Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the 9th entry in the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series and the 2nd featuring Ichiban as a protagonist. Set four years after the events of the 8th game, this is a direct sequel and is advised to be played after Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
This review will contain spoilers for previous Like A Dragon/Yakuza games, primarily Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Coin Lockers and Paying Respect
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth opens by recapping some of the biggest plot twists and reveals from the ending of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Not only that, but several of the events later in the story only make sense if you know the events from Ichiban’s first appearance in this series.
A few years after the disbandment of the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance, life is going well for Ichiban and his party. Not everything went perfectly in the aftermath of the previous game’s events, but Ichiban is working to support the ex-Yakuza transition into a normal life. Considering that he sees himself as a hero from a fantasy RPG, it’s nice to see him in a role that shows he doesn’t have to be wielding the legendary baseball bat to be an everyday hero.
Unfortunately, society isn’t kind enough to let people start anew without issues. People don’t want to hire ex-Yakuza and this is made even more difficult by the five-year clause, which blocks them from signing up to phone plans, or most things that require paperwork after leaving the Yakuza.
We soon find that the Seiryu clan are acting suspiciously. They’re gathering former Yakuza en masse. They claim to be providing legitimate work, if in a slightly dubious business, with the plan to continue the work of dissolving clans. Whilst skeptical, an old face appears to provide reassurance and send Ichiban on a more personal quest—to find his estranged mother in Hawaii.
The Danger of VTubers and Influencers
This trip abroad has come at a rather opportune time. Life was going well for Ichiban, but this quickly came to an end. A popular VTuber called Hisoka Tatara claimed that Ichiban’s help for ex-Yakuza was him hiring them to commit crimes. This soon leads to the world turning against him. Adachi, Nanba, and Ichiban all lose their jobs or other business opportunities after the accusation. Ichiban has been facing challenges all of his life, so it’s no surprise to find something new kicking him down when he’s finally doing well at the start of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
It’s an interesting example of the negatives of online influencers and a surprisingly negative take from a company that heavily uses influencers in its marketing. They’ve recruited a popular YouTuber (Kson) to play a character that seems to be based on their personality in this game and Like A Dragon: Ishin even had content creators as ‘summons’ in battle.
It’s certainly not the first time that the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series has used the theme of problems caused by false accusations though. This is just a very modern and topical take on it. There’s even a substory later on about old accusations made by a disreputable newspaper writer that ruined a life.
This VTuber storyline seemed very important at first, so I was surprised to find that the topic was mostly dropped until it picked up again after halfway through the story.
The Old Dragon
The main narrative of the story focuses on searching Hawaii for Ichiban’s mother. Of course, nothing goes smoothly. Ichiban finds himself robbed, stripped naked, and in jail before long. Luckily Kiryu happens to be in the area on an assignment for the Daidoji, following the events of Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.
Ichiban is the main protagonist here, but Kiryu is certainly important, particularly in a few of the later chapters where he takes the lead. While Yakuza: Like a Dragon is near-mandatory to play before Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, I feel like the games starring Kiryu will make certain moments hit harder emotionally, but aren’t needed for understanding. Playing Infinite Wealth will certainly mention spoilers for the earlier mainline games though.
This works as a nice closing chapter for Kiryu. Even ahead of the game’s release, it’s been made no secret that Kiryu has cancer and that his story is winding down. He certainly has an impact on the main story, but what I found more interesting was the idea of how he has to learn to live. Quite a lot of time is spent in reflection on all the lives that he’s touched, but how he hasn’t taken much time for himself. This is supported by a gameplay mechanism later on where he becomes stronger through remembering these moments.
Aloha New Crew!
Much like prior titles, a lot of focus is put on getting to know the characters in this world, both those our party and otherwise. Two new party members join us in Hawaii: Eric Tomizawa and Chitose Fujinomiya. Overall, I didn’t feel the same appreciation for the dynamic between the characters as I did with the old core party of Ichiban, Nanba, Adachi, and Saeko. It’s not bad, but there was a lot to live up to.
Tomizawa reminds me somewhat of Nanba. He’s somewhat scruffy, primarily a magic user, and fills a similar position as a more sensible character. There are even some similarities in their background story, though it takes Tomizawa’s in a very different direction.
While I didn’t like Tomizawa at first, he has particularly good character development. The story does a great job of messing with expectations and he has a few powerful moments.
We meet Chitose early on in less than pleasant circumstances. I didn’t find her particularly captivating as a character, with her only standout moment in the final chapter. Instead, she’s important in moving the plot forward. She also highlights something about Ichiban that I mentioned in my review of the previous game as frustrating: his tendency to forgive far too easily.
She has some fun dialogue, but her personal story outside of the plot moments isn’t particularly noteworthy and hits a lot less hard than Tomizawa’s or any of the previous characters.
While more time is given to the new characters, all of the old party returns throughout the game. It is worth mentioning that a couple of them appear late though, to the point that it makes them inconvenient to use due to less time developing the bond which powers them up in battle.
Outside of the returning playable characters, others from substories reappear. It’s nice to see what they’re doing these days. We even see a couple from the Judgment spin-off appear as cameos.
