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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

REVIEW: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth honors its past and sets up a brilliant future

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a lot like Fortnite. (Stick with me. I've got a real point here, I swear.)


I've been having a lot of discussions about Fortnite's staying power and the way everyone is competing against this free game because... it's not just one game anymore. It's got a handful of incredibly polished experiences available in it, each with massive potential to consume your time. It's a battle royale, a rhythm game, a racing game, a tower defense crafting game. And it's hard to choose many other paid multiplayer games over it.


In that same way, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is more than a turn-based RPG. It's an island resort manager, an arcade-y dating sim, a chaotic Crazy Taxi-like, a complete "creature" collecting RPG, and so much more. And just like Fortnite, it's hard to choose many RPGs over it. Its staying power will keep it in my rotation throughout 2024.


Just two months into the year, Infinite Wealth is already practically a Game of the Year nominee lock. And you'll soon understand why.


If I had to pick one RPG to take with me to a deserted island, it just might be Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.

An in-game screenshot of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. It shows three men raising their weapons to the sky. Ichiban Kasuga, the main character in a red suit, raises his nailed bat to the sky. Koichi Adachi, a man in a fur collared jacket, raises his fist into the air. And Yu Nanba, a man in a layered green raincoat, raises an umbrella to the sky. They're covered in a blue aura and each of them has joy on their face.

​Just the Facts

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher: SEGA

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4 and 5*, Xbox Series S and X *denotes platform reviewed

Price: $69.99

Release Date: January 25, 2024

Review key provided by publisher via fortyseven communications.

A crime legacy worth exploring


Infinite Wealth is the eighth mainline game in the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series. It serves as the direct follow-up to 2020's Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the game that changed everything when it stripped away the beat 'em up combat system at the core of the series for a turn-based RPG system and replaced long-time series protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, with fresh-faced newcomer Ichiban Kasuga.


For a series so built upon ideas of legacy and honoring the past, these drastic changes were a lot to take in. But it might have been the best thing the team could have done. It was the highest-selling release in series history, not to mention critically acclaimed, and it felt like Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio had been making RPGs all their lives.


Fast forward to 2024 and the world was ready for more. More Ichiban. More Kiryu. More change.


Infinite Wealth reintroduces you to Kasuga and the gang as they're just... living life. After the chaos of Like a Dragon, the party is in a relative state of calm. Our wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve king, Kasuga, is working to help former yakuza find stability and the rest of the crew find new homes in jobs they're passionate about. With two of Japan's biggest crime families dissolved, many former yakuza struggle to find a place in the world and face persecution from the public and government wherever they turn, but Kasuga is right there to pick them up, no matter how initially resistant they are to change.


But of course, as luck would have it, Kasuga's life is immediately upended (by a VTuber of all things), and he and his friends find themselves out on the streets again until the game's biggest story beat finally arrives: Kasuga's mom. Without getting too into the weeds of his complicated parentage, Kasuga finds himself having to head to Hawaii to meet with her, and within days of arriving: he's mugged twice, left naked on the beach, arrested, and eventually placed in the care of the legendary Kazuma Kiryu (who, after the events of his own spinoff game, finds himself conveniently in Hawaii as well).


It's refreshing to play a Triple-A RPG that isn't set in the far future or in a medieval fantasy past and instead embraces the state of our current world. And with the flair, heart, and overt humor that only the Like a Dragon series can offer.

What immediately grabbed me in Infinite Wealth's narrative was its ability to embrace modern trends and real-life issues facing both Hawaii and Japan. A big part of the story centers on social media misinformation, and that facet of the story is delivered through a VTuber. The game's narrative, on the whole, tackles issues of tourism, gentrification, the nuclear issues Japan faces, and more. It's refreshing to play a Triple-A RPG that isn't set in the far future or in a medieval fantasy past and instead embraces the state of our current world. And with the flair, heart, and overt humor that only the Like a Dragon series can offer? It's a fantastic mix.


What shocked me, though, was how much Infinite Wealth showed the series was willing to change.


Kasuga's first adventure, Like A Dragon, was a step into a new frontier dressed up in a familiar way. Almost a retelling of the first Yakuza, but with goofy Ichiban in the driver's seat instead of the stoically reserved Kiryu. Infinite Wealth is the bold new step into the future of the entire series, leaving behind the yakuza itself, leaving behind Japan, and making giant risky decisions about the franchise's future within the story. There will always be parallels and similar stories told — but the series, nine games down the line, is not happy to settle into old patterns. And not unlike Final Fantasy XVI, any long-lasting series that tries new things is worth celebrating to us.


