Yakuza: Like a Dragon Banner

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is insane

I tried to play a couple of the original Yakuza games, but the combat was stiff and awkward, and I hadn’t been on the train since day one so I had no idea who was who. I couldn’t get into it, and despite feeling like it would be great, Yakuza, it seemed, wasn’t for me.

Then came Yakuza: Like a Dragon……I’d heard the same positive stuff you hear about the series, but then I’d heard that the combat had changed to turn-based. Interesting!

What I hadn’t heard was all the insane, funny and frankly brilliant chaos occurring in Like a Dragon. I don’t know if all of this stuff was in the other Yakuza games, or if they shared the same sense of humour (I suspect there was some of that). But I’ve suddenly found myself on board.

Yakuza - Kamarucho

Yakuza time!

Or not…..I’m out of the family. Playing as Ichiban Kasuga, a now ex-Yakuza. Down on his luck is an understatement. Homeless, left for dead having done a prison stint for his old boss. It’s brutal, but his character and demeanor fly in the face of all of that.

Empathy his is greatest strength, and he has a personality that just carries the game, no matter how crazy it gets.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is definitely crazy, though.

At one point I was attacked by a flasher, hell-bent on exposing himself to me. Odd! Funny, but it made me audibly ask “what the hell?!”. Taking that flasher down actually triggered a main mechanic of the game. Sujimon.

Sujimon is basically Pokemon, and I’ve wound up collecting a Sujidex whereby every random encounter with thugs, criminals etc is an opportunity to document more types of enemy. It’s quirky, it’s silly, but it adds depth to the game.

Yakuza - Ichiban

Viewing the world as an rpg

One element of Yakuza: Like a Dragon that I love, is that Ichiban views the world as an rpg, hence the mechanics. In his head, every attacker, every ally, changes when a battle starts. Weapons have stats, types of enemy look different to how they look in the world.

I have a homeless doctor that throws bird seed at enemies to attack them with pigeons. My current weapon is a giant “massage stick” that I bought from a sex shop.

You find people on the street to do sidequests, and suddenly you’re fetching milk for a crying baby, that turns out to be a room of adult men in nappies, pretending to be babies. Or you’re searching for a specific crayfish, only to find that you’re going to save its life, and it becomes a summonable support in combat.

Summons aren’t traditional summons, you have to use the “Poundmates” app. There’s a sub quest early doors that unlocks the concept of Poundmates. Then, you acquire more options for people to call. Of course, this is fantasy but in the world of Yakuza. So you don’t use MP to summon them, you have to pay them, as they’re part of a service.

Now I can have men dressed as babies come and fight for me, or a crayfish, or a chap with mace balls for hands. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is crazy.

Yakuza - Summons

On we go

I’ve been dipping in and out of Yakuza: Like a Dragon for a while. Only hitting about 12 hours so far. But it’s casual fun, it plays great on the Steam Deck to play on the go, and I can feel it being a significant player for the rest of the year.

Story-wise, it’s engaging enough. Ichiban really carries the game, and his performance is excellent. I do feel that it shows it’s real “Yakuza-ness” when it gets to cutscenes and big dialogue moments. These can really drag on and I’d hazard that sometimes in a play session most of my time is taken up by one story beat.

I don’t mind long cutscenes, but it can be frustrating when you just want a quick “yep, this is what we’re doing and why, let’s go”. Especially when sessions these days are rarely more than an hour at a time. It’s not like I can do all-day sessions like I used to.

Like a Dragon

All I can really confirm so far is that Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a little unhinged in a really good way. Combat is fun, and flows brilliantly. Side quests are largely silly but worthwhile, and I don’t actually know 100% where the story will end, which I love.

I’m learning how to best use the job system to get my party skilled-up for combat. I’m trying to find and upgrade gear and play a proper JRPG, but with a modern flair.

It’s genuinely very fun and just a good experience. I’d like to say I’ll finish it, but if Yakuza: Like a Dragon continues with the rpg elements, I suspect there will come a time where I need to grind levels, and I just don’t know if I have it in me these days.

Time will tell.

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