The story goes through quite a few surprising moments as Ichiban searches for his mother. You end up fighting gangs, uncovering a surprising plot, and finding out that what seemed like a simple search for a missing woman goes further than you’d ever expect. It was very well-paced, with new challenges to overcome and a heightening danger throughout.
As over-the-top and silly as this series sometimes gets, it tells a dramatic story with an expansive plot and the occasional moment that could be out of a soap opera. It just adds in moments like fighting a boss while a giant shark tries to eat you both. Whilst I didn’t connect with Infinite Wealth’s story as much as I did the last game, it has many of the same elements of misleading the player, issues with corrupt people in power, and dramatic reveals. I enjoyed my time with the main story to the point that I had to consciously slow down at the end so I didn’t miss the other parts.
As with the previous game, there is a lot of side content too. Each character has a series of substories, though the ones for the original characters are somewhat weak. Conversations with them are dotted around the map too. More substantial are the 52 substories, often telling short stories about the people around Hawaii, from silly ones like a bird nesting in Ichiban’s hair to a coffee shop owner who is being harassed. It really helps to make the area more interesting by getting to know the people and some take the chance to veer away from the standard ‘beat up the enemies’ quests by having you memorize orders, talk to people, complete a route in a certain time, and so on.
Old and New Gameplay
As you’ve probably played Yakuza: Like a Dragon, you will know what to expect for the gameplay of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth for the most part. While Isezaki Ijincho and Kamurocho are available at times, most of the time is spent wandering around Hawaii and dispensing justice via the end of a baseball bat, with plenty of activities to get sidetracked with along the way.
The most notable of these are two minigames. Sujimon, which is a Pokémon parody, and Dondoko Island which has similar elements to Animal Crossing.
Sujimon has you recruit your enemies and command them in 3 vs 3 battles. It has a basic elemental system of weakness and strengths, special moves, and more. It’s essentially a downscaled Pokémon experience, except the creatures are recruitable enemies like a homeless guy in a sleeping bag and dancing otaku.
I was impressed by just how expansive Sujimon is. It has occasional chances to have the regular enemies you encounter join your team, raids going on all over the map to find battles, trainers, and an ‘Elite Four’. It’s threaded throughout most of the game to encounter Sujimon.
Dondoko Island has you clean up an island that has been used as a dumping ground to make it into a resort for paying guests. While there is some fighting off invaders, it’s mostly destroying trash, fishing, and collecting resources until you can craft new buildings and items to improve the rating of the island. After some time, you’ll be able to start accepting guests.
I enjoy crafting and designing islands, so this appealed to me. There’s satisfaction in making it look nice or finding a new plan by talking to a random NPC or by crafting enough. It won’t be for everyone, but it is mostly optional.
For the most part, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth follows its immediate predecessor in using a brilliant blend of turn-based action with chances to press buttons to guard and quick-time events for additional damage. It’s still just as satisfying to line a crowd of enemies up and take them all out in one hit by knocking them into each other and to improve the bonds between the team so they do combos and follow-ups.
The most notable difference is how Kiryu is used in combat. It’s still turn-based combat, but he can choose from three styles with different benefits such as the chance for extra damage via a prompt, breaking guards, or attacking twice in one turn. There’s also a special move later on which gives the chance to control him directly, but it feels quite simple: you can just move him around and keep attacking enemies by pressing the same button.
Playing on normal difficulty, the combat is relatively easy, assuming that you’re exploring, doing side quests, getting the best equipment, and so on. It does get a little more challenging near the end and I ended up grinding in the randomized dungeon for a short while to get the top-end weapons and having to remember to use status effects and buffs to my advantage more often.
English or Japanese?
Should you play Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth with English or Japanese audio? It’s up to you, but I tried both and preferred Japanese. That said, dodgy English is still a problem.
Due to the Hawaii setting, some of the voice actors switch between English and Japanese even in the Japanese dub. Some of these actors have very poor English pronunciation, including at least a couple of cases where they’ve grown up in Hawaii. At other times, it sounds like there are completely different voice actors for some minor characters depending on the language being spoken which I found disconcerting. Luckily, whilst unrealistic, almost everyone that Ichiban encounters in Hawaii can speak Japanese and seems to know to use it with him automatically so this doesn’t come up too often.
Otherwise, the Japanese dub was excellent, with a number of voice actors who’ve taken part in high-profile anime such as Love Live and Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro.
I felt like the English voice acting on the English dub was mixed. Some characters sounded a little wooden at times, but it was mostly good with Matthew Yang King as Tomizawa standing out as great and a few not-so-good examples. This is partially down to preference too, such as liking Ichiban’s more emotional acting in Japanese, compared to a more subdued but still good performance in English.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is an excellent game where you can easily spend a hundred hours if you get sidetracked. While it doesn’t quite live up to Ichiban’s last adventure, it comes close. I imagine long-time fans especially will appreciate Kiryu’s closing chapter, while it might spark an interest in newer fans to go back and visit the older titles.
LIKE A DRAGON: INFINITE WEALTH IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you enjoy Yakuza games, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the spin-off series, Judgment.
Many thanks goes to SEGA for a PC review code for Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.