Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth Review: Eccentretic, Erratic, Excellent

Written by Allen

February 12, 2024

 

 

You know how you plan those trips with friends, and they never come to fruition? Only to suddenly be involved in a completely different plan or set of plans that you didn’t prepare for at all, and have no real idea how things are going to play out? Because that’s exactly what happens to me half the time. Do you want to show some new friends around a mall with all these geek shops and not buy anything? Well, surprise, on the day itself, you’re with a completely different set of friends, in a different mall, and you have to win this next game of magic or you’re buying everyone lunch!

When you’re trying to plan for something pretty far in the future, it’s hard to predict a lot of things that will happen along the way. Some are unfortunate events, while others are welcome surprises. You’ll eventually get to where you want to, but how long that will take and what you have to do to get there, is something that only Yakuza 8: Infinite Wealth knows, and well, something you will find out.

 

 

Yes, the highly anticipated title is finally here, and not without some issues along the way, which I will address later. The format it takes on further cement the changes that the series will be taking since the previous game. Even though it started as an April Fool’s joke, looks like it’s here to stay. With the release of the previous game not impressing me all that much despite how I found some of the innovations within it pretty good, my impression was they’ve been saving their steam for the numbered title, Infinite Wealth. And 30-plus hours in I’d have to say my suspicions were correct. The graphics, while running on the same engine, are upgraded. The content is more dense and varied. And the systems that you get to play with are tested and refined.

There were concerns about the game and its content being watered down because of its shift to also considering its content for international audiences. While Masayoshi Yokoyama (Executive Producer of Yakuza 8/Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth) has stated that they aren’t shifting the focus of their creative processes, I do feel like the writing and the delivery do show substantial differences. So mileage may vary depending on what you’re looking for. I don’t think it’s particularly better or worse, just that it’s different. Which I think is what the developers of RGG Studio should do, to pursue a new direction but avoid leaving its more seasoned fanbase behind. And I think they’ve done a great job on this end.

This title seems to be doing a lot of the whole ‘passing of the torch’ action in several ways. Solidifying its shift towards turn-based combat. Changing the tone and focus of its story and characters. The location isn’t even within Japan anymore. I mean, we even see an aged Kiryu who seems to be on his way out, playing the role of a supporting character to Kasuga, the person we play. And finally, passing on the new experiences they have to showcase to you. Inviting you to a brand new journey.

 

 

Why don’t you book your perfect vacation with Yakuza Tours? Be greeted by the wonderful and cheerful mascot, Alo-Happy! Where you’ll be staying only in the best and most affordable accommodations. Do lots of fun activities, eat the delectable cuisine available in Hawaii, interact with the many friendly locals, and finally, kick a lot of ass. Are you tired, need a break, or maybe looking for your mother that you got separated from at birth? Why not take on an adventure that will take you and your friends to the brink of death, the depths of corruption, and the peak of one man’s delusions? Sounds fun? Book now! And while you wait, listen to my review of Like A Dragon 8: Infinite Wealth.

 

Production (4 / 5)

 

On the PlayStation 5, the unit I reviewed it on,  the title has performed pretty admirably. No nasty stutters on the frame rate, nor are there any weird collision errors or any of the like. We’re running on an upgraded version of the Dragon engine and it shows. Known for their focus on having excellent faces for their models, capable of making subtle expressions not only with their well-detailed faces but also their hands.

Still, the engine shows some of its age if you look for it. Textures look more convincing than last time, even on random surfaces. At times, the texture on clothes becomes more blurry, like the game is trying to decide if it’s trying to make certain characters look away from the focus of the camera. Lighting between the map and the characters also doesn’t interact. But I find these to be more nitpicks than things that genuinely take away from the experience. I can tell that what they’re actually after is this whole TV show look that’s been pretty much their staple, so the simulation of things like rack focus is more of a conscious aesthetic choice rather than an attempt to save on resources.

The area of Honolulu still looks convincing and attractive, and there’s a smart distribution of detail all over the locale. Even if they’re reusing a lot of assets, the destinations themselves can give you a level of distinctness that makes it easier to get your bearings through. However, there will still be areas that can instantly get you lost if you forget which way you are heading, and trust me that will happen. Navigating through specific areas like corridors is rather easy to understand, so exploring the open world and knowing how far you can go is quickly conveyed because of the clarity of how things are laid out in front of you.

