Kiryu Kazuma and Kasuga Ichiban are two sides of the same Like a Dragon coin. Their personalities could not be more different — Kiryu, a world-weary lone wolf, and Kasuga, a Dragon Quest-loving golden retriever — but they live by a similar code of ethics and share a similar past, both locked up for crimes they didn’t commit to help out their yakuza families. It was a bummer that Kiryu didn’t stick around longer when he came around in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The two men would sure as hell have a lot to talk about.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth finally brings the two mainline protagonists together for an ultra-compelling and sprawling game that lives up to its subtitle. The three-and-a-half-ish hours I spent roaming Honolulu and Yokohama, sprucing up the trashed Dondoko Island, and battling a Megalodon-sized shark felt like a drop in the Pacific Ocean in terms of the game’s scope. And that’s just speaking to the gameplay. Having both Kasuga and Kiryu as playable protagonists place the story on a broad emotional spectrum that plays to the strengths of each character’s worldview: Kasuga and his ridiculousness, Kiryu and his legacy of struggle. It’s a great balance between the past and future of the Like a Dragon franchise.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Jobs
Over in Honolulu, Kasuga and his pals are out searching for his mother once thought dead. The map here is something to behold. It’s Ryu Ga Gotoku’s biggest-ever area for the series, beautifully designed, and the amount of detail put into it is staggering to take in. More restaurants, shops, minigames, and substories are available, and locations to unlock bond conversations with Kasuga’s teammates are now conveniently marked. A bigger map also means more transportation options. Aside from the taxi stands, trolley lines are all around Honolulu, which is a more relaxed option to take in the sights and have conversations with Kasuga’s teammates. Lastly, Kasuga acquires a rechargeable Segway through an appropriately ridiculous substory, which is, of course, much faster than running around on foot, less rigid than the set locations of trolleys and cabs, and extremely goofy-looking. All around, a net positive.
Infinite Wealth also carries on the same turn-based combat as Yakuza: Like a Dragon. It either works for you or it doesn’t — I’m in the former camp — and the studio has made definite improvements to that system so that I felt more engaged and had more ways to act strategically. It seems simple, but having a circle in which to move around gives a real advantage when it comes to actions like utilizing nearby objects as weapons or sneaking behind an enemy to perform a powerful back attack. The command interface has also been improved (and Persona-fied). Tag Team moves are no longer hidden in skill lists but shown directly next to the command menu. Maybe the best improvement in this category is an easier way to avoid fighting. In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I always got a little annoyed when I got tangled up with some of the street freaks when I was just trying to get from one place to another, especially if they were so many levels below me that the experience points from defeating them would be negligible. In Infinite Wealth, enemies are now color coded by strength, and they’re less sensitive to me running by.
I can say so much more about just hanging out in Honolulu — All my new friends! The abundance of job changes! Swimming in the ocean! — but then this would go on for an hour. Instead, I’ll just say that Hawaii is a blast, filled with hidden gems and a fantastic sense of humor.
Next, I was ported over to Dondoko Island, which many people have already called, rightfully, Like a Dragon’s Animal Crossing. The garbage-filled landmass gets Kasuga as its one-man cleanup crew with the goal of building it up into a five-star resort. Aside from the more violent spearfishing, the mechanics of picking up shells and netting bugs is pretty much identical to Animal Crossing, and time also similarly passes. Kasuga has a cozy house to decorate, he can buy junk from the island’s general store, and he can craft new items by acquiring resources like wood and stone. But, in true Like a Dragon fashion, even the serene Dondoko Island isn’t immune to a little fighting here and there. It’s the one place where the game turns back into an action brawler to take out pirates and other threats. All in all, it’s a nice break from the main storyline and could legitimately be its own standalone game that the cozy gamers might sink 300 hours into without batting an eye.
Jumping over to Yokohama, Kiryu’s point of view begins and the tone of the storyline turns significantly more melancholy and existential. Kiryu has cancer, and his new buddies in Kasuga’s old squad encourage him to write a bucket list of things he wants to do before he dies. At the top of the list is, yes, karaoke. On top of those tasks, the map is littered with callouts to take nostalgia trips that replay key parts of Kiryu’s life. The quick 30-or-so minutes I played in Yokohama felt like the beginning of what would probably serve as a long, bittersweet goodbye to Kiryu.
In many ways, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a watershed moment for franchise. It’s quite likely a final send off for the cancer-stricken underworld legend Kiryu, and the official induction ceremony for Kasuga as Kiryu’s successor in the series moving forward. It’s no surprise, then, that RGG would have put an immense amount of time and effort to make such a massive game that ups the ante on the nearly 20 years of titles that came before it while nailing the balance of silly and serious. I have no reason to believe this game isn’t gonna rule.