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Review of Infinite Wealth in Like a Dragon: a joyous vacation for yakuza.
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Review of Infinite Wealth in Like a Dragon: a joyous vacation for yakuza.


If you have ever played a game from the Yakuza or Like a Dragon series, there are some things that you are probably familiar with by now. These games typically involve multiple crime families and require a significant amount of exposition before the player can actually start using the controller. In the case of Infinite Wealth, this is taken to an extreme, as it takes a full five hours before the new location of Hawaii even makes an appearance. During this time, players are introduced to the protagonist Ichiban’s job at the local job center and his lack of experience with dating.

Eventually, the story unfolds. He is tasked with traveling to Hawaii and finding his birth mother, a woman named Akane who was previously thought to be dead. This is the first time for both Ichiban and us as players to explore outside of Japan, which adds to the excitement – discovering a new map and new attractions feels refreshing, and as always, there is plenty to do. “Infinite Wealth” immediately reveals the dark side of Hawaii’s paradise, which Ichiban gets to experience with a brand new party, including former main character Kazuma Kiryu. The streets are filled with encounters, and instead of Ichiban’s imagination turning random gangsters into JRPG-like monsters, this time the enemies are mostly just typical annoyances found in a big city – surfer bros who attack with beer, and hooligans trying out their capoeira moves on you. It’s a noticeable regression in enemy design.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

The main villains in the story are not very interesting, except for Yamai who is always cold and shows up at inconvenient times. While the story takes us to poverty-stricken areas and secret operations, it is more focused on portraying a vacation in Hawaii rather than building suspense. It tries to paint a contrast between Hawaii and Japan, where crime is polite and organized, but it’s unclear why. The intensity picks up halfway through when the player takes control of Kiryu, who has been portrayed as a dramatic character until now. As a fan of Ichiban, I can’t help but feel that Kiryu’s character is not given enough justice, even though the series seems to keep him around.

The turn-based combat in the previous game remains largely unchanged, but some minor adjustments have greatly improved the overall experience. For example, it is now easier to pick up and use items during a fight, and attacks can no longer be interrupted by random enemies. Additionally, Infinite Wealth has introduced a feature that allows players to hit multiple enemies with one attack and follow up with additional attacks, making strategic planning more efficient and battles shorter. However, on the default difficulty setting, combat may still feel too easy. In fact, in my playthrough of LAD, I rarely found the need to use the Poundmates summoning system. Furthermore, the difficulty in accumulating large sums of money in Hawaii can be discouraging.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

The implementation of the job system is delayed, causing new fighting techniques like the aquanaut’s surfboard or the hula dancer to feel like mere add-ons for diversity. The restriction of changing jobs only at certain locations in Infinite Wealth further diminishes the appeal of the job system, which is unfortunate because watching your party wield a giant frozen tuna in battle is certainly entertaining.

I have not enjoyed a group of side stories as much as I did this one since Yakuza 6. Not all of them inevitably result in a fight (there is a particularly impressive one where Ichiban avoids cars on a highway on foot), and you also experience heartwarming moments and complex stories that take you all over the city. This time, it feels like these stories help you better understand Ichiban’s character – in the past, he would simply accept every mission because that’s what a “hero” does, but now he forms genuine connections with the people he meets. The same can be said for his relationships with his party members. The city is filled with conversations specific to each character, which you can initiate to learn more about your new friends, who I grew to love as a result. While LAD introduced Ichiban, Infinite Wealth truly allows him to shine.

The mini-games in this game are excellent once again. Unlike previous versions, the focus is not on karaoke or the emulated Sega arcade games, which are still part of the experience. Instead, players can take on the role of a delivery driver and earn tips for stunts, try a dating app, organize Pokémon-style fights between criminals, or immerse themselves in a riff on Animal Crossing: New Horizons where they can decorate an island with rusty bicycles and cabaret clubs.

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Infinite Wealth takes a few curious steps backward, but it gets so much right and once again dedicates itself to goofiness with such aplomb that it’s impossible not to get swept up in it – a true vacation from the darkness and drama of yakuza life.

Source: theguardian.com