"Yakuza: Like a Dragon" does quite a few things differently from its predecessors. If you took over the role of Kiryu in parts zero to six, you now experience the story of Kasuga Ichiban.
Kiryu was yesterday
Ichiban is not the gloomy type, and he can’t stay long in Kamurocho, which is almost the only game world in all the other prequels.
Ichiban is a hero or at least wants to be one. He loves "Dragon Quest" and his greatest wish is to be a hero too.
But his way is stony. First he is raised in a brothel, then he joins the yakuza, is betrayed by them, has to serve an 18 year prison sentence and when he finally gets out he is homeless and alone. Then also his actual hero story begins. He rebuilds his life and at the same time he pursues his dream. Intrigues of various Mafia and Yakuza families are of course included. Also his comrades-in-arms, which he gets to know little by little, pursue their own goals and have their own desires. In search of a job, even though his main profession is hero, he gets caught up in the aforementioned intrigues and makes his way through a gripping story that, apart from its wacky characters, knows exactly how to set the scene for serious affairs.
Excalibur in its natural form
"Yakuza: Like a Dragon" consists of a lot of cutscenes. The story is told at a very pleasant pace and the order also makes sense. Unlike other parts of the series, you know quite at the beginning who is who and what is actually going on. As confused as the main character is, the clearer and tidier the story is told, which is full of humor, revenge, drama and emotion. Overall, the story is so well told that you don’t really want to anticipate anything. To avoid further spoilers, let’s move on to the gameplay.
"Dragon Quest 12"? Moment!
Here, too, the new "Yakuza" does things differently. Inspired by "Dragon Quest", combat is now turn-based. But it does not involve a lot of waiting. It all still seems very dynamic. You can choose between different attacks, use magic or just choose the standard attack. Items, such as healing items, can also be used. Each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, so it also becomes a bit tactical – but not too much so.
Gradually you can level up your characters, get new abilities and have to use them in a well-timed way. Once you’ve decided on an attack, you have to perform it in a Quick Time Event. If you have good timing, you will be rewarded with extra damage. Even when enemies attack, you don’t have to take your hands off the gamepad. Namely, you can block or dodge the attacks if you time it right.
Speaking of leveling, players have to grind in between to always reach the appropriate level and thus administer enough damage to his opponents.
Superlatives over super abilities
But wait…magic?! "Yakuza: Like a Dragon" like its predecessors doesn’t really take itself seriously. But it really is a bit sillier than usual. Under magic one can evaluate for example the calling of pigeons, which then attack again opponents. Very specifically, attacks based on casting spells on other characters.
Buffing and debuffing is part of every good JRPG
In itself, the whole battle system can be seen as a borrowing from "Dragon Quest". The mechanics are quite similar, just set in the "Yakuza" universe. This sounds very strange in some places – and it is. But that’s exactly what makes the new "Yakuza" so special. It’s special, offbeat, humorous, and goes over the top, only to become deadly serious and tell a sad story in the next moment. It plays with expectations and sets up its characters perfectly.
Chases, as known from "Judgment", are used as well. Each game of the developer studio is honored in some way, and it is all put together so that it is something new. The allusions to "Dragon Quest" not only provide playful depth, they especially give Ichiban more character. This one, unlike Kiryu, is more emotional and crazy. But his madness remains comprehensible until the end. You just know why he turns off and what background it has.
Side quests are a must in every JRPG, but not in "Yakuza: Like a Dragon". Yes, these can help a little when you want to level up, but overall these are purely for fun. In between there is a kind of tutorial-quest, which brings you a new store for equipment, another time you can hire companions for a short time and another time we save a small river from yellowing.
Who wouldn’t call Gary Buster Holmes in a pinch?
Game of the Year character
"Yakuza: Like a Dragon" is my personal Game of the Year so far. It has everything a good game must have. The story is great, has well worked in turning points and climaxes and introduces new characters wonderfully. The game is perfect for connoisseurs, but also especially for newcomers. They won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything, but will experience "Yakuza" as it is.
The graphics are meanwhile also a completely different number. The PS4 honestly stumbled a bit in between, but the effects, facial animations, short load times, and smooth gameplay experience made up for it.
"Dragon Quest" fans and especially friends of turn-based battles will get their money’s worth here. No, it’s not a tactile and strategic marvel. It’s just fun, goes well from the hand and lets you stay on the pusher.
The leveling system and all the integrated role-playing elements fit the game perfectly. At the beginning I was a bit skeptical to what extent this can work, but the developers have found a very good solution here and put soft transitions, since you still press square in battle or. times triangle, so it feels right for fans of the "Yakuza" series.
In addition, you can stay in the game world for a very long time again. You can, if you want, just play through the story quickly. But you can also experience a huge number of activities, play in-game games, complete side quests for a laugh, or simply test out everything the game has to offer – and that’s an incredible amount.
Are there any negatives? Unfortunately no, because the game does everything right from my point of view. Full buy recommendation for anyone who likes JRPGs, turn-based battles, a good story and special characters, or even something close to it.