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== Nixon Computer ==
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GAME CLEAR No. 164 -- Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

video games game clear ryu ga gotoku studio sega playstation ps5

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (2024, Multiplatform)

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher: SEGA
Clear Version: PS5
Clear Platform: PS5
Clear Date: 3/30/24

ladiw


Why should I care?
A heartfelt last ride for original series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu combined with significant battle system improvements more than make up for writing and pacing issues.

NOTE: I’m debuting a new feature there called “why should I care?” I’d like to think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I find that a lot of my GAME CLEAR pieces can be rambling and/or overly personal, but I think most of the games I write about generally have some value, so I’m gonna try to distill that into the section above. We’ll see how that goes.

This is getting out of hand

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was the first game I let myself get really excited for pre-launch in a long time. As soon as it had a release date, I made sure I’d be caught up on the series in time to play it at launch. Did it meet my somewhat lofty expectations? Mostly!

The game takes place a few years after Yakuza: Like a Dragon and its opening follows Ichiban Kasuga’s life after the significant events that transpired at the end of that game. I don’t want to spoil much, but suffice it to say he is spending most of his time trying to help ex-yakuza find legitimate jobs. His life’s mission is derailed when a popular VTuber (lol) spins a lie that he is in fact recruiting ex-yakuza for some nefarious purpose. This gets him fired from his job, but the good news is it gives him plenty of time and freedom to accept a surprise offer from one of his own former bosses from his yakuza days to meet his long-lost birth mother. He’s provided a ticket to Hawaii and sent on his way.

Unfortunately, Kasuga quickly discovers that his mother is nowhere to be found, so his long-delayed chance to meet his mother will have to be postponed further still. Meanwhile, we find out in short order that Kazuma Kiryu, protagonist/co-protagonist of Yakuzas 0-6, is also in Hawaii seeking the very same woman. The two series leads quickly team up to take on threats from the Seiryu Clan back home and a nefarious organization in Hawaii to get to the bottom of her disappearance.

What follows is a bit of a dual narrative. Certain circumstances arise that call Kiryu back to Japan, while Kasuga continues the work in Hawaii. Because their antagonists exist in both places, this splitting up makes sense. Chapters then alternate protagonists before converging a bit again toward the end. It works reasonably well, and it’s fun to control two parties with different identities throughout the game.

And while that’s cool and fun, I will say that this game has probably the most implausible and frustrating plot of any game in the series. It’s not awful by any stretch, but I was really flexing my suspension of disbelief muscles a great deal more than I tend to – and for a series that is already full of over-the-top drama and wild conspiracies. I can’t help but hope the next game takes everything back a notch and is a bit more grounded. Also, the Japanese lens on Hawaii and the United States sometimes seemed rather distorted and/or awkward at best, and problematic and ignorant at worst. So maybe keep it all in Japan next time too?

Having said all that, the story sticks the landing well enough where it matters. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that it establishes pretty clearly that it will be Kiryu’s final game, and I’m glad RGG made the right choice to finally finish the story of the nearly two-decade-old protagonist. Kiryu’s last ride is effective and properly sentimental for fans who have played all of his games, all without being too cloying. A job well done in that regard.

And anyway, even if the game’s story didn’t have the significant upside of doing right by Kiryu, it would at least be a vehicle for a vastly improved battle system that I absolutely loved.

The most significant change is how much position matters. Every time a character’s turn begins, you may move them in a radius around where they’re standing. This can afford them proximity bonuses on enemies they hit, as well as chances to hit multiple enemies with attacks or skills that have an AoE. Even more compelling, though, is how knockback works. When you use an attack with knockback and push enemies into your teammates, they will get an instant attack of opportunity. Using this, you can really fuck up random encounters as your team starts to come together and your collective damage output increases. Alternatively, for tougher enemies, you can have one character build a lot of aggro so that the other characters can get Back Attacks, which are guaranteed criticals.

Each of these new positional mechanics are small individually, but in aggregate, they create a really pleasant power creep, and mastering them will really make you feel like you’re kicking ass in every fight. It’s a significant upgrade from Yakuza: Like a Dragon and I can’t wait to see how they continue to iterate in the next game.

Finally, no Like a Dragon game is complete without a bevvy of side content. En route to the platinum trophy, I partook of more of that stuff than usual. On Kasuga’s side, the most significant diversions are the Sujimon League (a Pok√©mon pastiche) and Dondoko Island (inspired by Animal Crossing). While both side games have merit, I didn’t really love either. On the other hand, I found his regular old substories consistently hilarious and worthy investments of my time. Make of that what you will as you choose how to invest your time in this already-massive game.

Most of Kiryu’s side stuff, meanwhile, pertains to tying up loose ends from his significant tenure in the lead role. These things are for the real series sickos like me who will enjoy some of the deep-cut characters that reappear and the closure such appearances provide for Kiryu. I feared this stuff might be executed in a sort of cringey, Marvelesque content slop sort of way, but I found it mostly just pleasant and enjoyable. But who knows? Maybe that’s just because this is the particular IP that I enjoy noticing epic references in.

As a total package, all this shit I’ve described above does weigh in somewhat bloated. Ahead of release, RGG said (or warned, if you prefer) that this was their biggest game yet, and they weren’t lying. I think their effort to shoot for new heights comes up short in some places, but I was still entertained as hell by it, and it didn’t fumble the critical task of ending Kiryu’s story non-disastrously. For me, that’s frankly enough. Maybe if the next game gets back down to just Kasuga, it’ll have a chance to be a slimmer, tighter package that truly fires on all cylinders.