The latest from this much-loved gangster video game line-up takes the series into a bold new direction
If you have not experienced the Yakuza series yet, I highly recommend you put down this review right now and go get yourself Yakuza 0. Actually, please don’t put this review down. But you will be missing out on something special if you have not played the previous games. For the Yakuza series has intricate storylines with memorable characters and deadly combat. With the retirement of long-time hero, Kazuma Kiryu, the next protagonist has some big shoes to fill.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
- Publisher: Sega
- Price: ₹3,499 on PlayStation 4
‘Greatest hits compilation’
Ichiban Kasuga, the latest hero of Yakuza, is fresh out of an 18-year prison sentence. After taking the fall for a crime he did not commit, he emerges to find his family in shambles. He bands together with outcasts like himself to navigate the treacherous underworld with feuding families. The story sort of plays out like a Yakuza greatest hits compilation. Everything feels familiar. While that is entertaining, it is also slightly inconsistent in its narrative at times.
Where Kiryu had a brooded look, Kasuga, with his funky hairdo, is instantly loveable. Your other party members include a disgraced cop, a homeless nurse and a manager of a hostess bar. The story is meaty as you dive deeper into the characters’ lives and stories.
The places in Yakuza is as important as its characters. Like a Dragon takes you away from the seedy alleys of Tokyo’s Kamurocho and into the seedy alleys of Yokohama’s Isezaki Inincho. Yokohama is a district that is a lot more vibrant with much more things to do. This being a Yakuza game, there are mini games around every corner.
It is complete with crazy characters and crazier quests. The irreverent comedy balances the heavy crime melodrama.
While the story is largely what you would expect from a Yakuza game, it is the combat that is more noteworthy. Going from a real-time beat-em-up to a turn-based RPG may seem unfitting. Yet it works perfectly, letting you pull off some outrageous moves with weird weapons like ashtrays or doing flashy team attacks. The fighting is hilarious and engaging, with menus that will remind you of Persona 5.
The turn-based combat adds another layer of strategy, which this game never knew it needed. You can now choose your characters’ jobs. You can be ‘Hero’ or pop music performing ‘Idol’; each job equips the characters with different traits and each is more suited to a particular character than others. It is fun to experiment and mix and match these jobs.
One of the downsides of Like a Dragon is that some points, especially towards the end, slows down. With very high-level enemies and bosses, you are forced to fight for cash just to stand a chance. All the hard-earned momentum just comes to a grinding halt. While the game tries to keep things fun, it does feel like a chore at points.
Despite that, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an excellent addition to the series. It is nowhere close to Yakuza 0, but still a great experiment. With memorable characters, excellent story, it is a lot better and addictive, despite the action being turn-based.
Also, this game is for adults only; set in a seedy part of town, many of the mini games, attacks and bosses veer into risqué humour territory.
The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel