Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review – Addictive Insanity

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Review - Addictive Insanity

“Fuck it, it’s fun.”

That seems to be the overriding design philosophy for the entirety of the Like a Dragon (aka Yakuza) franchise. There has never been a need to justify the inclusion of any particular gameplay mechanic, story beat or side mission, the fact it was enjoyable was enough for the development team. Continuity and logic be damned. Never has that design philosophy been more evident than in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth and as a result, long-term fans are going to be absolutely delighted and it even leaves room for new players to join in on the fun.

Infinite Wealth kicks off a short time after the events of Yakuza 7. Ichiban has a job at a local employment agency and he is helping ex-Yakuza members find work in a society that doesn’t want anything to do with them. Before long, however, a tabloid YouTube channel begins spreading lies about him and he finds himself out of work and accepting a job from an old Yakuza enemy to head to Hawaii and find his birth mother. From there none other than the Dojima Dragon himself, Kiryu Kazama shows up and the crazy really takes hold. In grand Yakuza tradition, it is very much a “soap” style story, but it is told with confidence, great writing, and excellent voice work so that style of story suits. There are reoccurring themes of friendship, asking for help, and not taking everything on yourself, something that clashes with the Kiryu we know and love and is something of a new angle for the IP. It is the sort of story that fans will lap up and as expected goes through a series of twists and turns worthy of the franchise.

Just like Yazkuza 7, Infinite Wealth is a turn-based RPG as opposed to the beat-em-up combat of the original games. It takes the foundation set out in 7 and improves upon it in just about every way. Positioning in combat is now much more important. Each character has a circular area they can move in before committing to their action and using this area can be key in certain battles. Positioning near other team members can create combo attacks that do extra damage, moving near items in the world allows players to use those items as weapons and forcing enemies into walls with knockback attacks adds bonus hits. It all adds an extra layer of strategy to proceedings. It is no longer just about the type of attack or action you choose, but where you start it and who is around you when you do. It worked beautifully and entertained for the entire game. The job system is also back, with some new Hawaii-focused jobs that will see characters performing fire dances, hitting enemies with tuna and zapping baddies with car batteries. It is still a blast to switch jobs on the fly and try out all of the new abilities and specials. 

The biggest issue from Yakuza 7 was easily the difficulty walls that popped up a couple of times. You would be cruising through the story with no issues when all of a sudden you would hit a battle that was intended for a player 10 levels above yours, forcing players to grind levels to continue the story. This has been completely resolved in Infinite Wealth. Not once in my 60-odd hours did I get to the point of needing to grind to continue the story, just engaging in the world in what I would imagine is a pretty average way had me levelling up at a pace that kept me in line with the story. The game also signposts difficult encounters, letting players know the recommended level and equipment before starting, avoiding the issues of the first game. In all, it is a much smoother progression and never did I feel frustrated during a battle because I was under-levelled. 

Another great new feature that reduces frustration is the “smackdown” action. This allows battles against enemies 10 levels or more below your character to be resolved with one button press. The enemies are instantly defeated without the player taking damage and all the loot is still collected. It is a nice way to avoid boring and unchallenging battles as players run around the map doing side activities, jobs and chasing ingredients. As a long-time player of the franchise, I can easily see where the efforts have gone into minimalising friction for players. Those new to the series will not even notice, but old heads will certainly appreciate the work that has gone into it. 

The reduction of busy work over the map is fantastic because not only is there the brand new, massive Hawaii map to explore, but Ijincho and Kamurocho have returned, giving players three fully-fleshed out areas to explore and engage with. All the eateries, arcades and batting cages are there as always and there are tonnes of side missions and extra activities to explore. There are also two side activities that could almost be whole games on their own. The first is Sujimon, which is a blatant Pokemon clone. As you defeat enemies, you have the opportunity to catch them, train them and then battle them against other Sujimon collectors. There is a whole side story, with multiple missions and stages all built around this premise and it was an absolute blast. The second mode, if anything, was even more addictive. Dondoko Island is a straight-up Animal Crossing copy that sees Ichiban try to restore a resort to its former 5-star glory.  This is achieved through collecting resources, building new attractions, cleaning up rubbish and (considering it is a Yakuza game) hitting baddies with a baseball bat. I could have spent so much time here, but I had to force myself to leave it behind for the sake of finishing the review. 

The final piece of side content worth mentioning is the dungeons. There are two dungeons, each with multiple difficulty levels that can be tackled. Each difficulty level consists of 10 stages and two boss fights and these are a great way to level up both characters and their jobs, try out new abilities and collect rare crafting ingredients. They are not strictly necessary parts of the game, but I would strongly suggest players go through both dungeons at least once, it is a fantastic way to get a feel for both the team and their individual abilities. 

As I said earlier, Infinite Wealth took me about 60 hours to finish and that could have been much, much longer had I not had to push through to review it. Usually, this sort of length is too much for me and it is the rarest of games that I don’t feel like I just want it to end after this much time. Midnight Suns and The Witcher 3 are about the only two games I can think of that I didn’t want to end. You can now add Infinite Wealth to that list. Not only is it chock full of content, but it is chock full of engaging content. The writing is such that every conversation is enjoyable, almost every side-activity is worth doing and just wandering the world can lead to amazing encounters that could be easily missed. The new Hawaii map is perhaps a little large, easily being the biggest map in the franchise and as a result, can feel a little empty at times when compared to the other two locations, but that really is a minor niggle.

A more serious issue has to be mentioned, however. There is always some inherent culture shock with these games. What is acceptable in Japan is often frowned upon here in the West and as a result, there are activities and side quests that can make Western audiences uncomfortable. In Infinite Wealth there is a dating app mini-game that essentially sees Ichiban tricking women into going on a date with him. Even though this is played off as a joke, with each date resulting in Ichiban being catfished, it still felt off and a little predatory to me. Luckily, as is the case with most of these side activities, players only have to engage with it once and then can happily ignore it. 

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth has taken the solid foundation of Yakuza 7 and refined it to the point where I can safely say that this is one of the best, if not the best, JRPGs I have ever played. The writing is somehow both absurd and emotional, the story is high soap drama of the highest order and the gameplay is addictive and engaging. The problems of Yakuza 7 have all been ironed out and the new additions are all welcome. This is really the best case scenario for a sequel and it is heartening to see that the devs took note of what the community was saying. There are always the inherent culture shock issues associated with this franchise, but otherwise, it is a pretty flawless experience. I don’t expect this to be a Game of the Year winner at the big shows, but it could very well be my favourite title of 2024. I had a blast and if you have a love for great tactics and sublimely ridiculous writing, I am sure you will too. 

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by Five Star Games Australia. 

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