An in-game screenshot of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. It depicts a Hawaiian beach and a line of buildings along the beach. A boat is docked in the sand and people are seen milling about the beach. It's a beautiful summer day.

It really is about the friends we made along the way


Like a Dragon, as a series, has long been hellbent on defying expectations. Kiryu, the tough grunt of a crime family, is actually a sweetheart who loves karaoke and playing crane games. Kasuga, the over-the-top goof who sees the world as an RPG, is deeply committed to his friends and family and can even surpass Kiryu in seriousness when he needs to. And Infinite Wealth is no different.


You watch the main story start on such a small personal scale with low stakes and end up in a place where the future of multiple nations is on our hero's shoulders. In the side stories, they consistently play with that change-up, turning you in one direction (men in diapers who love age play come back into Kasuga's life and get into a fight) before switching it up (with their help, Kasuga's able to provide the perfect goodbye between a man and his dying wife). Even the shift to RPG showcases just how willing the series is to defy expectations for the sake of finding some hidden joy underneath.


Infinite Wealth's strengths lie not in the broad strokes but instead in the smaller details. The ballooning of convoluted crimes in the main narrative pales in comparison to the tender moments shared between friends and family, the quiet moments of reflection and pride, and just moments of pure silliness for silliness' sake.


A lot of those things are found in Infinite Wealth's optional content, so at times, it feels like to fully understand this game's brilliance you really have to go out of your way to consume all that it has. Sticking to the main path only has you miss out on some of the greatest emotional beats, and to truly see all that RGG has in store can take upward of 80 – 90 hours. And... we don't all have that kind of time.


At the heart of those small moments are the characters. The relationships. While the Yakuza series has always been built around that, since turning into Like a Dragon and shifting to the RPG format, the idea of the "hero's party" has made those bonds even more important and pushed the ensemble further into the spotlight. Many of the previous game's new heroes return, but it's Infinite Wealth's debut cast members that are given the biggest focus.


The ballooning of convoluted crimes in the main narrative pales in comparison to the tender moments.

New heroes Chitose and Tomizawa fit in neatly within the charming cast that has built over nearly two decades' worth of story and series history.


Each head of the villainous hydra, as they are slowly revealed throughout the game, is cartoonishly evil. They're heinous people, meant to be hated. And I'm all for it. I'm sick of the morally gray villains of the last few years and vastly prefer pure villainy, especially when placed against the likes of Kasuga's purity. My personal favorite, though, is Yamai — the head of the local yakuza family in Hawaii, whose blood has literally run cold after the events of his life and is looking for someone to bring him the heat he so desires. He is perfect and I hope he's around forever.


A screenshot from Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Kiryu stands alongside Chitose, Tomizawa, and Kiryu, in Hawaii in front of a shop with surfboards out front. Kiryu and

(SPOILER WARNING, if you'd rather not know anything about some of the bigger storylines that both Ichiban and Kiryu face, skip to below the next photo. We only tackle things brought up in trailers, but warning nonetheless.)


Infinite Wealth's crowning jewel is its two heroes: Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu. Where the last game served as Kasuga's big debut, and Kiryu's mark on that game was little more than a fun cameo, Infinite Wealth makes these two the dual pillars of its narrative. One represents the series' future and one represents and honors its past.


Kasuga is here to stay. As the yakuza fall away (conceptually and literally), Kasuga's community-driven storylines showcase where the series is headed. His openness and emotional purity are where RGG want to put their focus, as you see those traits rub off on Kiryu throughout the game and showcase a new way forward. And while his light doesn't shine as bright with Kiryu's powerful story alongside his, Kasuga remains one of the most exciting protagonists in gaming today.


Kiryu's story is a beautiful one in Infinite Wealth. He's older, weaker, and his battle with cancer takes a greater toll than expected. Where Kasuga ends up showcasing the bright and shiny and new, Kiryu ends up back in Japan, returned to the streets he's spent two decades' worth of games in. With a feeling that his time running out, Kiryu's story is entirely focused on memories, legacy, and unfinished business. The ways the team represents that mechanically are brilliant and are the kinds of gameplay and narrative synergy I most crave.


I may not remember the nitty-gritty of the criminal enterprise that Infinite Wealth unearths, but I will forever remember the moments shared between Kasuga, Kiryu, and their friends. And that will always be what I seek in a game's narrative. All that praise aside... I think I might like Infinite Wealth's gameplay even more than its narrative, and I'm not sure I'm ready to admit that.


