Today’s going to be a blogging kind of day I think, I’ve got a ton to catch up on and a load I want to prepare for the coming year. So I’ll be keeping this intro pretty brief, but I will say it’s the game I’ve actively been playing the most of this past couple of weeks outside of Apex. I am kind of itching to get back to it honestly, but like I said, blogging it taking precedence today.
#3: Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Played on Xbox One X | Released 10th November | Developed by Ryu Gotoku Studio & Sega
I knew with a certainty that, if I ever managed to break through that difficult barrier to entry, I would love the Yakuza series. During its build-up, Yakuza: Like a Dragon appeared to be the perfect jumping-on point for someone like me who wanted so badly to play these games, but simply kept bouncing off every time they tried to get into the (admittedly dated) Yakuza Zero at this point.
From my understanding, Like a Dragon is a very typical example of the franchise in many ways, while being especially atypical in a lot of others. The game has a familiar setting, tone and style of storytelling while essentially rebooting the franchise by giving us an entirely new lead character. And even more than that giving us a totally new gameplay style.
As the title would suggest; the game is set in the seedy criminal element of Japan, focusing on organised crime and the world some of the more upstanding people in society would rather pretend didn’t exist. As the title also suggests, the game is paying a lot of homage the Dragon Quest video game franchise, and it’s not shy about broadcasting that fact whenever it gets the opportunity.
Our main character, Ichigo Kasuga talks about how much he loves the franchise on several occasions and talks about how the game inspires him to want to be a hero before he was ever a Yakuza.
As the story within the game plays out, the characters around him playfully lean into Kasuga’s obsession with the game and start using video game logic and terms and applying them to real-world situations. Something that cutely plays into the fact that his game functions using those very mechanics, but also help Kasuga’s delusions increase, altering the state of the world around the player during combat.
It’s the Arthur Boyle approach to being a badass; the more delusional and nuts you are, the better you’re able to kick the ass of any bizarre character who thinks it’s a good idea to come at you. I wonder if I’m the first person to make that analogy while talking bout this game…
The game takes a while to get going, slowly introducing the game’s RPG mechanics to player little by little while also introducing us to the main characters and the state of the world they inhabit. It’s a pretty drawn-out prologue, but it’s so cinematic and filled with well voice acted and fantastically rendered cut scenes that I was pretty content to lay the controller down and watch this like it was a tv show.
While I enjoyed it, I could very easily see some people getting put off by the fact that the game really doesn’t get going in earnest until several hours in. Being one thing for a long time before switching gears and leaning into the tongue in cheek JRPG mechanics of the game, as well as the ton of mini-games and side quests that add even more diversity to what you find yourself doing throughout the hours you’ll be spending with this game.
I’ve been playing this game a lot these past few weeks, but am only at chapter six. While the cinematic scenes have started to show up less and less in favour of text bubbles and dead-eyed character staring off into the middle distance while they talk to you, at this point the game has well and truly sold me on it’s utterly weird and wonderful world and totally endeared me to the cast of characters that inhabit it.
This might sound familiar to those who are more versed in the franchise than I am as a newcomer, but the fact that the game focuses on the aspects of society that many would deep seedy or undesirable and gives almost everyone in there a big heart gives it this unique approach to its stories that I can’t help but be fascinated. While everyone in this town are very rough around the edges, they mostly all care for one another in a way that’s so much more refreshing than the overly cynical approach a game like GTA has to its storytelling and character work.
I’m enjoying my time with this game greatly, and the choice to switch over to a turn-based JRPG style combat is working for me so much more than I can imagine a old style brawler could hope to. The fact that it mixes real-world jobs with classic RPG class archetypes is funny and super charming to me. With “homeless man” being an analogue to a mage and “Idol” being the cleric makes actually figuring out what the classes even are part of the fun.
Despite feeling like I’m not even half way through the game’s story at this point, I am totally in deep and invested in everything that is going on in Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Feeling all the more happy about the fact that my assuredness that I would love this franchise, had I only found my avenue into it bore some fruit. And here’s to hoping that after I Finish this one, I can go back and delve into the older examples of the franchise and catch up on what I missed out on.