Review: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

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In the eighth part of the series, Ichiban Kasuga, Kazuma Kiryu & Co. end up in Hawaii. How does the RPG hold up compared with Yakuza: Like a Dragon?

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (in Japan: Ryu Ga Gotoku 8/Like a Dragon 8) is available now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC. It is a direct sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which saw the series deviate from traditional numbering and renamed the series in the West from Yakuza to Like a Dragon. Infinite Wealth picks up on the major events of its predecessor and spin-off Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which was released last November, but you should have played these games to understand the full context and to be emotionally invested enough to want to spend up to over 100 hours with the role-playing game. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon, developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (RGG Studio) swapped the real-time brawler combat system for turn-based RPG combat, and Yakuza 5’s long playtime became the series’ norm.

The protagonists of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth are Ichiban Kasuga (known from Yakuza: Like a Dragon) and Kazuma Kiryu (the main character from Yakuza 0-6 and Like a Dragon Gaiden). Both head to Hawaii for their own reasons – Ichiban to look for his mother Akane and Kiryu to go after the same woman for the Daidoji faction. This secret alliance offers Kiryu shelter after he had to fake his death to protect his loved ones in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, but also controls him at every turn. The two team up with well-known characters such as the ex-detective Adachi and the trained nurse Nanba as well as new characters such as the taxi driver Tomizawa and the mysterious Chitose, who initially pretends to be the housekeeper of Ichiban’s mother Akane. A total of ten playable characters will gradually join your two parties.

The series is known for its craziness, but also for its serious side, and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth delivers on both counts. We’ll get to the former later, after we say a few words about the story. Infinite Wealth successfully continues the story of Ichiban, the former Yakuza who is trying to find his origins. In the previous game we already locked the baseball bat-wielding, clumsy man with the crazy hairstyle and a pure heart in our hearts. The grizzled ex-yakuza Kiryu also plays an important part in the story of Infinite Wealth. On the one hand, Infinite Wealth is a revival of the Dragon of Dojima, but on the other hand it is also a swansong for the fourth Oyabun of the Tojo clan and former sole protagonist of the series, who passes the baton to Ichiban. The story revolves around classic series themes such as friendship, love, loyalty, accountability, betrayal and forgiveness. Current topics such as social media, fake news and climate change also see part of the story. In particular, the character development and the many little stories that you learn about the individual party members – be it through the main story or through conversations in a bistro or along the way (combined with a funny bingo game) enrich the game immensely. There is also a wealth of optional tasks that tell some absurd, some heartwarming stories. As expected, Infinite Wealth features some impressive antagonists and offers plenty of twists and turns. Series veterans are happy to see beloved characters return, but the new party steals the show. The ending seems a bit rushed and is likely to cause mixed feelings among the fan community. If in doubt, the next spin-off, which likely offers us another piece of the puzzle, is already waiting to be revealed by RGG Studio.

While we play Ichiban in the first half of the game and explore the two locations Honolulu, Hawaii and Isezaki Ijincho, Yokohama, Japan (known from the predecessor), Kiryu stays mainly in Ijincho and Kamurocho, Tokyo (the location of the classic Yakuza games). The story of the game largely determines which character you play, what time of day it is and where you are, towards the end of the game and in the Premium Adventure mode, which is unlocked after completing the story, you can travel between locations and change the time of day to complete any outstanding side content.

In the open world, in underground dungeons or in instances as part of the main story, we have to defend ourselves against various underworld figures, thugs and crooks in turn-based battles. Before the clashes, symbols show for the first time how strong the enemy group is compared to our party (blue = weak, red = on par, purple = strong). Defeated city guards, recognisable by a crown symbol, reveal new areas of Honolulu. A new proximity indicator helps us avoid random encounters when we don’t feel like fighting. The combat system from Yakuza: Like a Dragon has been sensibly enriched with a few innovations, such as the ability to position your character within a defined radius. This allows us to receive bonuses for being in close proximity, attacks from behind and ricochets, as well as to launch combo attacks, provided we have previously unlocked these in the Drink Links bar conversations with our allies. The same applies to chain attacks on opponents, in which another party member joins in after our initial attack. Like in the real-time combat of the original Yakuza games, environmental objects can be used as weapons by performing a normal attack close to them. Each character has their own jobs, which we gradually unlock and which determine the skills available. This means we can assign specific roles to individual characters such as tank, healer or damage dealer. We can also swap out party members as we usually fight as a party of four characters with a spare at hand. Speaking of real time: The classic brawler battles are also making a return, albeit in a very limited form as part of a super mode from Kiryu and in smaller turf battles on Dondoko Island.

This time, almost every skill requires a quick-time event, which you quickly internalize, just like the perfect parries. The opponents’ weaknesses are displayed before using a skill and their cover often has to be broken before the full damage can be dealt. Jobs and outfits can still only be changed at designated locations. Your party members not only gain experience points and rise in rank, thereby increasing their basic stats such as health and defense, but also have a job rank that you can use to unlock new skills. Those familiar with the predecessor will have little problem getting through the first half of the game and by then you will have unlocked some of the powerful essences and tag team moves that shatter groups of opponents with a single area-of-effect (AoE) attack.

