Yakuza: Like a Dragon

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Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Yakuza like a dragon cover art.jpg
International cover art
Developer(s)Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher(s)Sega
Director(s)Ryosuke Horii
Producer(s)Masayoshi Yokoyama
Programmer(s)Koji Tokieda
Artist(s)Nobuaki Mitake
Writer(s)Masayoshi Yokoyama
Composer(s)
SeriesLike a Dragon
Platform(s)
Release
January 16, 2020
  • PlayStation 4
    • JP: January 16, 2020
    • WW: November 10, 2020
    Windows, XOne, XSX/S
    • WW: November 10, 2020
    • JP: February 25, 2021
    PlayStation 5
    • WW: March 2, 2021
    Luna
    • US: December 10, 2021
Genre(s)Role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player

Yakuza: Like a Dragon[a] is a role-playing video game (RPG) developed and published by Sega. The first mainline title in the Like a Dragon franchise developed as a turn-based RPG, it was released in Japan and Asia for PlayStation 4 on January 16, 2020. The western release of the game for PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on November 10, 2020 included new costumes, the English audio track and some previously paid DLC. This version was then released in Asia under the subtitle International[b] on February 25, 2021 for Windows and Xbox platforms. The game was released worldwide for PlayStation 5 on March 2, 2021, and a version for Amazon Luna launched on December 10, 2021.

In contrast to previous Yakuza games that focused on the life of Kazuma Kiryu, a man trying to lead a normal life after leaving the yakuza lifestyle, Like a Dragon instead introduces a new protagonist named Ichiban Kasuga. After being imprisoned for 18 years only to then be betrayed by his former boss, Ichiban goes on a personal quest to become a "hero" and uncover the reason for his betrayal alongside his companions. Yakuza: Like a Dragon received positive reviews from both players and critics who enjoyed the narrative, characters, gameplay, unique take on the JRPG sub-genre, and presentation.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the last game to use Yakuza name outside of Japan, and the first to use the Japanese title worldwide (albeit as a subtitle). It is set to be followed up by two games: a side story Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name in 2023, and the next mainline installment Like a Dragon 8 in 2024.[1]

Gameplay[edit]

A turn-based fight in the game. Here, Adachi fights an enemy while using the Enforcer Job.

Similar to previous games in the Like a Dragon series, side-quests (known as sub-stories in-game) can be taken up by the player to gain additional rewards and players are also able to enjoy the various side activities around the map such as karaoke. A new side-activity introduced in this game is Dragon Kart, which is similar to other kart racing games in terms of its gameplay.

A major departure from previous Like a Dragon games is the battle system. Instead of the real-time beat 'em up mechanics of previous games, Yakuza: Like a Dragon features a real-time turn-based RPG type combat, with a four-person battle team. However, unlike typical turn-based RPGs, characters may use nearby surrounding items such as bicycles to attack enemies (if the items are near the enemies) or may kick surrounding items to their target if there is an interactive item in the environment on the way to the enemy, an aspect that returns from the previous Yakuza games. Players can also call on various party assists to strengthen the party or defeat enemies, with more assists added as the story progresses or through the completion of sub-stories. Players can still continue exploring the world after completing the game. A new game plus mode with additional difficulty settings exclusive to this mode was released as paid downloadable content for the Japanese version of the game,[2] but it comes as a standard feature in the Western release.

Complementing the new RPG type combat system are Jobs, a form of character classes similar to other RPGs. Players can change any party member's job to better fit the party's playstyle. Currently, there are two jobs that can only be obtained via paid downloadable content.[3][4]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

The game takes place in Yokohama

The game is set in 2019, three years after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. For the first time in the Like a Dragon series, the focus shifts away from Tokyo and the game's fictional recreation of Kabukichō, called Kamurochō. Instead, most of the gameplay takes place in the Yokohama district of Isezaki Ijincho,[5][6] which is based on Yokohama's real-life Isezakichō district. However, Kamurochō and the Osaka district Sotenbori (another area from previous Yakuza games, based on the real-life Dōtonbori district) are featured in the game.[5] Yokohama's criminal underworld consists of three interconnected factions known as the Ijin Three: the Chinese-Japanese gang Yokohama Liumang, the Korean-Japanese Geomijul mafia, an offshoot of the Jingweon Mafia, and the local yakuza organization, the Seiryu Clan.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is also the first main series game not to have Kazuma Kiryu as its protagonist. Its lead character is Ichiban Kasuga, a low-ranking member of the Arakawa Family, a subsidiary of the Kanto-based Tojo Clan. Mandatory playable characters who join Ichiban's party include Yu Nanba, a homeless ex-nurse; ex-detective Koichi Adachi, who suspects a corrupt connection between the Arakawa Family and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department; hostess bar mama Saeko Mukoda, an employee of soapland proprietor Nonomiya; Geomijul operative Joon-gi Han, the body double of the Jingweon Mafia leader of the same name from Yakuza 6; and Liumang leader Tianyou Zhao. Eri Kamataki appears as a character of the same name, the chief executive officer of Ichiban Confections who recruits Ichiban to help turn her company around as part of the business management minigame. She may be recruited as an optional party member once the player reaches the first milestone objective within the minigame.[7]

