Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
January 26, 2024
Ryū Ga Gotoku Studios
Following re-inventing the Yakuza franchise by renaming it to Like a Dragon and also making mainline entries turn-based RPGs, SEGA developer Ryu Ga Gotoko has taken that all one step further. With Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the series has now exited Japan and gone abroad for the first time, also taking place on the sunny streets and sandy shores of Honolulu, Hawaii. With all these changes, you’d be forgiven if you initially considered this new entry as unrecognisable from the rest. Fret not, Infinite Wealth is an incredible, broad and always impressive RPG title, proving the IP is at its peak more than ever.
Once more following Ichiban, the heart-of-gold ex-Yakuza hero who’s most akin to a forty-something year-old Golden Retriever, it truly is good to see him again for the first time since his debut in 2020. His call to adventure this time is to find his mother whom he hasn’t known since being abandoned as an infant. His mission is to finally properly acquaint himself with his kindred, however, that quickly takes a dangerous turn. Many a faction and individuals are after his mother, including local Hawaiian gangs, traditional Japanese and Chinese Mafia, and even a cult. The further you progress, the more you’re entangled in its web of mystery. A VTuber pundit intent on covering social and political issues and drama that might not all be true. The Japanese Government. Original protagonist Kazuma Kiryu too is searching for Akane, Ichiban’s mother. How all of these elements and individuals relate is engaging to uncover, once more providing a thrilling enigma of a story.
Infinite Wealth excellently and eloquently touches on some delicate and tough themes. How much you owe to those who came before you. The value of friendship and so on. The most crucial exploration is the age of misinformation and judgment being often cast by the public eye. These are excellent ideas to explore in-game, as the last game follows Ichiban exiting prison after 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, in turn losing his youth and now having to catch up to the current world. This is a natural next step for that, showing how kindness and good intentions (which we see in Ichiban and co) can be taken advantage of, instead weaponising public anger and outcry. Though this is something you’ve sort of inferred before in the franchise as you see the smaller rung Yakuza treated as doormats or lowly foot soldiers while the evil tippy top thrives, here it’s laid out plain as day but detailed in such a way that emphasises the class-based difficulty some have of escaping a life of crime.
Along for the journey are all the party members you made in the predecessor Yakuza: Like a Dragon, again bouncing well off of Ichiban’s earnest and well-meaning nature. Bonds here can be strengthened further both naturally through the story cutscenes and also in dedicated bonding events to learn even more about some of frankly the best video game side characters of the last few years. Plenty of new threats and even additional party members will arise, including (if English dub is your jam) performances by the likes of Daniel Dae Kim and Machete himself Danny Trejo. A welcome addition and a nice reminder as a longtime fan how much this series has grown. Ichiban’s story is incredibly heartfelt, in some places incredibly more so than his first journey. Where moments will hit like a freight train, however, is in the chapters where Kiryu is the main playable character.
I can confidently say this without feeling like I’m spoiling readers. As unveiled in the original (over-detailed for my liking) extended story trailer, Kiryu has cancer. The Dragon of Dojima, who we’ve spent the most time with and come to know the most out of perhaps any video game protagonist ever, is dying. With months to live. That’s a hard pill to swallow for myself, the number one Kiryu fan. It’s also an effective way of not cheapening his faked death in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, introducing new stakes in a literal ticking clock. Will our hero make it to the end? Of course, I’m not going to spoil that here but what I will say is that Infinite Wealth is not the passing of the torch between the old guard and the new kid on the block type story that I expected it to be.
“Infinite Wealth had me crying for a good little bit… then I was pleasantly side tracked as I was helping a lobster and crab to fall in love.”
Where it does decide to go delighted me, instead exploring how Kiryu and Ichiban are two sides of the same coin. Kiryu, is a man who has lived a hell of a life, good and bad but still answering and doing his best to resolve issues with his previous fellow Yakuza members while he also is a walking candle burning at both ends. Ichiban on the other hand, has seen what’s wrong with what remains of the Yakuza and as a slightly younger, more life-to-live character, also wants to bear that weight of his predecessors, largely due to his noble feelings and debt he feels he owes to his deceased master Masumi Arakawa.
