Yakuza: Like a Dragon (YLAD) gives us a fresh new experience that I honestly enjoyed, and the characters are the icing on top. One of the neat things about the title is that you can play it without having any knowledge of the previous Yakuza games. There are some references to past games, however, it won’t spoil any main events but some from the sixth entry are referenced mostly. Having played Yakuza 0, etc as action beat’em ups, it is surprising that it was turned into a turn-based RPG. With that in mind, it manages to do it very well while also providing its own unique features to make the game interesting. One example is the job rank system, which you can read later in this review.
Pros and Cons
-Fantastic crime drama with well-developed characters
-Fun Turn-based RPG like combat with abilities to utilize both offensively and defensively
-Great soundtrack that fits with its characters and themes
-Beautiful graphics that make the environments feel alive
-The camera is a huge issue during combat because the characters are spread out around the battlefield
-The game is rather easy overall, but there are difficulty spikes on the bosses that come out of nowhere
-Pound Mates are not useful
It's the year 2001. Ichiban Kasuga a low-ranking Yakuza-grunt, who is enjoying his everyday life in the Arakawa Family. The patriarch Masumi Arakawa asks him to take a fall for a murder he did not commit, and he agrees to do so. Ichiban thinks that by taking the fall, he can be a Tojo Clan hero. However, as soon as he gets out of prison, no one greets him and he finds out that hardly anyone remembers who he is.
The story is really well done, there is so much I want to talk about, it’s just that good! YLAD has, possibly, one of the best stories that I have ever experienced in a Yakuza game. What makes the story great are the characters. They all have their own personalities and special traits: A good example is Yu Nanba, a homeless guy who has an attack where he will throw pigeon food at an enemy causing a bunch of pigeons to attack. Kasuga loves video games and was a big fan of Dragon Quest. Whenever he is in a battle, he feels like he is in a turn-based RPG/JRPG. The character development is tied to the gameplay. This is something I found very unique and something that I have never experienced in a turn-based RPG. My two favorite characters have to be Joon-gi Han, I love the way he fights with his base job and Tianyou Zhao, who is a leader of a gang. He looks tough but does have a soft spot. Another touch I found interesting, is that every time a new party member joins you, the Dragon Quest theme would play. A very nice addition that I appreciated.
YLAD is a unique turn-based RPG. With that in mind, it has some key features that I found very interesting. If Kasuga is in front of an object, he will sometimes pick it up and use it to attack. This can sometimes result in the enemy being stunned. These objects can range from bikes, crates, and furniture. This feature is restricted to Kasuga, however. When an enemy is about to attack, you can do a perfect block which will reduce damage and prevent stuns and bleeding effects. You do have to time the button press at the right moment, so it is a little hard to get used to.
When it comes to combat, you have a normal attack that you can use and special attacks. Things like spewing fire from someone’s mouth or firing a gun. These kinds of attacks will consume Mental points (MP). Later down the line, you can get super moves and these kinds of attacks will deal a lot of damage and may place a status effect, like paralysis or burn. If you ever get stuck in a fight, you can call upon a Pound Mate that does cost money to use. Some of them will inflict poison, decrease defense, or just deal a lot of damage.
At the end of every battle, you will get experience points for your character to level up. There are two ways to level up your character: your normal characters' stats and their Job Rank. Job Ranks are like your character’s class, a few examples can include Body Guard, Hero, and Break Dancer. A tip I will give is that putting Saeko Mukoda in the Idle Job, as she benefits from the support abilities that she has and the magical damage. You can also bond with your party members. This will help them obtain benefits like getting EXP when not in battle or learning a Tag-Team super move.
Now, I love YLAD gameplay, however, it does suffer from a few issues. The first issue is with the camera during battles. When you are in a battle, the characters and the enemies will spread out. This can result in the camera angles moving while an enemy is attacking. As a result, at times, you may not be able to do a perfect block and will take the full damage. However, the game is still easy but does have a difficulty spike when it comes to the bosses, mainly because they can tank any damage as they can resist almost every type of attack. It also does not help that you don’t have much to work around it.
The soundtrack has to be among the best that I have heard in a Yakuza game. The main battle music is the Yokohama battle theme. It’s so good it even makes farming seem fun and interesting! I also enjoyed Omi Rengo and Cold-Blooded. There are other songs I like as well, but some of them are spoilers so I can’t reveal much. Almost all the songs have this funky beat to them that make them all sound so appealing and feel like a dubstep kind of thing.
Graphics and Performance
YLAD is beautiful! The new city Isezaki Ijincho is alive and full of colors. I found zero issues while I was playing, with it running at a smooth 60 FPS. I was playing on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X Quad-Core Processor 3.50, and 16 GB of RAM. You will need a decent computer to run the game, but other than that, you should be fine to play it.
This has to be the best Yakuza game that I have played thus far. It does everything that I want in a game and more! A great story, enjoyable combat, and a kick-ass soundtrack! There is a lot that YLAD has to offer, and I sadly could not do everything. If you are looking for a great turn-based RPG, then this game is definitely for you! I’d also recommend playing if you are a Yakuza fan.