Yakuza is a storied franchise that keeps on giving. Each installment in the series leading to 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon has offered something new and innovative, along with consistently satisfying expansions to the evergrowing story of main characters Kazuma Kiryu and Ichiban Kasuga.
I’m glad to say that after a hands-on preview of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the trend continues. There is almost too much here for Yakuza fans, both new and old, to sink their teeth in and enjoy. This latest entry features a fusion of the series’ original beat-em-up and current turn-based roleplaying style, an island-building mode, and even more charm than ever.
With all this present and more, I’ve found that the title Infinite Wealth might just describe everything the game offers and how long it may last. Read on for a few highlights revealed during my gameplay session.
Get your walking shoes (and segways) ready
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the first title in the Yakuza series to take our favorite motley crew out of Japan and into new territory. Kasuga and Kiryu’s missions lead them to this new location: Honolulu, Hawaii, where they decide to team up.
Not only is this locale full of many new sights, sounds, allies, and enemies, but it is the most extensive map ever featured in the Yakuza series. It was so large that during my hours of playing, I wasn’t even able to explore even half the map. There’s no dead air to be found here. Enemies, missions, activities, and lively characters surround each corner. The only decision you have to make is what to tackle first.
Your friendly neighborhood ex-Yakuza
Personality points are nothing new to Like a Dragon, but Infinite Wealth gives a new way to allow Kasuga to move up the ranks. By being a friendly and outgoing tourist, you can constantly grow friendships with Honolulu’s population and boost your personality levels each time.
All it takes is a simple hello. By pressing square when walking by certain marked NPCs, Kasuga will release a welcoming, Helloooo! and get a good response back. Sometimes, these greetings will even unlock a small task like buying a kid a hot dog, which grants Kasuga a more significant personality increase. These increases unlock extra abilities like more skill slots, enhanced resistance to status ailments, better healing, and more guts. Plus, it’s just charming to make Kasuga into an even nicer guy than he already is.
Being a good tourist isn’t limited to just greeting bystanders. Kasuga and the gang eventually find a tourism company called Alo Happy Tours. Specified for Japanese visitors touring Hawaii, Alo Happy Tours is a place where you can pay to jump into activities like surfing, yoga, and fire dancing. But these vacation sessions aren’t just for fun.
Each new skill learned through Happy Tours leads the party to unlock a new job and fighting style. For example, learning to fire dance unlocks an attacking mage style, learning to host gives access to a buffing support job, and learning to be a pop idol lets characters heal and cure allies. And there are so many activities and styles to learn that it felt nearly endless. Not to mention the amount of party combos you can come up with.
Past wishes fulfilled
Kasuga isn’t the only one with a new way to unlock abilities through means other than fighting or the usual activities. Kiryu’s new ailment and decision to not get treatment have put his life on a clock. With his new friends Seong-Hui and Yu Nanba, he’s decided not to let it go to waste and tackle a bucket list before he checks out.
This bucket list isn’t just a plot element, but a gameplay mechanic. Kiryu can awaken his soul (Brawler fighting style), tech (Rush fighting style), and body (Beast fighting style) by completing items from this bucket list. Whether it’s a simple fishing trip or tasting some food he’s always wanted to taste like candy, Kiryu’s strength grows by living life to the fullest. I nearly shed a tear when he talked about everything he wanted to do without the fear and need of trying to look cool for people around him.
A game within a game
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To round out the hands-on time with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, I visited Dondoko Island, which can be best described as an entirely different game within Infinite Wealth. This island build and curation segment of the title tasks Kasuga with going around an island on the verge of obscurity. Being the nice guy he is, he decides to take matters into his own hands, helping its owner clean up trash, build new attractions, and bring visitors and life back to Dondoko.
If you’ve ever played a building simulator, then you know what you’re in for here. As soon as this mode started, I was hooked. Walking around and decorating the island in my own style, gathering supplies to create new items, catching fish and bugs, and fending off enemies were some of the most addicting elements I was exposed to so far in Infinite Wealth. And the fact that we’ll be able to visit the islands of other players makes the whole thing even more exciting. I’m just scared that my life might become absorbed by this mode so much that I won’t even finish the RPG side of the game.
Join Kasuga and Kiryu’s variety-packed trip to Hawaii when Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth drops on PS5 January 26.