Ryu Ga Gotoku (RGG) unfolds its grandest narrative venture to date with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, a game that ambitiously wraps up nearly two decades of storytelling. This review embarks on a comprehensive exploration of the highs and lows within this complex journey, deciphering the intricate narrative tapestry and dissecting the multifaceted characters that inhabit it.
Table of contents
Infinite Wealth picks up in the aftermath of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, thrusting players into the shoes of dual-series protagonist Ichiban Kasuga. His newfound endeavor involves rehabilitating former yakuza members by facilitating their reintegration into society through job placements.
As expected in the world of Yakuza, this noble pursuit takes a calamitous turn, propelling Ichiban and his eclectic group of friends back into the perilous folds of the criminal underworld.
With the dissolution of the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance from the previous game, the Seiryu Clan established dominance in Yokohama’s Ijincho district. The narrative takes an unexpected trans-Pacific turn as Ichiban embarks on a quest to Hawaii to uncover the mysteries surrounding his long-lost mother, Akane. The inclusion of series veteran Kiryu Kazuma as a playable character adds depth, representing a symbolic passing of the torch.
The narrative prowess displayed in addressing societal issues, especially those facing America today, is commendable. The game fearlessly critiques the treatment of the unhoused, sex workers, and the corrupt police state, maintaining the series’ tradition of being politically opinionated.
However, the Palekana religious cult plotline, intertwined with Akane’s affiliation, falls short in comparison. The figurehead, Bryce Fairchild, lacks the depth and nuance that other antagonists in the Yakuza series have received. This narrative imbalance disrupts the overall cohesiveness of the storytelling.
The game introduces dual protagonists, Ichiban and Kiryu, fostering an expanded and diverse cast of characters. Kiryu’s return offers a nostalgic touch, portraying him as an aging figure coming to terms with his past.
The narrative beautifully humanizes Kiryu, a character often perceived as an unyielding force of justice. The exploration of the consequences of his past actions adds layers to his character, making him more relatable.
While the narrative shifts between characters, providing ample time for character development, voice acting discrepancies occasionally hinder the immersive experience. Some characters fall flat, lacking the depth and emotional resonance found in others.
Yet, newcomers like Chitose and Tomizawa inject freshness into the narrative, leaving a positive impact. The game succeeds in delving into the nuances of criminal rehabilitation, raising poignant questions about forgiveness and societal acceptance.
The narrative’s political commentary and exploration of societal challenges stand out as some of the game’s strongest aspects. However, the Palekana cult plotline, centered around Bryce Fairchild, fails to live up to the series’ standards.
Bryce’s character lacks the complexity and depth that players have come to expect from Yakuza antagonists. The game hastily moves away from this plotline, leaving behind characters that were meticulously built up, potentially signaling a lack of confidence in its execution.
The delivery of the story, especially in English voice acting, introduces an element of inconsistency. While the Japanese talent behind the main cast shines, some American characters’ English lines feel awkward and out of sync.
This discrepancy can pull players out of the narrative, affecting the overall storytelling experience. These narrative missteps, however, are counterbalanced by moments of depth and nuance. This showcases the Yakuza series’ ability to handle mature themes with sophistication.
The open-world design across Kamurocho, Ijincho, and Honolulu stands as a testament to RGG’s commitment to creating rich and diverse environments. Each location offers a unique atmosphere, with Honolulu’s vibrant beaches, seedy back streets, and luxurious hotel districts adding a refreshing dynamic to the game’s world.
The turn-based combat system, a departure from the series’ traditional brawler style, continues from Like a Dragon with added layers of complexity. Incorporating directional and combo attacks brings strategic depth to encounters.
Exploiting enemy weaknesses and orchestrating coordinated attacks with party members provides a sense of satisfaction. The job system, a returning mechanic from the previous game, allows for extensive character customization, encouraging players to experiment with different team line-ups.
While combat remains engaging, the process of grinding through dungeons can be monotonous and time-consuming. The game’s side content, ranging from substories to mini-games, offers a mixed bag of experiences.
Some substories deliver humor and well-thought-out narratives, while others may not resonate as strongly with players. The optional mini-games, such as the Crazy Taxi-inspired food delivery game, add variety. However certain activities, like Dondoko Island and the Pokémon-like collecting and fighting games, may not appeal to all players.
Combat System Analysis
The turn-based combat system in Infinite Wealth showcases strengths that overshadow its occasional impreciseness. The strategic elements, including directional and combo attacks, elevate the combat experience, providing players with a dynamic and engaging system. The balance between high MP costs for special abilities and the usefulness of basic attacks creates a satisfying battle rhythm.
The proximity range mechanic, where attacks within a specific radius deal more damage, introduces an additional layer of strategy. Players can exploit this mechanic to inflict back attacks from behind, resulting in almost guaranteed critical hits. The combo system, while feeling imprecise at times, adds a dynamic element to battles. This keeps them entertaining even after repeated encounters.
While not every regular battle reaches the same heights as memorable set-piece moments, such as the bar fight with Chitose Buster Holmes, the combat system consistently delivers a warm sense of satisfaction unique to the Yakuza series.
Whether it’s bouncing a criminal off the pavement or watching them soar into the air after a well-executed attack, the combat system remains a highlight of Infinite Wealth.
Infinite Wealth is an odyssey, a swing for the fences that encapsulates the essence of the Yakuza series. Its success is evident in the genre’s transformation from a cult classic to a phenomenon. The game juggles a myriad of themes and gameplay elements, sometimes overwhelming players with its sheer breadth.
While there may exist a version of Infinite Wealth that trims its excesses and eliminates tedious elements, what we have is a game that leaves players both tired and eager for more. It’s a testament to RGG’s ability to address mature themes, deliver compelling narratives, and provide fresh combat experiences.
Have you played or plan to play Infinite Wealth? Talk to us in the comments below!