Initially, Kiryu’s story sees him aiding Ichiban in his search for his mother in Honololu, but his pressing health concerns will eventually see him back in Japan, once again wandering the wonderful, magnificent streets of Kamurocho and Ijincho. Whilst Ichiban continues the hunt with Adachi and newcomers Chitose and Tomizawa, the Dragon of Dojima links up with Seonhee, Nanba and Saeko to go on a journey of self-discovery. Kiryu is perhaps one of the most selfless characters in the history of media and with his journeys, you get to take a walk down memory lane and finally stop to smell the roses. Kiryu forms a bucket list of tasks he wants to complete and though the events in Hawaii will every so often draw him away, this is largely how he lives out his time, ticking off your completion list thanks to eatery and arcade visits and therefore filling meters and boosting stats. Located around the maps are spots Kiryu can go and reminisce at, having a dialogue with himself about how that bridge reminds him of one in Sotenbori, how standing in front of Kamurocho’s Millenium Tower reminds him of all the climactic fights he’s had there in previous years.
What will hold the most weight will be in optional events known as ‘Life Links.’ These are introduced to you by police officer, ally and longtime friend Date, one of the only individuals from Kiryu’s past life who knows he’s still around. These are expertly cruel scenes where you’ll be taken to a location where a previous figure in Kiryu’s life will be. Sitting afar or back, Kiryu will listen in as Date catches up with these characters, allowing the player and Kiryu to see how they’ve been doing after all this time and how much they’ve missed the Dragon of Dojima or been impacted by his life. These will stump newcomers but will serve as emotional tugs on the heartstrings of longtime fans, as you see how much of an imprint and impact Kiryu has left, while often being so close he can almost touch the given character. Heartbreaking pay-off and exploration that can only come with a franchise as long-running and filled to the brim with entries as the Yakuza/Like a Dragon name.
“Infinite Wealth excellently and eloquently touches on some delicate and tough themes.”
Making Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth just as much Kiryu’s game as it is Ichiban’s is a nice touch, catering to all types of players. Thankfully, the main story does a relatively okay job at catching newbies up to speed about who some returning faces might be. If all else, events like the Life Links are skippable but if you do engage in them, the reward and pay-off are immeasurable.
What dreams are made of
Exploring Japanese cities in the Yakuza or Like a Dragon series, taking in all the little details such as signage and which convenience store sells what was always one of the best and most immersive things in games. That’s still there when you go to Yokohama or Kamurocho of course, but the immense sense of place doesn’t let up when exploring Honolulu either. It’s their biggest map yet, being three times the size of Yokohama and nine times the size of Kamurocho. However, it’s all laid in such an authentic and gorgeous way that that size is never daunting. Beaches give way to main streets with heavy foot traffic before naturally shifting into alleyways, grungier streets to docks and back to beaches again. I can’t exactly speak to accuracy for Infinite Wealth’s Honolulu. Due to over-tourism concerns cited by locals, I may not ever get to visit the real Hawaii in my lifetime. This offering is the next best thing, watching Ichiban and co take a dip in the crisp blue oceans, seeing the breeze pass the gang by as they ride segways and even saying hello to and befriending locals via a dedicated “Aloha” greeting button.
Scarcely do you find a game this summer-y. Sunny jaunts along a beach can at a moment’s notice take another turn as sunshowers ensue. Enemy types Ichiban collides with will include forms he’s previously taken on but also newer, more summer-themed enemies. Job types that you can assign your party members will also be more fitting into the theme, including the likes of hula dancers labelled ‘Geo Dancers’ and surfers known as ‘Aquanuts.’ Playing Infinite Wealth in the middle of an Australian Summer, cooling off under an air conditioner as I hang out and getting into escapades with Ichiban and the gang…it couldn’t feel more like a perfect pairing.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is perhaps the biggest franchise game we’ve got so far. Largely this is because it is so vested in including more or less everything that has been in prior entries and then some. There’s the vocational school, karaoke, can collection. Returning is of course arcades home to classic and underrated SEGA arcade machines, including the charming 3D brawler SpikeOut which I’ve now fallen in love with. They’ve also fit their own spin on pre-existing games. Sujimon League sees you collecting previously battled enemies known as ‘Sujimon’ and then taking on other trainers around the map, even engaging in the equivalent of a series of Pokémon gyms as part of a storyline. A Crazy Taxi-style food delivery minigame known as Crazy Eats, a Pokemon Snap-esque photography game called Sicko Snap… the list goes on and the well is deep. Last but certainly not least is a minigame named Miss Match which sees Ichiban engaging in QTEs and dialogue choices to nab a date on a dating site to hilarious results. As someone who is often daunted by game sizes, finding many outstay their welcome, I still found that all the little nuggets of activities and fun to be had are gold.
