Review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. RPG about RPG fan

The Yakuza series initially did not take root in the West: poor localization, disgusting marketing (comparisons with GTA were completely useless) and the specifics of the game (JRPG with a beat’em up battle in the Japanese setting) buried the first part’s chances of popularity. Since then, new releases have been translated into English reluctantly, with great delay and without voice acting. Yakuza successfully became a cult series for a narrow fan community, but the general public did not notice it.

That all changed with the release of Yakuza 0 . It became a kind of reboot: those who missed the previous five parts could easily start with it. Over the past ten years since the release of the first Yakuza, the series has grown and prettier, and in particular the zero part could boast of an excellent plot and side quests. The press and the players were delighted.

Following this, the demand for the franchise naturally increased – and over the next four years, the developers rolled out remakes of the first two parts, remasters of three more, as well as the new sixth and spin-off Judgment . And all, except Judgment,  are connected by a single plot ! To prevent the gangster saga from turning into an endless soap opera, the developers decided to arrange another reboot for the series, changing the hero, and even the genre in the seventh part. In the western edition, even the number from the title has disappeared from the game – instead of it, it reminds of the name of the series in its homeland. Ryu Ga Gotoku means Like a Dragon .

From dirt to Kings

At the end of the sixth part, Kazuma Kiryu, the permanent protagonist of Yakuza, officially retired. Now starring Ichiban Kasuga is a member of the same Tojo crime family. Although both heroes are extremely noble and ready to help anyone they hit, they differ in their characters very much. Kiryu was a gloomy, silent stoic. Kasuga, on the other hand, is a chatty good-natured person and the soul of the company, who does not hide his emotions. Sometimes he annoys with his thoughtless antics, sometimes with excessive pathos, but in general, spending time with him is much more fun than with the gloomy Kazuma.

The plot of Kasuga’s story also strongly resembles what Kiryu went through in the first part: he went to jail for a crime that he did not commit, and left after 18 years, during which the world managed to change beyond recognition. At large, no one is happy with him: the Tojo clan is ruined, Tokyo was captured by rival yakuza, and they did it because of the betrayal of Arakawa – Kasuga’s former boss, for whom he served time. The naive Ichiban refuses to believe that Arakawa, who was like a father to him, turned into a Judas – and rushes to him for an audience. Where he gets a bullet in the heart.

A half-dead Ichiban wakes up in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo. He was pumped out by local bums – in their camp he will have to live at first. What else to do? He has no family, no home, no money, and the only person close to him just shot him. He sank to the very bottom, and the only way now is up.

Much of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is about this long rags-to-riches journey. At first, Kasuga is forced to rummage through the trash, look for pennies under the soda machines and collect empty cans in the morning to hand them over for pennies. Then – to do dirty work in black. Even having found a place of residence, he can only get legal employment in a brothel. In general, the game narrates very colorfully about the hardships of a penniless life.

But closer to the second third of the plot, she abandons this topic and switches to what was to be expected from Yakuza: a story about a showdown of criminal gangs, intrigues and cunning multi-moves in the spirit of Metal Gear Solid . In Yokohama, tough Tokyo bandits do not poke around – there are so many people without them that an apple has nowhere to fall. Japanese yakuza, Chinese mafia, Koreans – they all control different parts of the city and are waging a cold war with each other, which threatens to develop into open conflict. And Ichiban, the hothead, cannot stand aside when injustice is happening around. He’s a hero, after all.

Like a Dragon (Quest)

The word “hero” here does not sound at all in a figurative sense. Ichiban is a big fan of the Dragon Quest JRPG series and dreams of performing feats in reality. He literally calls himself a hero, his comrades – a party, and opponents in his eyes literally transform from ordinary people … into something that only remotely resembles them. It would seem, where does a broad bestiary come from in a game about modern reality? But Yakuza: Like a Dragon has something to surprise. Dancing voyeurs, armored billboards, patients with IVs, sailors with tridents, cooks with cleavers, their clients with giant sausages – Kasuga can think of all kinds of things.

His fantasy can be conveniently attributed to the transition to a turn-based combat system. You can think about each move as much as you want, commands are selected from the menu, and animations of the coolest techniques in terms of entertainment can compete with some Final Fantasy . At the same time, the battles are surprisingly dynamic: long animations can be skipped, and while performing regular special moves, you need to perform simple QTEs to enhance their effect. Even during enemy moves, you don’t have to be bored: pressing the block button in time reduces the damage received from them.