 

 

We know that the PS5 is certainly capable of more detailed and dynamically lit worlds and characters. But I’m starting to believe that RGG Studios has settled on the look of what their game should look like, which is this strange crossroad of realistic and video games. I’ve learned to appreciate it after playing through a bunch of their titles. Seeing these characters that appear to be more grounded in reality dealing with these unbelievable characters and feats. I think it would be harder to suspend my disbelief if they went too hard on looking realistic. And considering the sorts of enemies and actions you’ll be seeing and doing in Infinite Wealth, you’re going to have to suspend that disbelief pretty hard.

On the audio side of things, I’ve got to say I appreciate the variety in the music. It’s able to carry you through the different moods because of the many genres the composers touch upon. While I can’t name any particular track that stuck with me, I believe that they played a big part in keeping the game engaging despite the slower pace that it walks us through. As for the voices, well, it’s another story. And no, it’s not just because of an issue with one voice actor for the English dub.

Yakuza or Like a Dragon, however, you want to call it, likes to model their in-game characters after the actual actors that will voice them. Which likely plays a large part in why the Japanese voices match them unbelievably well. And then you get the English voices to follow after, these are completely different people. I doubt you’ll ever find a fit that’s as exact as the Japanese VAs simply because how the characters aren’t tailor-made for the English VAs. And for that, I found it pretty impressive that some English voices did an excellent job, mostly. The sore thumb being Yongyea, who I know is capable of better performances based on his past works. But sometimes his Kiryu is just literally him talking, and in other scenes, he’s pulling it off, and it’s just frustrating to hear this inconsistent quality.

 

 

But apart from that, the translation is just different. The title is so embedded in cultural nuances that some jokes just won’t work if translated into English. On top of that, you still get environmental voiceovers that can be distracting if you’re in English audio, where all of your Japanese characters are speaking straight English and some random passerby calls out in Japanese. Even when I got to Hawaii, where everyone was speaking English. Some side characters just straight up don’t match their models. I just decided to switch back after meeting the dating app lady. I don’t think the changes were maliciously done, but they do feel clumsy if you’re paying attention. Some things are said a little differently, or something subtle from the original script is just lost in translation. I do find the effort admirable, but the Japanese dub just fits the entire game so much better. So for the first time in a long while with a Sega game, I’d rather go with the Japanese dub.

I doubt that the presentation of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, is going to be award-winning or anything. But I do find the quality of their work good enough, even if it could feel dated at times.

 

Mechanics (4 / 5)

 

The design of the new system shows that they were thinking about how to translate the original action combat of the series into a turn-based system, and I do think they did a great job here.

The problem that most people have with turn-based combat is that it’s going through menus, confirming targets, and waiting for attacks or support skills to resolve. it looks like RGG Studios knows this very well. They made the encounters still feel dynamic instead of going through some glorified Pokemon encounter.

For one thing, positioning plays a large part in getting the most out of your turn. You can catch several enemies in your attacks if they’re close enough together. On top of that, you can knock enemies into each other, getting bonus damage out of it. Finally, even use objects that you can lift as weapons. Sounds oddly familiar, right?

The turn-based combat that many would believe to be a snooze is the farthest thing from it. Some skills are designed to play on the enemy’s positioning, others build on turning the tables if you have many opponents to deal with. Even though you have auto-battle as an option, it’s pretty fun to see what you can do given the area you’re in, the enemies you have to deal with, and what sort of creative solution you can come up with, rather than fall into a routine of just using the best counter for every enemy you find.

 

 

Actions have some QTE component to them that will keep your attention as you watch the skills go through, kinda like in Shadow Hearts, or Final Fantasy X. Even when defending, you can parry attacks to massively reduce the incoming damage to your party. Which, you know, parrying for defense sounds familiar, something like Ar Tonelico comes to mind.

There’s also a second dimension to this role-playing game, and that is the social aspect. Through various actions, interactions, and activities, you get to further develop Kasuga’s personality traits. He’ll be braver, more charismatic, smarter, as much as that is hard to believe. But increasing these stats can give you access to new actions like being able to convince people, and even unlocking new job classes, more on that later. But in general, you want to raise these stats over time to further open up the world to you. It’s pretty clear where they picked up this concept, RGG’s Lost Judgment. I enjoyed that one, too.