Important non-player characters include Masumi Arakawa, the patriarch or oyabun of the Arakawa Family; Masato Arakawa, Arakawa's son who falsified his identity to become Ryo Aoki, the upstart Governor of Tokyo; Jo Sawashiro, Arakawa's long serving right-hand man; Souta Kume, a fanatical member of Bleach Japan, a political movement that seeks to cleanse Japan of its 'grey zones' (e.g. prostitution, illegal immigration, organized crime etc.) and protege of Aoki; Seong-hui, the head of the Geomijul; Ryuhei Hoshino, chairman of the Seiryu Clan; and Yosuke Tendo, an opportunistic Omi Alliance member and disgraced former professional boxer. Several recurring franchise characters can be temporarily summoned, once recruited, to assist the party during battle, including Kiryu,[8] Goro Majima, and Taiga Saejima.[9]

Plot[edit]

In 2001, Arakawa persuades Ichiban to confess to a murder that Sawashiro allegedly committed, to protect the latter's reputation. 18 years later, Ichiban is released from jail but learns from Adachi that Arakawa became the Omi Alliance's de facto leader. Adachi also tells Ichiban that Arakawa bribed the Kamurocho police into ignoring the subsequent Omi takeover of Kamurocho, as well as how Ichiban's brother Masato died. Seeking to expose the truth together, they crash an Omi Alliance meeting held by Arakawa. Adachi is arrested for trespassing whilst Ichiban is shot by Arakawa.

Three days later, a homeless man named Nanba heals Ichiban's wounds after discovering his body in Ijincho. Nanba sees a counterfeit bill in Ichiban's pocket and tells him that he is safe from the Omi Alliance because Ijincho is hostile territory. Ichiban and Nanba meet Adachi, where they agree to work for Nonomiya to make extra money. Nonomiya is murdered, which alerts Saeko, one of his employees. The party discover that his killer was Mabuchi, a lieutenant of the Liumang. They also uncover the Liumang's collaboration with the Geomijul mafia and Seiryu Clan in running a money counterfeiting scheme. This money is used by Yutaka Ogikubo, a high-profile politician, to bribe the local police into effectively preserving peace. The Liumang catch the group investigating the scheme and turns them over to Mabuchi. Mabuchi reveals that he deliberately engineered the prior events so that he can frame the party as warmongering Seiryu Clan members.

Joon gi-han, the second-in-command of the Geomijul, saves the party from Mabuchi. Mabuchi nonetheless executes two Seiryu Clan members to provoke further retaliation. Ichiban's party head to the Geomijul HQ so that they can find proof of Mabuchi's guilt and convince the other Ijincho gangs to not war against each other. Seong-hui, the leader of Geomijul, suddenly reveals to everyone that Nanba pretended to be homeless so that he could investigate his brother's disappearance after the latter tried to expose the money counterfeiting scheme. She rallies the Geomijul and Liumang into executing Nanba, prompting him to seek refuge in the HQ of Bleach Japan, co-founded by Ryo Aoki, who Ichiban realizes is actually Masato. Two years before Ichiban's release, Aoki, with the help of Bleach Japan, cleansed Kamurocho of the yakuza. However, the police were afraid of a power vacuum, so Aoki ordered the Omi Alliance to take over with Arakawa's help. As a current candidate to the governor of Tokyo, Aoki seeks to win the support of Ijincho by undermining the Yokohama underworld, which he did by bribing Mabuchi into provoking a civil war.

