Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Top Critic Average
Yakuza: Like a Dragon feels like everything I ever wanted in a game. Once the game stomps on the gas, it very rarely slows down. Its unique cast of characters and gameplay had me hooked and wanting more, and it almost feels like it never stops giving. Even after the story ends at the 45+ hour mark, I was ready to fight more, complete more side missions, and squeeze out every drop of gameplay that this game has to offer.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon proves you can make a masterpiece by experimenting with the formula. It is more than just being the best Yakuza game yet, but also one of the best RPGs ever made. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did their homework, understand what makes a great JRPG, and combined it with their honed craftsmanship of decades of making some of the best crime dramas in video games.
Who knows if this wild experiment will bear fruit and become its own series. Yakuza: Like a Dragon has everything it needs; an excellent crop of new characters, and even a new playground to base a series in, as we hadn't been to Yokohama previously. The future of the series would depend on how turn-based combat sells in comparison to action brawler combat, I would assume. Either way, though, Like a Dragon is a delight. It's a parody-homage to every turn-based JRPG trope you've ever known, set against brilliant character writing and the traditional urban playgrounds that have built this series into something beloved. I hope the development team is rewarded for the inherent risk that they took with this undertaking.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon isn't just a great Yakuza title - it's legitimately one of the best modern role-playing games there is.
Because, ultimately, what makes a great JRPG isn't a fantastical journey, an epic tale of gods and monsters, or a slow fight against an ambiguous evil. To me, a truly great JRPG is a series of deliberate and intentional systems that inform each other in every conceivable way. Every stat has a place, and that stat's place informs the place of another stat, and so on and so forth. Each upgrade feels tangible, each new attack feels purposeful, and each "role" has an important part to "play". The story's place, then, isn't to pad out time or paint a vivid picture of a massive world, but to give players an impetus to engage with those systems - a compelling raison d'etre for making those numbers go up. Like A Dragon does this, and does it with great aplomb.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a brave and brilliant next step for the Yakuza franchise.
Ichiban Kasuga is a worthy successor to the legacy Kiryu created, and his journey makes the story just as enthralling as any entry in the series. I entered this experience with an anxiousness never experienced before. What ensued was one of the best JRPGs from this console generation and one of the best Yakuza games of all-time. I implore fans, or anyone curious about the series, to play this game as soon as possible. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is truly is number one.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon isn’t just a new entry into the Yakuza franchise, it’s the shot of adrenaline it needed to wake up the Dragon. A fantastic adventure, and a must play.
Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. Whether it’s taking care of loved ones, overcoming hardship, or grasping for a dream, I can think of no one who isn’t seeking some sort of place in this world. To say 2020 has been a bit rough for a whole lot of people would be an understatement, and Ichiban Kasuga was definitely the hero I needed this year. His strong heart, unwavering resolve, and unconditional love for those most important to him were the sort of positivity I craved. He would have been my favorite protagonist of all the games I played this year regardless, but he shone extra brightly in the darkness, and I adore him all the more for it. Ichiban’s struggles and triumphs were relatable and heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once, and helped propel his game not only to Game of the Year status, but also ousted Yakuza 5 from its pedestal as favorite game in the series. Ichiban is the hero everyone deserves, and I think his absolute banger of an anthem puts it best: “You may have nothing, yet you’ve got the bravery to go forth and lead a wonderful life.”
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a phenomenal entry into the Yakuza franchise, with an interesting new protagonist, a compelling story, and a combat system that constantly mixes things up.