things that stands out about the game is its new setting. Honolulu, Hawaii, looks exactly like the pictures – which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your perspective. 

It also serves as the backdrop for a brand new story following Ichiban and the gang as they look for Ichiban’s mother. The demo starts after Ichiban gets off the plane, and is reunited with a new group of friends: Tomizawa, Chitose, and Kiryu. Together, they’re after a corrupt cop named Roman, the fella who put Ichiban in cuffs sometime before the demo’s events. 

Before heading off to deal with that, though, I decided to stick around and explore Hawaii. After all, with a new setting comes new activities. 

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Image Source: RGG Studio

The first is Crazy Delivery, a fast-paced mini-game with Ichiban racing on his bike to collect individual food pieces (think pizza slices, burgers, etc) while pulling off some sick tricks. The more tricks you do, the better tips you get from the various people you deliver to. None of these tricks are particularly inspired, but that doesn’t matter because the energy is infectious, and let’s be real: what other mini-game is allowing you to cycle up the walls and blast off like a rocket ship? None, I tell you. 

Another activity is Sicko Snap, which is exactly what it sounds like. That is, if it sounds like a side activity with Ichiban sitting in a trolley cart, taking pictures of gyrating perverts in leotards. The aim of the game is that the better your photo, where you can zoom in and angle the camera, the more points you earn. Simple as that.

It certainly isn’t the first time that the Like A Dragon series has the protagonist going up against lewd people, but it does feel a tad weird that we’re taking these pictures to benefit the cops. Didn’t we just get thrown into jail by one a few scenes ago? Whatever. I’ll try not to think about it.

Of course, if you’re a returning fan of the series, don’t fret: old favourites (and mahjong) have made a return too. Karaoke continues to dominate as a truly fun and interactive experience, with new characters like Tomizawa and Chitose getting their own individual songs, with old classics for Ichiban and Kiryu also being on offer.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Image Source: RGG Studio

And, of course, the return of turn-based combat. A controversial change at the time of Like A Dragon in 2020, it wouldn’t be over the top to say that it’s given the series a new lease of life that actually feels significant. Instead of being stuck in one place, this time around you can position yourself so you can control the battlefield more effectively and increase your damage – depending on who you’re playing anyway. 

There’s also the chance to use tag team moves – combat manoeuvers that give Ichiban and his party the chance to duke it out on the enemy in style. One tag team had Chitose and Ichiban dancing their way to victory, another had Tomizawa and Ichiban pulling off a fancy trick and bringing the pain. 

Kiryu’s return as a party member and a dual protagonist is a breath of somewhat fresh air, even if we really wish RGG would let the poor man retire. His return is particularly poignant for those wanting a return to the classic beat-em-up/brawler combat, having the ability to do just that once you power up his special move. Still, if anyone wanted a complete return to that way of fighting/combat, forget it. Turn-based remains king for the foreseeable future.

What truly excited me to see, though, was the return of Bonds. Ichiban getting to know his team in the previous game always felt extra special, especially when there were activities that allowed you to know small, intimate details about them. It made the group actually feel like a team and if not of a team of friends, at least people who knew enough about one another that it made sense they were together.

Kiryu Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth
Image Source: RGG Studio

This time RGG has ramped it up with Bond Bingo. As you progress throughout the game, and interact with conversation points, Ichiban will discover more about his new companions. For example, my time with the demo had Ichiban discovering Chitose’s deep, burning love for coffee watching. Yep, not drinking, just watching. Bit weird, but we’re not going to judge too deeply. This knowledge unlocked a section in Chitose’s Bond Bingo, with the game hinting that if we unlock all we need to know about Chitose, there may even be a special scene later on…

The Like A Dragon series needed a push in a new direction, and there’s definitely an argument to be found that they got that back in 2020 with Ichiban’s first introduction. Now, however, the series looks to expand further. The only question is, will they be able to do so successfully, all while capturing the spirit and essence that makes the series so beloved in the first place? Only time will tell.

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth launches for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 on January 26, 2024.

About The Author