So here we are at the eighth entry in this series
Yes for those that are new Yakuza series is old with the first title being released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the first game in the series where the main character changes. You are not Kiryu Kazuma anymore, instead you’re introduced to a brand new character, who is very different from him. One can say that this is a new generation type of character, as it is nor old fashioned like the previous ones, but you still wear a suit and do Yakuza type stuff and silly side quests, as this series is known for.
The game is still made by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega. It uses Dragon engine as previous games, with a few new improvements.
So let’s take a look at this brand new character and setting. You’re not in Kamurochõ anymore, welcome to Yokohama.
But don’t sweat it, you’ll still be able to revisit Kamurochõ. In fact, you’ll start in it and you’re still part of the Tojo clan, but you’re part of the Arakawa family. Due to some events to save your family, you take the blame for a murder and are sent to prison. This seems like a reference to previous games, kind of like a flashback, and you’ll find some other references throughout the gameplay.
You’re in the shoes of Ichiban Kasuga, your an orphan, born from a lady of the night and abandoned in a brothel. The owner finds you and raises you as his child, with the help of his employees. Your father dies and you become emotionally unstable, and as a teen, Ichiban starts to rebel and makes a living robbing and doing bad things to people, until he tries to mess with the wrong people. You try to steal and threaten a Yakuza member from the Oni Alliance and things go south pretty fast. You’re beaten and taken away, in despair you lie and tell them you’re a Yakuza yourself and a member of a famous clan, this one makes things worse. The yakuza that captured you make a ransom out of you, but the family actually comes to save your life, even if it was a lie. After this you become in debt to the person who came to your rescue and try to get in the family. The rest I won’t spoil you, just take in mind you are later charged of murder for some else of your clan and sent to jail.
Ichiban it’s a great character in a sense that he’s emotional but has good values, comes from nothing but dreams big, makes mistakes but learns from them. He is a very likeable character and sometimes very naive, with some unpredictable behaviours that make some twists during the game. As for the rest of the characters, they are each very unique. All of them have deep and troubled past and present, but thanks to your hero personality you’ll help them and form deep bonds with them in return they will join your party, or at least help you with a new system called pound mates.
The biggest bold move from Ryu Ga Gotoku was turning this brawler series into a JRPG, or in other words, a turned based mechanic RPG.
Unlike all the Yakuza games this one has an emphasis on turn based mechanics. This could just seem like a gimmick implementation, but it was very well with a very intricate system, with elements, specials and weaknesses. One thing that is also present is the bound system, where you can have special skills or passives be presented to you, the more you spend time and battle with them the more the bond increases. Some side quests also advance your bound level with specific character.
Speaking of weaknesses, this game introduces you to a system called Sujidex, where it’s very similar to other turned based games, you find opponents and you win against them, they get registered on a list on your cell phone that will give you information and their weaknesses like fire, electricity or just physical attacks.
You also have to measure your stats like the other entries in the series, throughout various events like quests, interactions and side activities. Like other games of the same genre, you also have gear and weapons to equip and upgrade during the game.
The battle system works okay, has some minor flaws like edge detection, NPCs sometimes get stuck for a moment on objects or are very far from the battle, so they need to run up to it, and this makes it for awkward moments, but mostly it’s fine and fun with some over-the-top skills available. This is where the game shines, most of the skills look cool, you can call your fans from the street to beat opponents for you, picking up a chair or bike and throwing it (this is done automatically). Like a typical MMO you now have classes or jobs as it’s called in the game and these give you access to special classes like support or rove, but with different names like idol and breakdancer. This is your typical Yakuza humor for older fans, You won’t be disappointed in this regard, there are also special classes and bound moves that require the whole squad to gang up on one enemy for massive damage. There is also the new pound mate system where you call some allies on your cell phone to come in the middle of your battle and help you with abilities, the first call is free and thereafter you start paying for their services.
There are many side activities and I’ll just name a few to keep some surprises for you to uncover. You’ll get to be a company manager where you’ll learn how to manage a company and how to deal with shareholders. You can compete with karts and try to destroy your opponent’s karts with weapons and win tournaments, there are your typical karaoke charts to strive for and even gardening, you can give the ingredients to a friend and he will cook for you.
As far as AI goes, it’s not great and has some issues, reason NPCs can always pop up and do the same movements in the background during a cutscene, grab the cellphone and walk away into the horizon. This is not noticeable at the start but it starts appearing in every scene, also enemy’s that don’t detect you, if you observe them from afar, they run into cars and people and then turn back or get stuck somewhere. It’s the AI trying to send them your way but they reach their limit boundary. I also think that encounters in lower difficulty should appear less frequently as not to stop your exploration.
As for performance, things get tricky
I was hoping for a bit more graphical improvements, coming from Yakuza Zero and Yakuza 6. They look alright in the consoles and all, but as far as this new game for the new generation goes, i have played it on PC with maximum graphic settings at 1080p and it did not look all that good, character models are good but the scenery looks weird sometimes, things that need to look round like tires are hexagonal, some textures are pre-rendered and don’t have 3D effects applied. I tested on a i5 8400 with a R9 390 with 60 to 50 FPS. I wasn’t expecting top notch frames with this set up, but I wanted to make use of the picture mode where you take selfies and apply funny filters, but the looks sometimes throw me off. I did not test this on 4K nor on consoles, maybe in the future and I’ll change this section but for now don’t expect too much it’s ok and if you played any of the previous games it will look mostly the same with its type of visual charm.
You’re not in this game for the graphics, you’re coming for the story and comical relief.
As for sound, I ran into some issues where I put language in english and during battles the game speaks and grunts in Japanese, after the battle it turns back to English and runs fine. The music in this game is pretty good. It makes the atmosphere pretty deep or eccentric when it needs to, the theme seems a bit different from past games, not so electronic as it was before.
The developers are aware of the game bugs that plagues this game. They are normally minor and won’t break your gameplay, they are being solved bit by bit and patches are coming out and fixing it on a regular basis. This is a very good sign for the future of this game.
So it’s a bit of a buggy mess, but should I buy it ?
Yes. Try it out if you want something comical, the turned based RPG system was a bold but also a well done move. It still feels good to beat enemies, the new system permits new fun moves and actions to be possible, the new characters are very good and enjoyable, the backstories are mostly deep and affectionable. The new side activities are all fun and enjoyable; they don’t feel like filler content. It might be a bit rough around the edges but it is one of the best Yakuza games in the series and a good farewell to Kiryu’s Saga.