An in-game screenshot of Infinite Wealth's battle system. Chitose, one of the game's new characters, delivers a ballet-inspired kick. She wears a black crop top and baggy sportswear pants. She's kicking a man in hunting gear with a rifle. In the background, you can see Ichiban Kasuga wielding a bat and the Hawaiian city skyline.

Small but mighty, the Infinite Wealth story


When I first played Like a Dragon, I thought RGG had nailed it. They'd successfully transitioned the over-the-top action of the series' previous titles into an RPG, and I was more than satisfied. It was turn-based but felt more reactive — your character's placement in the battle dictated the types of moves you could pull off, you had all your elemental and weapon-type weaknesses to consider, and skills hit specific zones and could be lined up perfectly if you were patient. And you seamlessly entered battles with enemies in the open world.


But it's a good thing I'm not in charge of video games, because somehow they made the combat even better, and I don't even think I ever want to go back to Like a Dragon after spending 85 hours in Infinite Wealth.


The biggest change to Infinite Wealth is a simple one: control over movement. Where in Like a Dragon you were beholden to where each character happened to be in a fight, Infinite Wealth gives you control over your characters within a small circle. So many of the skills in both games rely on positioning: area-of-effect attacks, skills that hit everyone in a line, items that you can pick up for extra damage if you just happen to be near them. It felt like an oversight in Like a Dragon, and Infinite Wealth fills the gap.


Being able to line up a perfect turn in battle, placing your giant AOE attack flawlessly to hit as many of your enemies as possible in one go, and setting up the survivors for a giant chain where you knock one into the other? It feels immensely satisfying and further pulls you into a system that is usually so much more hands-off. And it's just one part of how RGG has made the turn-based RPG more engaging.


Like a Dragon had already introduced small timing-based button presses to make certain skills more powerful, but Infinite Wealth takes that up a notch with the Perfect Guard system, allowing you to try and time a block on any incoming attack for extra defense. It's one small thing that pays off in dividends as it engages you with all phases of combat.


It features some of the best gameplay the series has had, adapting the free-flowing beat-em-up style of the original games even more beautifully with a few key adjustments to the RPG format.

Not unlike the story, it's the smaller things that make Infinite Wealth sing — that make it a standout in an era so defined by stellar RPG offerings. But the broad changes are also worth shouting out.


One of the biggest changes to the gameplay structure of Infinite Wealth when compared to Like a Dragon (and the series as a whole) is its setting.


While eventually you'll see a return to Japan, most of Infinite Wealth takes place in Hawaii. Gone are the cramped streets and alleyways of Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho, replaced with the wide-open American roadways of Waikiki. Rather than trash-filled urban riverways, you've got the Pacific Ocean to dive into with its own minor swimming mechanic. Where past games were happy to leave you on your feet, Infinite Wealth's change to a less pedestrian-friendly setting required the introduction of a segway you can use to get around.


While the series has introduced new cities and regions to explore over the years, it has often relied on familiar haunts and set pieces. It can't be overstated how enjoyable it was to familiarize myself with somewhere brand new. To experience the painstaking density that RGG puts into its settings, the care with which it represents a specific place and its culture — but somewhere new. It's a rarity that we should celebrate. And it doesn't feel out of place, either, as there is a history (of colonization) between Hawaii and Japan, and those roots stick through to today. It's a fascinating thing to experience in gameplay and out.


An in-game screenshot of Infinite Wealth's Dondoko Island minigame. On a grid, the player is placing down a building on a resort island. A model of a lion and a cardboard cutout of a trio of chickens can be seen. A lemonade stand and a fruit stand flank the building. User interface showcases the changes that placing this building will have on the land.

So much to do, too much to do?


Outside of the core RPG experience, Infinite Wealth has so much more for you to enjoy. Just to visualize it, here's a list of all of the minigames waiting for you in Infinite Wealth.

New Minigames

Returning Minigames

Crazy Delivery

Can Quest

Sujimon Battle

UFO Catcher

Miss Match

Karaoke

Dondoko Island

Darts

Sicko Snap

Mahjong

Virtua Fighter 3 (arcade)

Blackjack

Sega Bass Fishing (arcade)

Texas Hold'em

SpikeOut (arcade)

Shogi


Oichi-Kabu


Koi-Koi


Vocational School tests


Golf


Batting cages


That's 20 different minigames, each with their own special mechanics, several tiers of difficulty, multiple modes within them, and a unique set of prizes. Ten of them hold hours of content all on their own. And one of them may be a favorite within its genre in a while.