 

 

On top of that, you can develop your relationship with your party mates. Where you unlock not only conversations with them to have a closer look at their individual lives. But you also gain new perks like combination attacks and bonus actions in battle. And that sounds like another RPG I’m a big fan of, Trails of Cold Steel.

Alright, the joke has run its course, I just wanted to point out that the ideas that Infinite Wealth adopts aren’t just from Persona. But it’s not hard to see how younger gamers today will make those comparisons. Either way, I think their implementation into the title is well thought-out and unique enough to stand on its own.

 

Content (5 / 5)

 

 

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth doesn’t reinvent the wheel in its offerings of content as compared to its predecessors. It does, however, innovate on them quite a bit.

First is the main story, which I haven’t finished despite the hours I’ve put into the game. Starts quite slowly, as it takes about 4 hours to land in Hawaii. They spend this time setting up Ichiban Kasuga, our protagonist, and the events that lead him to his quest to seek the mother he never met. Rather than this being something that I found tedious, I met all the characters from the previous title and learned about their history and way of thinking. And got Kasuga in particular to grow on me as this foolish, lovable, and sincere old man.

Not long after you get the game rolling, you are introduced to the rest of your main party. Kiryu, Tomi, and Chitose. Which I have to say is a welcome addition. Originally you see only one person move the plot along, with side characters guiding him along the way. For Like a Dragon 8, the party of four has quite some stories to share. And the development of their relationships as the story progresses is a pretty satisfying show. The main plot itself is fairly simple, but that’s fine because of all the other little things you get to go through in between plot points.

 

 

As you progress the game, you’ll eventually come across the job change system. This is what it sounds like, if you meet the conditions, you can unlock job classes that your party can swap between. Giving them access not only to specific skills but also stat bonuses as they level up that job class. Generally, everyone can be some form of a fighter, a mage, and a specialist. Relationship levels also allow you to somewhat hybridize their skills as they can keep some of them permanently. You also get the little bonus of seeing everyone act like complete fools because of the design and actions that come along with every class.

Although, this is pretty much part of the program. If you consider what sort of enemies you end up fighting in Infinite Wealth, there’s a certain level of consistency to the crazy, quirky designs behind all the characters. I’m quite often found dumbfounded with whatever the game presents to me from time to time. But the game quickly dismisses it as us simply seeing what Kasuga sees through his delusions. Seriously man, what is this guy on?

Content you get to play through I would classify between nearly no time invested to maybe more than ten hours invested. So let’s call that zero investment to high investment. Zero investments are the type where you simply talk to NPCs and maybe give them things. Where the point is they get a better impression of you the more you see them. Sometimes saying hello to them as you pass by is enough. Others would have a bit of time required, as it might be partly a tutorial for something new in the game. I’m sure you’ve seen the Crazy Taxi spoof which has Kasuga delivering food in the craziest ways possible. It’s pretty fun. Next, there are also sub-stories where you follow an episode where maybe one or two people play out in front of you, potentially in several parts. Side quests would be an appropriate way to look at it. For example, I visited a cafe several times and had to fight a few encounters in separate areas to finish one of them. That took maybe a good twenty minutes or so.

 

 

Then there are the heavy hitters, high-commitment ones. Others might call them side games, as they’re self-contained games within the title itself. One is an evolved version of Sujimon, a Pokemon parody. Where it was originally just about recording data about the various thugs you have to fight, now it has a full-on 3-on-3 battle system and a quest chain about becoming some sort of Sujimon Master at the end of it. It’s rather simple, and probably by intention so as not to get in the way of the main game too much.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, however, was not going to end with just one side game, but two instead. And as I woke up in the area for the second side game. I couldn’t help but think that I had no idea how I would explain it. How do I explain waking up to Gachapin and Mukku, mascots who appear in other games and even older TV shows, here in Yakuza 8? Why are they here? Why are they trying to manage an island resort? RGG just looked at me and said “Don’t worry about it” and welcomed me to Like a Dragon’s version of Animal Crossing. That’s two Nintendo game spoofs in one title, I’ve gotta say it’s pretty insane.

