The last mainline entry in the long-running Yakuza series released in 2018, and was very well-received. 2020 saw the release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon this past January, and now less than one year later the localized edition has landed at our desk. Does the series work just as well as a turn-based fighter, or should developer Ryu Go Gotoku Studio stick to what they know? Time to find out in our Yakuza: Like a Dragon PS4 review.
Yakuza Like a Dragon PS4 Review – Meet Ichiban
Like a Dragon is the first mainline entry in the Yakuza series to not star Kazuma Kiryu. Instead, we are introduced to a new hard-headed gangster anti-hero, Ichiban Kasuga. He has a storied past, a kind heart, and a bad temper. Ichiban’s first name also translates to “best” or “number one,” something which other characters are quick to make fun of, at least before they get to know him. Other main characters also feel fully fleshed-out, with their own attitudes, agendas, and quirks. The story in Like a Dragon is so engrossing, I often found myself playing just a few sequences, looking up, and suddenly noticing that it was almost midnight.
Yakuza as a series has traditionally been a beat-em-up, real-time action game. Fights usually consisted of mashing buttons furiously, completing combos and sometimes performing special over-the-top moves. Like a Dragon introduces a turn-based system instead, though there are some real-time mechanics in the mix as well. For starters, all characters move around the fight area while awaiting their turn or next command from the player. This can play a part in the player’s strategy, because some moves can toss characters into one another for extra damage, but only if those characters are next to or behind one another. Using the environment to one’s advantage is also still a valid strategy – a nearby barrel, traffic cone, bicycle, or other object can and will be automatically used by characters to whack others with, so waiting for an enemy to move close to such an object can pay off with extra damage. Characters can also be knocked down by basic attacks, and while they are recovering, they are susceptible to follow-up attacks from teammates.
Yakuza Like a Dragon PS4 Review – Build Your Team
Now, the player can build up a party of up to four characters, each of whom level up their main level and job level. Items can be equipped on each party member, which have various buffs. This is really a full-on team-based RPG set in the world of Yakuza, and fans should be happy with this mixing. Some recovery items can even be used mid-battle without wasting a turn, which is a nice feature. Traditional classes are known in Like a Dragon as jobs, and are modern takes such as Hero, Homeless man, Detective, and other such titles. Some jobs are restricted to gender, and they usually come with unique weapons.
None of this is done with much seriousness, as the attitude of Yakuza is generally laid-back. While some portions of the story cover mature themes including murder, sex, extortion, a lot of the zaniness that characterizes Yakuza is present here. Imagine grown men dressing up as babies, enemies with such titles as Hungry Hungry Homeless, and a knock-off version of Professor Oak, and you get the idea. That last example is actually a feature of Like a Dragon – the Sujidex is an application that Ichiban unlocks on his smartphone early on in the campaign, and it automatically catalogs all of the enemies that he encounters throughout his adventure. It actually includes helpful information such as weaknesses, though for most lower-level enemies attack type hardly matters since player characters are quickly overpowered relative to the average enemy in most areas.
Yakuza Like a Dragon PS4 Review – On the PS5 Soon
This Yakuza game may be receiving a PS5 update next year, but the current release doesn’t seem to take advantage of the current generation of consoles. There are no options while playing on the PS4 Pro, for instance, so while the game runs well, one can’t help but wonder if a graphics/performance toggle could have resulted in a better-looking game. Character models are fairly uninspiring, though the environments such as the city of Yokohama sport a lot of details. Most cutscenes take place in-game, which results in seamless transitions into fights, but this also means there are no visual upgrades while crucial scenes play out. All cutscenes are also well-voiced, with the option of playing with subtitled Japanese audio.
Minigames are usually featured in any given Yakuza game, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon includes two main minigames (outside of side quests like bottle collecting). Pachislot is accessible around the city, as well as from the main menu, though only after a separate (and free) 9.6 GB download. Also shown at the main menu is Virtua Fighter 5, Virtua Fighter 2, and Virtua Fighter 2.1. Each game features a single match consisting of up to six rounds (so first to three wins), so while these aren’t the full games, they are fun and random distractions, and a blast from the past. In a very weird turn of events, the new game plus and extra difficulty level were behind a paywall for the Japanese release, but they are thankfully included in the Western release. Some character classes/jobs are still locked behind a paywall, however.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the Yakuza many have come to know and love. An engrossing story, even if it does veer into the quirky and downright bizarre all the time, keeps players invested in Ichiban’s quest to become a hero. The turn-based battles make the game even more accessible than earlier entries, with a few real-time aspects such as dodging and damage multipliers thrown in for good measure. Some odd monetization makes getting the complete version of the game pricier than usual, but it seems some next-gen games are priced higher these days as the norm. Still, you’re not missing anything essential if you opt to buy the base version of this game. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a seriously fun time and a great soft reboot of a beloved franchise.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.