What became a welcome time sink for me and likely will be for others is the Dondoko Island side game. Historically the Yakuza/Like a Dragon games have often had a gigantic game within a given entry that could very well stand out in its own right. In the past we’ve had the simulation of running a business start-up to become a billion-dollar company, we’ve even been posited as the manager of a Cabaret business. Now, we’re doing a tantalising fusion of all that management, restoring a previously abandoned resort island to its former glory in Animal Crossing fashion. This is what’s known as Dondoko Island and it’s become my everything, spending any waking moment not playing it absent-mindedly brainstorming how I can better streamline my island for its guests and gather more revenue.
The primary goal of Dondoko Island is to gradually become a five-star resort once more, welcoming in the most illustrious guests and rolling in the money. However, there’s room for the enjoyable menial tasks you’d find from its inspirations; daily tasks, fishing, bug catching, chatting with the locals, unlocking further wings and areas of your island, engaging with shopkeeps and destroying rocks, junk, trees and the like in the hunt of more resources. Self-expressionism opportunities are aplenty with bountiful amounts of furniture and craftable buildings to be placed on your island. This will bolster the island’s livability and guest satisfaction. Yes, you can cheese it and spam highly-rated pieces of furniture everywhere in Ichiban’s hut and the island to garner these requirements quickly, but where’s the fun in that? Live a little. Make your island pretty. You’ll certainly need it if you don’t want to be embarrassed when you pop your island up online, making it eligible to be explored by other players.
Before long you’ll unlock the additional farm for your island, where you can set up and automate resource pipelines to well and truly fuel your progress even when you’re not actively working on the island. Here you can leave your Sujimon that you’ve collected at a spot to train and level up significantly, or you assign others to gather crops and the like. This only scratches the surface of the ways Infinite Wealth feeds into other mechanics in the game. Maybe you’ll engage in a good bonding event with one of your party members therefore unlocking their special combat ability. Perhaps you’ll level up your social stats by going to the Vocational School and undergoing quizzes, then making your stat higher so you can pass the occasional stat check required to recruit that random passerby in Honolulu to visit your island. Infinite Wealth is one deep RPG, always helping you be self-sufficient.
I have always admired the franchise’s ability to just deliver the most heartbreaking story beat you’ve ever experienced in a video game and then you can jump into side mission substories for a palate cleanser. One particular story moment in Infinite Wealth had me crying for a good little bit afterward, then I was pleasantly sidetracked as I was helping a lobster and crab to fall in love. I could experience a pivotal moment in the plot where I experience a betrayal or learn someone’s true intentions in the narrative… only to then go hunting for UFOs in another substory.
I already thoroughly enjoy substories in the Yakuza and Like a Dragon games, but it was in Infinite Wealth that I felt truly motivated and rewarded by doing each and every one. Yes, you’re going on silly escapades like even helping a kid run a lemonade stand or being wait staff at a busy restaurant, but then there are also literal continuations and closure of substories introduced in previous games. I’m genuinely happy when I see the crazy scientist that looks like the Doc from Back To The Future, returning once again to show us what new business ventures he’s up to with his giant robo-vaccuum cleaner. I’m oddly heart warmed when the clan of adult Yakuza men wearing diapers appear, aiding in, believe it or not, an emotional story where they help a depressed husband fulfill his dying wife’s final wish.
At the time of writing, I have about 80 hours on the clock for Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The title lives up to its name, with still plenty for me to do. I don’t exactly know what the ratio of that time is between story and side content, but it doesn’t matter. Everything in the game is just amazing and enthralling.
The top of its game
I’ll be the first to admit that when the series was first announced to be going turn-based, I had my doubts. Of course, Yakuza: Like a Dragon blew those worries out of the water. Infinite Wealth however further cements that confidence and new direction, making the turn-based battles the best they’ve ever been. Whoever’s turn it is now has a radial circle surrounding them, meaning there’s some movement that can be done in a given turn rather than just the prior option of convenient placement of your party members being all down to chance. This is a fantastic addition and means of lining up all your ducks in a row, maximising damage and impact on a given turn. Like the game’s predecessor, melee attacks more often than not do a knockback effect. Now an arrow indicates where exactly that knockback will occur, allowing for you to then strategise where you want them to go. Is it into a wall to add damage to that one particular guy? Is it to a teammate for a follow-up alley-oop hit? Or do you knock them into another enemy to see a group topple like dominos? This is entirely up to you but the result is always punchy and fun.