As a series, these minigames and their depth have been a staple, but it's still so surprising to find them all waiting for you. This game's unique offerings (the first five on the list) are some of my favorites that the series has implemented in years.


Crazy Delivery is an arcade-y Crazy Taxi take on delivery apps. Sujimon Battle is a full-fledged Pokémon experience with multiple gyms and its own unique three-person battle system. Miss Match is a very light dating sim experience. Sicko Snap is like Pokémon Snap but you're taking photos of perverts for the police. And Dondoko Island...


I could write a separate review just about Dondoko Island. It's an island manager that's drawn a lot of comparisons to Animal Crossing but feels a lot more like a colony management sim than anything. After the game forced me into an introduction to this minigame... I stayed in it for the next 10 hours. I had to force myself to return to the main story before too long and I still had probably another 10 hours until I got to the end of it all. It's got its own story and an entirely unique UI and gameplay style. You craft buildings and items that style your resort a certain way and attract certain visitors. You fight back against invaders who've used the island as a landfill for years. This single minigame is one of my favorite management sims I've played in the last few years, and it's just one small piece of Infinite Wealth.


Room for improvement


I may be piling on the praise here, but Infinite Wealth earns it. It isn't flawless, of course.


Infinite Wealth, like other games in the series, is certainly cutscene-heavy and slower-paced. That's not for everyone. And the ending third can feel like a slog. Even after doing 70 – 80% of the side stuff, I still felt like I had to grind to meet the recommended level and gear level that the game asked for, just to find myself facing endless combat encounters in the game's final dungeons.


The greater narrative gets a bit muddled in the end, the desire to experience everything in the game made the review experience difficult, and the English dub has some inconsistent quality, but... none of it sincerely hurt my experience.


Graphically, the series is constantly getting better, but there is some level of stagnation happening here. With the RPG setup and skill-based combat, they're able to flex the particle effects and silly effects, but it sometimes proves to be a bit much, as there were brief moments of slowdown in the game.


Infinite Wealth's soundtrack goes from thumping rock and electronica to piano tunes pulled straight out of an Asian drama on a dime, and despite the sometimes dissonant feeling of how quickly these things can shift, it always feels appropriate for what's unfolding. In a game with such tonal chaos as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, there's no other way for the soundtrack to be. The series has always leaned on some Americana vibes, and it's fun to see them play out in a more Americanized setting for once.


A cutscene screenshot of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Two men are in conversation, with one of them turned away from the other. The man turned away is Ichiban Kasuga. He wears a red hawaiian shirt and has large fluffy afro styled hair. Behind him, speaking, is Kazuma Kiryu. He wears a black button-up, undone a few buttons, and his hair is pushed down and graying.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is many things. It's a sequel that enhances everything that came before it. It's a look back at a series with 19 years of history behind it and a step forward into what the series might become next. It features some of the best gameplay the series has had, adapting the free-flowing beat-em-up style of the original games even more beautifully with a few key adjustments to the RPG format. And it contains so much surprising depth in almost every gameplay system and minigame hidden within.


If I had to pick one RPG to take with me to a deserted island, it just might be Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. And for that reason, it gets one of the rarest scores we can give.


Video Games Are Good and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is . . . TRANSCENDENT. (10/10)


+ a story full of heartwarmingly soft moments, a combat system refined to near perfection, multiple games' worth of content for the price of just one


- the broad strokes of the overall narrative lose your attention in the end, the ending third is a slog, game has the potential to overwhelm


The key art for Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Framed by an infinity symbol, a collage of the game's characters can be seen. In front of the various side characters are two stoic men, Kazuma Kiryu with graying hari on the left and Ichiban Kasuga with his fluffy styled hair on the right.

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4 commenti


Ospite
19 feb

Awesome article. I've been hearing some buzz about this game without really looking into it, so finding a well-written detailed review like this is perfect. I wasn't sure before, but I'm definitely convinced now this is worth buying and game I'll love. Thanks!!

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Ospite
19 feb

LOVE to see you review a game from such a huge developer!! Much excitement, even now, for your Game of the Year nominees to come!

Mi piace

Joel Bacon
Joel Bacon
19 feb

I have been on the fence about this series for years, but largely just because I didn't know much about it. After seeing reviews of Like A Dragon, and now your thoughts on Infinite Wealth, I am convinced this is a game for me.

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Ospite
19 feb

Welp, guess I gotta finish Like a Dragon if the sequel is getting a freaking 10/10.

Mi piace
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