The Omi Alliance invade the Geomijul HQ. Ichiban's party defeats them. The Geomijul burns evidence of the entire money counterfeiting scheme so that Ogikubo's reputation is not damaged during the election season. Zhao, the leader of the Liumang, vows to spare Nanba if they could save the Geomijul from the Omi. Touched by Zhao's solidarity, the Geomijul warm up to Ichiban's party, and by extension Nanba, with Joon-gi han joining them. Zhao also joins them. Meanwhile, Aoki employs his right-hand man Kume into running for candidacy as Yokohama's regional representative. At the advice of Hoshino, the chairman of the Seiryu Clan, Ichiban runs as an independent candidate to stop Aoki's plans. Hoshino also tells Ichiban that Arakawa never intended to kill him. After the shooting, Arakawa placed the counterfeit bill in his pocket, given to him by Hoshino, so that Ichiban could visit Hoshino on his behalf. Hoshino had previously killed Arakawa's father for stealing the counterfeit money, with Arakawa eventually forgiving him; his decision to hand the bill back to Hoshino even though Arakawa had the power to expose it was evidence.

Tipped off by a former compatriot, Ichiban learns that Arakawa pretended to work for the Omi Alliance the entire time. In Osaka, Arakawa, along with Daigo Dojima and Masaru Watase, the chairmen of the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance respectively, formally disband their organizations to stop Aoki from using them as pawns. This prompts an Omi loyalist to attack Watase until Kazuma Kiryu, who is now Watase's anonymous bodyguard, intervenes. Ichiban reconciles with Arakawa and learns that Aoki was the one who committed the murder 18 years ago. Aoki orders the leaders of the Omi loyalists to kill Arakawa. He also discovers the circumstances behind Ichiban's candidacy and as such, orders Sawashiro to kill Hoshino. Kiryu tells Ichiban's party, based on intel provided by the Fixer's men, that Aoki has dispatched assassins after Sawashiro in jail because the latter planned to expose Aoki's guilt. Ichiban's party stops them. Returning to Kamurocho, Ichiban's party arranges a hoax about incriminating evidence in the Millennium Tower to lure Aoki. They film Aoki's verbal intent to murder, publicly leak the video and later defeat him. Aoki's popularity wanes as Ichiban tearfully begs him to start over. Before Aoki turns himself in, Kume fatally stabs him, outraged by his hypocrisy.

Some time later, the evidence found in Arakawa's headquarters leads to the arrest of all Kamurocho officials that accepted his bribe money. Ichiban attends the funeral for Arakawa and Aoki, and decides to remain in Ijincho after turning down Daigo's job offer for a security firm staffed by ex-yakuza in Osaka.

Development[edit]

The game was initially announced on August 26, 2017, alongside Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise and Yakuza Online. During development, the project was code-named Shin Ryu ga Gotoku, meaning "New Like a Dragon" or "Like a New Dragon,"[10] or "Shin-Yakuza" in English.[11] Sega announced that the game's story was completed at the end of May 2019.[10] Sega received permission from Dragon Quest series creator Yuji Horii to mention Dragon Quest in the game, which was Ichiban's favorite video game. Series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi said that the new style of logo was done to reflect Ichiban Kasuga's differing personality compared to Kazuma Kiryu.[12] Sega staff explained in a 2019 interview that they wanted to try a different style of gameplay, but that if it is badly received, they intend to return to real-time combat for future games.[13] The game's main theme, "Ichibanka" (一番歌, Number One Song), was performed by Shonan no Kaze, who previously performed the main theme of Yakuza 0 and Kurohyō 2: Ryū ga Gotoku Ashura hen, and Yasutaka Nakata.

The game is the first mainline Like a Dragon title to receive an English dub since the original Yakuza in 2005.[14] Alongside the English dub, as in Judgment, it also features dual English subtitle sets: one with the Japanese audio with English subtitles matching the Japanese translation, and the other matching the English dub. Localizations in French, German, Italian, and Spanish focus on the Japanese audio, regardless of the selected voice language. The International release in Japan and Asia, as well as the Western release via an update, has dual audio and eleven subtitle language, adding Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and Korean to the previous five languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese are only available in the Western release on PS5; all other versions have all languages present regardless of region). For the first time in the series, karaoke songs in the English dub are sung in English by the English voice cast, with the English versions displaying the English lyrics (on all languages) and the Japanese versions displaying the Japanese romaji lyrics (only when the language set to English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Russian; Japanese kanji lyrics when set to Japanese; Traditional Chinese lyrics when set to Traditional Chinese; Simplified Chinese lyrics when set to Simplified Chinese; Korean lyrics when set to Korean), unlike the Yakuza Remastered Collection, in which lyrics between the Japanese kanji and romaji and English translation can be toggled.[15] Darryl Kurylo and Bill Farmer reprise their roles from the original Yakuza as Kazuma Kiryu and Makoto Date, respectively. Matthew Mercer replaces Mark Hamill as Goro Majima, David Hayter replaces John DiMaggio as Osamu Kashiwagi (credited as "The Bartender"), and Isaac C. Singleton Jr. replaces Gary Anthony Williams as Gary Buster Holmes.

