Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the latest entry from Sega in the beloved long-running series and a must-play on PS4. Find out why in our Yakuza: Like a Dragon review!
Yakuza is back! After giving us Yakuza 6 a couple of years ago as the end of the journey of Kazuma Kiryu, Sega is ready to give us the next chapter of the franchise. Unlike previous entries in the long-running Yakuza series, for Yakuza: Like a Dragon, you will enter into full-on RPG territory. What this means is that battles will take place in an old-school infused turn-based manner, and you’ll be managing many stats, items, experience points, and more! As it turns out, the main protagonist is a big gamer, and he’s actually modeled his life by way of Dragon Quest – not a knock-off sounding RPG series, but the actual JRPG classic from Square-Enix.
The game will start with a story sequence that will introduce you to Masumi Arikawa, who will later be introduced as the head of the Arikawa family. He used to be a theater performer with his family, living under his abusive mother, Yoko Arakawa. She actually ended up giving him a nasty scar on his face after a violent attack. After the final show for the season, Masumi and his father went out to eat at a fancy Chinese restaurant. While Masumi went to the restroom after a delightful round of appetizers, someone killed his father. Years later, we get control of Ichiban Kasuga, a member of the Arikawa family who is chasing after a low-life fool who is trying to do business under the family’s territory.
It is here that, after a short sequence in which you’ll run after the idiot while taking on some quick time event (QTE) choices, that you’ll be introduced to the aforementioned turn-based fighting system, which is certainly a big departure from how every single Yakuza game before Like a Dragon has handled combat. You will select actions from a commands menu in the bottom left corner of the screen, with the most useful one being the attack command, that will allow you to deal damage with the weapon in your hand.
Once you’ve picked your command, you’ll have to select its target – this being street thug Ushio during the tutorial fight – to commit to the command. But just because the game offers turn-based combat doesn’t mean you can just select commands and let go of the controller! You need to pay attention to see if, say, your opponent ends up falling on the ground after your attack. If you’re fast enough, you can attack again with a more powerful Opportunity Strike, which can turn the tide of battle.
As you battle, you need to pay attention to the red gauge on the bottom right corner of the screen, representing your health points – HP. If your HP reaches zero, then it’s game over! Because of this, you should take a moment in battle to visit the Etc. option on the commands menu so that you can grab a bite to heal your wounds. A delicious salmon onigiri might be just what you need! You should also decide when it’s best to defend and hen you should go on an all-out rampage to destroy your opponent.
You will also have access to skills, which are mapped to the Triangle button. Skills can be of three types: attack, recovery, and support. When you activate skills, you might get some on-screen prompts that you should follow to, say, deal additional damage, or boost the effectiveness of a skill. Since Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an RPG, skills will be using MP – Mental Points – which are represented by the green bar at the bottom right of the screen. If your MP is low, be sure to use an item!
In RPGs, every now and then, you might be inflicted with a status effect – or end up inflicting one on your opponent. These can include things such as, for example, bleed, which will have its target lose some HP over time, or stun, which will keep it from being able to act. If you want to prevent said status effects from affecting your characters, you should try to use the Circle button to perform a Perfect Guard, which will also allow you to lower the damage you receive from enemies. Just press the button in time with your enemy’s attacks, and you’ll execute a Perfect Guard.
After a fight, you will be rewarded with cash, experience points, and job points, as well as have the possibility of obtaining some bonus items for your troubles. Cash, as expected, can be used to purchase items and better equipment. Experience points will allow your characters to level up, which will give them a boost to their overall stats. Leveling up will give a nice boost to HP, MP, attack, defense, magic – yes, magic -, healing, agility, and dexterity. Job points will go towards increasing a character’s rank while also allowing it to gain new job skills that can be put to good use.
You will still get to do a lot of running and exploring each of the locations the game has to offer, and as you do so, you should see if there are any side-quests for you to complete. As you interact with other characters, your actions will start to shape Kasuga’s personality, leveling up his passion, confidence, charisma, kindness, intellect, and style. Leveling up these traits will reward you with perks and bonuses, as well as lead to being able to interact with new characters or to experience new features.
And speaking of things to do, arcade games have been a constant in the Yakuza series, so if you end up in need of something different, you can always jump into Club Sega and enjoy some Virtua Fighter 2, Fantasy Zone, Space Harrier, Super Hang-On, or Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown! On top of this, you can also visit other locations to enjoy some blackjack, poker, Oicho-Kabu, Koi-Koi, a bit of batting practice, a kart racing mini-game, pachinko slot machines, karaoke, and more!
Trophy-wise, this is one that will take you a while to Platinum, which is to be expected from a game in the Yakuza series. There are several trophies that will unlock automatically as you progress through the game’s story, and the rest will be tied to completing a ton of the side-quests you will find, for maxing your bond level with other characters, for leveling up Kasuga a ton, for maximizing all of his personality stats, and more. The good news is that none of the trophies are missable, so as long as you put in the time, you’ll be rewarded with a new Platinum trophy for your collection.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is certainly a big change for the series, but a welcomed one. It changes things up by sending us down the path of a JRPG, which is not a bad thing! Your mileage may vary, but as a big fan of the genre, I certainly liked what these elements added to the Yakuza franchise. Turn-based fights? Great! Changing jobs to diversify what your party can do? Yes, please! The game is available at retail and digitally for $59.99, and you can also get it digitally in two extra options. The digital Hero Edition, available for $69.99, also unlocks the full in-game job set and Management Mode set. If you want to go all-in, you can get the Legendary Hero Edition for $89.99, which includes everything that the Hero Edition has to offer, as well as the full in-game crafting set, karaoke set, Ultimate Costume set, and stat boost set. You can buy the game right now on PlayStation 4 and enjoy your time with this new cast and story, and get an upgrade to the PlayStation 5 version of the game next year at no extra cost once it’s out on March 2, 2021. Do be aware that you won’t be able to transfer your save data from PS4 to PS5.
This Yakuza: Like a Dragon review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Sega.