 

 

After accidentally spending more time on it than I’m willing to admit, it turns out to be a pretty fun distraction and a genius way to reuse so many assets from past Yakuza games. But guess what was the next surprise I ran into as I finally got to the production facility of this side game, Dondoko Farm. It’s a place where you can find and generate crafting resources for your island resort. Guess what you need to run it? Times up, Sujimon. And the stronger they are, the better they do.

So, I’m already having a hard time processing all of these little surprises from RGG Studios right, the job classes, the enemies you fight, all these crazy stories, cameos, and more. Then there are these zany side games that are more fun than I thought it would be. I felt my hair stand on end when I realized that the side games and the main game overlap.

So, you go around the open world of Honolulu, and then you need money for various things. So you go to Dondoko Island as you get paid a pretty hefty sum for raising the star rating of the resort, and you also get a lot of money when your guests are happy. But to get to a level that it makes you a lot of money, you need the farm to work, which needs strong Sujimon. So you go back to the open world in search of more Sujimon, new guests to invite to your resort, and maybe actually proceed with the main story a bit. This whole layered way of making you want to play the other games because they make your experience with the game you’re currently playing better, is the hamster treadmill I love to run on. I was hooked. And when you think about it, they didn’t just make their joke versions of Animal Crossing and Pokemon. They accidentally made a spoof of Palworld as well. It’s a convoluted loop of activities, but it’s fun, and that just blew my mind. 

If you’re looking for a lot of stuff to do in Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth, the short answer is yes. And I’m sure I haven’t found everything quite yet.

 

Features (3.5 / 5)

 

 

Let’s address that elephant in the room. I mean, paywalling a standard feature in most games is very strange. I know that NG+ isn’t something that a vast majority of players will use, especially in the open-world game types. But this has always been something we can access as part of the game. Do I get to adjust my review score if you buy the deluxe edition of my review? No, of course not. Please, don’t get any ideas. It’d be far better if they just added things that gave extra value rather than giving us this perception that we don’t have the full game until we pay extra. This is why I have a bias towards physical goods. Like, if they gave little merchandise away as a bonus, I appreciate that a lot more. But hey, I hope they get the message that this was a bad move, let’s move on.

This is probably the first Like A Dragon game that has an online feature, where you can visit other people’s islands. Didn’t try it, but man, they went that far, huh?

As for DLC, we were given the ones that make your life easier for Sujimon and Dondoko Island. A bulk stock of consumables that’s pretty much enough to make sure you don’t have to grind too much.

 

 

Of course, we’re going to get our standard fare DLC of cosmetics that you can use on your party members which is probably something avid fans would be happy with. I got Kiryu to dress up as Majima in the action star class and that got a chuckle out of me.

Finally, we still get our SEGA arcade minigames including the UFO catcher, some fighters, and the like, which you can play separately from the main menu. Nothing new, but nice to have.

 

Conclusion

 

 

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a crazily detailed game. Not detailed in the sense that every texture is unique or the lighting acts very closely to its real-world counterpart. But in the sense that everywhere you go or everything you do is inevitably going to lead somewhere. You can wander off in whatever direction and you’re bound to find something. Looking behind places or just visiting areas you haven’t seen before may just give you another quest to go after or a mini-game to play. On top of that, they went out of their way to translate the action combat game as closely as possible into their turn-based party combat system. And paired it up with two side games that are simple enough not to distract from the main game, yet integrate into each other very well.

A common expression I ended up having throughout my playthrough was a surprised “WHAT” as I had to come to terms with the zany characters you play as and the enemies you were up against. By having a more relaxed character like Ichiban Kasuga at the helm, it was a lot easier to shift the tone of the game between these serious, somber, and silly moments at whatever pace you wanted them to come at. The variety and density of how the content comes at you is the series’ strength, and Infinite Wealth does not disappoint. The gameplay is compelling and makes me want to keep going. I didn’t plan to sink this many hours into it before writing the review, but it was just that fun! I’d recommend this to almost anyone, especially if you’re more into games from Japan.

 

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, is rich in what I look for in an RPG. Scoring a 4 / 5

Available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

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