Release[edit]

The game was released in Japan on January 16, 2020, for PlayStation 4, with the Traditional Chinese and Korean versions being released on the same day.[7][16] It was released worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X/S on November 10, 2020.[17][18][19] It was released for Windows on the same day, but purchase of the Windows version of the game was blocked in various countries and territories in East Asia and Southeast Asia.[20] A PlayStation 5 version was released on March 2, 2021.[21] A version for Amazon Luna was made available on December 10, 2021.[22]

Although the game's release for the Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC in Japan was originally announced in November 2020 as "postponed indefinitely:,[23] the game was released for the platforms in Japan and Asia on February 25, 2021. This version of the game was titled International, as it contains some features introduced with the worldwide release, such as the English audio track option, the additional costume sets, and the New Game Plus downloadable content included.[24] This version was also released in the region for the PlayStation 5 on March 2, 2021, the same day as its worldwide release.[25] Anyone who makes the purchase of the PS5 version can unlock the "Legends Costume Set" for free.[26]

RGG Studios reported that they're working on making the necessary changes to correct errors for buyers who purchased the free PS4 to PS5 upgrade.[27]

Reception[edit]

Yakuza: Like a Dragon received positive reviews from critics, ending up with "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic.[28][29][30][31][32] Critics praised the game's new take on the Yakuza series alongside the characters, but criticized the turn-based battles as being repetitive towards the end of the game.[43][44][45]

In a positive review for Game Informer, Jeff Cork praised the new protagonist writing, "Without the weight of half a dozen or so games and their associated histories on his shoulders, Kasuga is a blank slate for this new Yokohama adventure. Kasuga certainly has goals and motivations... but the fact that he’s such a small figure in this world creates an exhilarating feeling of freedom". Cork also enjoyed the game's job system saying that it "holds a satisfying amount of depth" and allows for unique party combinations.[46]

Jordan Devore of Destructoid disliked the long animations in combat, "Early on, I had a fun enough time watching these chaotic and slightly out-of-control scenes unfold. They didn't drag on. But at a certain point, I got so sick of waiting for Ichiban and co. to run up and actually perform their attacks". Additionally, Devore wrote that, "Put another way, Like a Dragon's turn-based combat is fine, but fine can only go so far when hours-long brick walls force you to stop and grind for XP so you can stand a reasonable chance against beefy boss encounters."[43]

Yahtzee Croshaw of The Escapist called Yakuza: Like a Dragon the third best game of 2020, praising it for turning around the Yakuza franchise "with its fun characters and greater lean into the inherent silliness of the franchise."[47] In his review of the game he commended it for how "a likeable protagonist and a bit more of a lean into the usual wackiness it has successfully charmed the nurses into keeping the life support machine plugged in. Every Yakuza game is basically a loose box of disconnected toys, but for the record, this is a particularly nice box with some choice toys. Like, Legos and Masters of the Universe."[48]

Sales[edit]

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was the best selling print game during its first 4 days on sale in Japan, with 300,000 copies sold.[49] By March 2020, a total of 450,000 digital and physical copies had been sold in Japan and Asia.[50]

Awards[edit]

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was awarded a Japan Game Awards Award for Excellence in the Future Division at the Tokyo Game Show 2019.[51]

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was also nominated in The Game Awards 2020 for Best RPG category, but lost to Final Fantasy VII Remake,[52] and received a nomination for Ultimate Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards.,[53] along with Role-Playing Game of the Year at the 24th Annual Dice Awards.[54]

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was also awarded with a PlayStation Partner Awards Partner Award for achieving "particularly noteworthy results".[55] Other awards included Hilarious Humor at the Dreamies,[56] and OUTSTANDING Game, Franchise Role Playing at the 2020 NAVGTR Awards where it was also nominated in seven other categories.[57]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue (Japanese: 龍が如く7 光と闇の行方, Like a Dragon 7: Whereabouts of Light and Darkness)
  2. ^ Known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue Intānashonaru (Japanese: 龍が如く7 光と闇の行方 インターナショナル, "Like a Dragon 7: Whereabouts of Light and Darkness International")

References[edit]

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