Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth is everything the series has been, and more
Perhaps one of the biggest re-inventions that a series has ever had was the jump that the Yakuza - or Like A Dragon - series made with Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Abandoning what had made the series so well known in the past with its action-based brawler combat and taking on a purely turn-based RPG approach was and remains a ballsy move - but as any fan knows, the combat is just one key factor in what makes the series so beloved. We were eager to see how Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth could deliver upon the series newfound framework, while maintaining the same zany tone players know and love.
First things first; I've got to admit that I'm still unsure how the jump to Hawaii feels, having played a chunk of the game. I'll save my full thoughts on that question once I've had a chance to see more of the game; so for now, I'll talk about the minigames. The demo build we tried was specially crafted for Tokyo Game Show; one of our party members could teleport us to specific activities that we wanted to try. Karaoke returns, of course, complete with player proficiency being graded by a new "Hawaii Ranking" system, but the star of the show was absolutely Crazy Delivery; a riff on SEGA's own Crazy Taxi franchise, and placing Ichiban as a food courier, cycling across town to pick up and deliver orders to reach his quota.
Another minigame had players riding a "Hawaii Trolley", and we were tasked with capturing photos of "perverts" in the act, further continuing the 'Pokemon' analogies found in previous games; this time riffing on Pokemon Snap. The more weasely the pervert, the better the score - and zooming in for a clearer shot also improved our points. To say the whole ordeal was memorable would be to put things lightly.
Combat is, of course, iterative of the previous mainline entry in the series; the immediately obvious change comes in the form of the party members available for use, and one that comes to mind is Kazuma Kiryu. Owing to the series history of offering him multiple styles to fight with, Kazuma can switch between three different modes that impact how he will fight in battle; filling up the "Hype Meter" for each of these skills will unlock what can best be described as a Limit Break where Kazuma will channel his past battles by quite literally breaking out of the turn-based combat and letting you take full control to beat up enemies as they are helpless to defend themselves.
Much like with any show floor demo, especially curated ones such as with Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, it's considerably harder to get a read on the story in such a short timeframe; except to say that this entry comes with its own unique challenges by being the first entry in the franchise to take place outside of Japan. What this might mean for the future of the series is anyone's guess, and how that might impact its storytelling is similarly unknown.
At the end of the day, Like A Dragon has always thrived on how it walks to the beat of its own drum, and so far there's nothing different with how SEGA and RGG Studios is handling Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The series has quickly grown to become one of the company's most important franchises, even outside of Japan - but even domestically, it's clear that the excitement remains. If we hadn't been given priority access as press to play the game, the line to have a shot at the demo was already reaching 2 hours long on the first non-public day of TGS; after playing it for ourselves, we can certainly see why. Look forward to our further coverage as we more closely reach the game's January 26, 2024 release for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.