We’ve closed the book on our beloved protagonist in Kazuma Kiryu. Through seven mainline games, we grew to care about a man who fought for the people he loved most and tried to do the right thing no matter his circumstances–and also did his best to resolve some of the most ridiculous situations of everyday people. As we enter Yakuza: Like A Dragon, we begin anew in the series with fresh faces and revamped gameplay mechanics. And after putting a few hours into it on Xbox Series X, Like A Dragon hit me with everything I love most about the series while standing strong as its own spirited game.
Every time I talk about the Yakuza games, I also point to its perfect blend of outlandish humor and captivating melodrama–consistently hitting the right notes at the right moments. It has always been outward in its expression of modern Japanese culture and embraced it in a way that permeates every aspect of the franchise. All of that is intact with Like A Dragon as I explored Yokohama, sang karaoke, beat up some bad dudes in the Series X demo. But in this departure from previous entries, we see the absurdity cranked up to great effect, a party dynamic that adds a wonderful narrative layer, and a welcome switch to a turn-based RPG.
Drama In Yokohama
Meet Kasuga Ichiban, our new protagonist who is presented as the antithesis of Kiryu. He’s louder, outspoken, and a lot less reserved. Kasuga is kind of a charming dork who tends to have a positive outlook and isn’t shy about his love for Dragon Quest (yes, the real video game series). His imagination fuels the ridiculous premise of fighting in a turn-based RPG style, because that is how he’s envisioning these street fights going down. But the personalities of Kasuga and Kiryu intersect in that they both have fists of steel and hearts of gold.