Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an ode to the RPG’s of yesterday, while also moving the series in a bold and exciting new direction.
Developer – Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios
Publisher – Sega
Platforms – PlayStation 4|5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
At long last we take a look at Ryu Ga Gotoku’s newest RPG, Yakuza: Like a Dragon. That’s correct, not action RPG. Not action game with RPG elements. Like a Dragon is now a full blown turn based RPG.
Like a Dragon right away captivates with how it looks. The art style calls back to the golden age of JRPG’s. However, it maintains the fantastic and realistic look the Yakuza franchise is known for. The style is a superb blend of real with the fantastical. Realistic character models surfing a giant lobster or getting attacked by a knife using t.v cook, and as absurd as the visuals get it always fits.
The combined look of real with the absurd, gives it a fresh look that separates it from the huge amount of titles based on this franchise. The style goes beyond how it looks, every single character and class has a distinct look, the new region is unique and special attacks fill up the screen and are fun to discover and use.
All of the music gets the same treatment the visuals do. A rich, sweeping score pays homage to the golden era of JRPG’s the game is inspired by, notably Dragon Quest.
The sound effects, voice over, and battle themes are all incredible and varied. From the first fight and into the hundredth you won’t tire of the music.
The reason why the visuals and sound are so important is because of the game that lies beneath. A substandard effort for either one of those two would do a disservice to the story they work with. Like a Dragon is a game that features different playable characters. Each one with their own name, story, profession, and motivation.
You can start the game with new series protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga. The story is told through chapters and the game features an excellent in game journal. At anytime you can use the journal to catch up with stories or watch cut-scenes at anytime, making sure you never get confused or lost along the way.
Keeping the story moving, is the combat system. The combat system is very much the core of any JRPG and how you progress and carry out combat goes a long way to making the game feel fresh and exciting, or dull and sleep inducing.
Like a Dragon has a few mechanics to keep it fresh. At first glance the combat appears to be a throwback in every single way. Run around and soon enough a screen transition will have your party on one side and the enemy on the other. Like many things in in this game, it seems old school on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you find more than the obvious layered into every facet of its design.
Buffs and debuffs can and will make or break fights. Even regular battles while you’re running from place to place benefit from this system and the various classes the game features. All those skills will be needed because the game is largely combat heavy. Dungeons are largely straight forward with very little puzzle solving if any, and are mostly just combat trials.
Outside of the very repetitive structure for the main story, and the combat heavy nature of the games core design, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a fantastic experience.
Rich story, great characters, top notch sound and visual design complement the complete shift to turn based combat. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an ode to the RPG’s of yesterday, while also moving the series in a bold and exciting new direction.