Turn-based combat is never slow. Especially when there are so many bits and pieces under the hood meeting your every need. Pound Mates, the equivalent of summons that you can call in for devastating damage or much-needed healing returns and is always a delight with the way their cutscenes are animated. Filling a gauge will mean a character can do their ultimate ability attack with either Ichiban or Kiryu depending on who is currently the party leader. If you find yourself missing the classic turn-based combat, Kiryu can undergo their ‘Dragon’s Resurgence’ ultimate where they quite literally break out of turn-based fashion and can wail on enemies in real time for a brief window.
Jobs are more plentiful than ever. Each character has their own unique job again, including my personal favourite being Tomizawa’s Cabbie job which sees him throwing tyres at foes or even electrocuting them with a spark plug. Plenty of flair is provided for each and every ability you use, watching your party members almost dance around the battlefield as they go about taking down baddies. Kiryu’s exclusive job is the Dragon of Dojima, with several stance changes that can make each turn’s standard attack different. The brawler stance can allow him to engage in his classic Heat Actions. Meanwhile Rush allows for multiple quick attacks in a turn while Sledgehammer is all about being able to grab enemies and objects and throw them around.
My beef with the jobs is that though they are all effective in battle, the women party members’ jobs leave a lot more to be desired than the men’s. The men’s jobs include Hero (Ichiban exclusive), Dragon of Dojima (Kiryu exclusive), Cabbie (Tomizawa exclusive), Homeless Guy (Nanba exclusive), Detective (Adachi exclusive), Hitman (Joonghi exclusive), Mafia (Zhao exclusive), Samurai, Aquanut, Desperado (a gunslinger-esque cowboy class), Host and Geodancer. The women are Heiress (Chitose), Barmaid (Saeko), Assassin (Seonhee), Night Queen (a dominatrix class), Kunoichi and Geodancer. If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re not alone. The female jobs are incredibly more sexualised and gendered, with the most badass and less problematic of all being Assassin, a role not too dissimilar but inferior to both Hitman and Mafia. It’s entirely jarring and disappointing to see these types of jobs when on all other accounts the characterisation of the female cast is better than it’s ever been in the main story. I love this franchise, but I wish it’d grow out of this.
There are at least a baker’s dozen Yakuza/Like a Dragon games you can play on the current generation of consoles and PC. These were all released within the 18 years of the series’ existence. That lends itself to a lot of franchise iteration. It shows in Infinite Wealth, being the tidiest and most full of quality of life touches that we’ve had yet. For instance, the running into battles every two minutes when you’re trying to get somewhere important is gone because, if you’re significantly over the level of the group of enemies, a quick button prompt will end that fight immediately, netting you the XP and money without having to take a turn.
The Segway genuinely makes quick work of getting across a map. You no longer have to walk up to a cab and use it to fast-travel to another cab stop spot; instead, you can just pull up your map and click on the cab stop you’d like to go to and be taken there in a zip. Lastly, those songs from other SEGA games you collect in shopfronts can also be played off of Ichiban and Kiryu’s phone, instead of having to go to a bar or hangout spot with a jukebox and strictly listen to it there. I can run around the streets of Honolulu and Kamurocho while Sonic Adventure‘s theme song ‘Open Your Heart’ plays. The future is now.
- A fantastic new Ichiban-led story AND incredible emotional pay-off for Kiryu's story portions
- Honolulu is just as memorable and picturesque to explore as Japanese city offerings
- Dondoko Island is so unbelievably addicting
- Substories uniquely paying off from prior games
- Turn-based combat, exploration and grind are full of meaningful quality of life additions
- Jobs for the women are more gendered and sexualised than the men
Taking the franchise to new heights and new locales, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the pinnacle of the longstanding franchise. The game magnificently pulls off the difficult task of giving new and loyal players the best of both worlds with a new Ichiban-led story while also nailing emotional pay-off years in the making with Kiryu’s story portions. Providing quality side content that is addicting and seemingly endless, there isn’t a single drip of the game that is dry, dull, or not worth your time. Never have I played a title this rewarding and satisfying with its delightful humour found in substories and over-the-top turn-based combat. It may be largely set in a different country with the picturesque and gigantic Honolulu but this is the Like a Dragon series through and through. Infinite Wealth is like an ocean. Let it all sink in. I promise it’s well worth it.