November 25, 2020

Believe it or not, SEGA’s Yakuza series has been going strong since all the way back in 2005.  The franchise made its debut on the Playstation 2, becoming an instant hit in Japan.  The Yakuza games, spearheaded by Super Monkey Ball and Virtua Fighter mastermind Toshihiro Nagoshi, have been growing in popularity ever since.  Slowly but surely, Yakuza has become a franchise recognized by gamers around the world, and it seems the I.P. is poised for a major breakthrough.  The latest installment, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, could be the game that takes recognition to the next level.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is actually the 7th mainline installment in the series, and it puts players in control of Yakuza member Ichiban Kasuga.  Ichiban served 18 long years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, but did so willingly to protect his clan.  When Ichiban is finally released from his prison stint, he finds that his clan is nowhere to be found.  Ichiban hunts down the patriarch of his clan to see why everyone has forgotten him, only to be shot in the chest by that very same patriarch.  While severely wounded, Ichiban does survive the attack, and is left wondering why his former crime family wants him dead. Along the way, Ichiban will be teaming up with a cast of rather unique characters.  Joining forces with Ichiban is the rogue cop Adachi, ex-nurse Nanba, and the hostess Saeko.  Each character will play a crucial role in helping Ichiban discover the truth behind his mysterious betrayal, taking the entire cast on an adventure they never see coming.  As the adventure takes shape, Ichiban and his new friends will inch ever closer to shaking off their shady pasts in order to evolve into unlikely heroes.

The Yakuza mainline games have become quite well-known for their beat’em-up mechanics, letting players throw fists with other Yakuza members.  In a major departure for the series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon ditches the hand-to-hand real-time combat for an RPG system.  Players now control a party of four different characters in turn-based battles, but some other hallmarks of previous Yakuza games remain.  Fights in earlier Yakuza installments let you use the environment to your advantage by grabbing signs, boxes, and other items to bash your opponents with.  Yakuza: Like a Dragon still allows for those environmental attacks, albeit through the turn-based system.

Going hand-in-hand with the RPG system is the ability to call in assists to aid your party.  These will give characters certain buffs to help them dish out more damage, or have another character join the fight for a round or two.  More of these assists are earned as you make your way through the game, as are multiple jobs.  Picking a job in Yakuza: Like a Dragon is much like choosing a character class in a traditional RPG.  The job you choose will open up new paths for both offensive and defensive tactics in battle, and there are plenty to experiment with in order to find the right fit for your style.  

If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, now really is the perfect time to jump in.  Not only does Yakuza: Like a Dragon put a fresh spin on the franchise, it’s also available on more platforms than ever.  You can scoop the game up on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam and Windows 10.  There’s even a Playstation 5 version in the works, although that won’t be launching until March 2nd, 2021.  With all those choices, you should be able to experience the intense action and over-the-top fun of Yakuza: Like a Dragon no matter where you play.