In each location there are multi-story dungeons in which you can gather a lot of experience points and some useful pieces of equipment, but you don’t have to grind them close to the point of collapse like in the predecessor. If you want to avoid a handful of drawn-out boss fights, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little more time here. In the boss fights, (de-)buffs, i.e. status-changing skills and items, play an important role. But the equipment is also not unimportant, the strength of which is shown in stars. This time we’re not only able to save our game on certain levels in a dungeon, but also in-between long story instances, avoiding long repetitions after the main hero dies. While we suffer from a notorious lack of money at the beginning of the game if we don’t spend a lot of time on Dondoko Island, we can afford almost every weapon and armor towards the end, no matter how powerful. The equipment can be found in safes (this time every key fits into gold and silver safes!) and suitcases scattered around the game world and can be improved at any time via the pause menu and new weapons can be crafted using items we find in the open world. We can use our personality attributes Confidence, Charisma, Kindness, Intellect and Style to protect ourselves from status-changing skills.

The series thrives on a lively open world and so it is not surprising that, in addition to the story, there are also numerous side activities waiting for us, which are introduced as part of the campaign and can be played on for hours at will. We are free to populate and manage Dondoko Island in Animal Crossing style, to lure crooks and perverts with gifts into allegiance in Sujimon and to have them compete against gym leaders in a similar way to Pokémon, to find true love with a dating app, to either deliver pizzas and burgers on a bike while performing daring stunts in the Crazy Taxi-like Crazy Delivery mode or, as in the predecessor, to collect cans under time and competitive pressure, to hit a few home runs in batting cages, to perform series classics and new songs in karaoke bars in rhythm game style, to spend time with live-action hostesses, to play poker, blackjack or mahjong, to snap all the motifs with our camera or to try our hand at UFO catchers in the arcades and to play SpikeOut: Final Edition, Virtua Fighter 3b and SEGA Bass Fishing. In the open world we not only move around on foot, but also use a Segway – autopilot with a moderately working GPS included. We can also fast-travel in taxis. All of Ichiban’s activities are recorded in a kind of diary and high scores improve your personality values.

Kiryu’s Awakening of the Dragon does not only include activities such as eating all the menus of the numerous restaurants or walking 30 kilometers, but also a Bucket List in which we unlock memories of previous games. These numerous memories are spread throughout Ijincho and Kamurocho and are presented only as still images and text boxes. This part definitely could have used a bit more love. Also a part of this is a series of side stories in which we visit characters from past games together with franchise veteran Detective Date. In order to truly experience all the encounters, a lot of open world activities have to be completed. Worthwhile for fans of the franchise, but why it wasn’t integrated into the main story and hidden behind having to do a lot of fetch quests is as much a mystery to us as the decision to lock the fan-favorite New Game+ mode, in which you can start another run with progress unlocked on your first run, behind the higher-priced Deluxe and Ultimate editions and making it a de facto a €15 upgrade from the standard version. Even without New Game+, you get a lot for your money: While you should calculate at least 50 hours of play to complete the story, this playing time can be more than doubled if you really want to experience everything.

Graphically, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth cuts a fine figure. The pre-rendered cutscenes look great, while the characters’ faces in in-game graphics are animated in a somewhat puppet-like manner and do not reflect the intensity of the dubbing, which is available  in three languages for the first time (Japanese, English and now Chinese). The Japanese dub includes some story bits in wonky English which substracts from the otherwise great atmosphere of the game. The animations are smooth and the Essences and Tag Team moves in particular show what the Dragon Engine is capable of. On the very busy beaches of Honolulu, the frame rate can get a little sweaty, but that is the exception. In the PlayStation 5 version we tested, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth runs at 60 frames per second, on the previous generation of consoles you have to be content with half of this frame rate. In view of the three huge, varied locations, the passers-by who still disappear like ghosts or walk in circles in the background of cutscenes, the improved but still not up-to-date representation of water and the sometimes barren environmental textures are negligible. The mix of driving electronic music, hard guitar riffs and sensitive piano music by SEGA Sound Team, Hyd Lunch, 83key and other artists holds up the high standard of the series and increases the drama in combat and cutscenes.


Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a competent role-playing game with an engaging story, rich characters, a sophisticated combat system and a huge scope. In terms of gameplay, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has been meaningfully improved in almost every aspect. After Ichiban’s beautifully told origin story in its predecessor, Infinite Wealth takes on a difficult legacy, as we transition from Kiryu to Ichiban. The game has its problems reconciling both and giving Kiryu a worthy farewell, but that’s complaining at a high level. RPG fans and newcomers alike will enjoy Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth with its easy-to-learn, hard-to-master combat system and numerous fleshed out side activities.

The publisher provided us with a PS5 copy of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth which we used to capture the screenshots and video (console resolution: 4K, capture resolution: 1080p).