The blows here feel no less savory than in the previous action games

In the spirit of classic RPGs, each playable character has a profession that he is free to change. Within the framework of classes, pumping is linear: for a new level of the profession, the hero receives either a bonus to characteristics, or a new skill. However, both bonuses and some techniques persist when changing classes, so it will be useful to devote some time to alternative activities. The only problem here is that they will have to be pumped from scratch, rolling back a lot according to their characteristics.

The professions and skills themselves match the bestiary. The hostess douches the enemies with champagne and throws ice, the dominatrix whips the whip, the homeless imposes debuffs with foul breath and sets the pigeons (as in “Home Alone 2” ), the foreman slams with a sledgehammer … Since all opponents are men, girls can make eyes at them and thereby lower the attack or protection. Despite the seriousness of the plot, in terms of gameplay, Yakuza: Like a Dragon looks like an April Fool’s joke. Actually, this is exactly how it was announced at one time.

At the same time, there is no strong dissonance between the plot and the mechanics: during the time that we learn the hardships of homelessness with Ichiban, all these crazy battles begin to seem like something mundane – you begin to take them for granted. In addition, Yakuza has always been close to JRPG in structure (many cutscenes, dungeons with bosses, random battles in the open world) and often forgot about realism for the sake of entertainment. So the transition to a new combat system seems both appropriate and successful … but not without reservations.

The family is not without oyabun

Most of the complaints about Yakuza: Like a Dragon are about combat. Firstly, random skirmishes in the city are very annoying. Theoretically, they can be avoided (on the mini-map you can see the walking enemies and their radius of view), but on narrow streets there is nothing you can do about them – you have to get into a battle, which, as a rule, brings very little money and experience. There are so many opponents that, having dealt with one group, you can immediately stumble upon the next – do not breathe! Yes, there is an option to run away (this makes the enemies disappear, allowing you to go forward calmly), but it does not always work.

Dungeons are generally corridors with enemies stuck at every turn. Very artless

Secondly, many of the heroes’ combat skills hit the area, be it a certain radius or a line. However, you cannot move around the battlefield on your own, and enemies, on the contrary, constantly crawl back and forth. There are frequent cases when, aiming at a crowd, a character hits only one or two opponents, because while his animation began, they managed to scatter. This makes it difficult to think through tactics.

Third, the game has a crazy difficulty curve. The first 11 chapters out of 15 are played with closed eyes – and this is by no means a reproach. Fights in Like a Dragon are very funny, and in the previous parts they did not throw a serious challenge – at least on Normal. But with the 12th chapter some kind of madness begins. First, the game forces Ichibana to get three million yen from somewhere (a huge amount, if not doing business), and then throws unrealistically powerful bosses at him. On the team of the 38th level, two bugs of the 50th are first lowered, and soon another 57th, who walks twice as fast as the heroes. Grind at the end of the game is virtually inevitable.

The optional post-game level will generally require a maximum level for both heroes and their professions. For some reason, swinging is most profitable on these bums, who, like slimes from Dragon Quest, often run away in their first turn, and you still need to have time to kill them

Fourth, Like a Dragon borrowed the worst feature of the Shin Megami Tensei series : game over at the death of the protagonist. This can be justified by scenario – after all, it is Ichiban who imagines all this to himself – but how inconvenient it is in the gameplay! What if a powerful boss hits the protagonist with his armor-piercing attacks two turns in a row? Loss immediately. One of the final villains generally instantly kills with his super blow – so that no protection will save. If he gets to Kasuga at least once, he will again have to replay (and for this half of the accumulated money must be paid). That’s not how things are done.

Yokohama, je t’aime

Fortunately, otherwise Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a worthy release of the cult series (though not the best: Yakuza 0 remains unrivaled). As usual, here, in addition to the main plot, there are many activities for which you can spend tens of hours. All the classics of mini-games are collected here, from darts and golf to mahjong and Sega arcade machines. There are also new activities: Dragon Kart racing – in fact, a simple clone of Mario Kart ; collection of garbage for a while; trying to stay awake in the cinema; finally, the management of the company with the aim of turning it from a loss-making to the most profitable in the city.

The city itself is huge. The piece of Yokohama presented in Like a Dragon is more than the well-known green quarters of Tokyo and Osaka combined (and they are here too). In Yokohama, about fifty side stories unfolds – however, mostly cute and kind (and therefore not as interesting as in the same zero part). Kasuga will have to help the former Korean movie star find self-confidence, bring a masochist who has forgotten how to feel pain with a lonely dominatrix, take a tour of Chinatown and defeat a giant robot vacuum cleaner.

But the best side quests are those that continue the personal stories of the central characters. Having pumped up relationships with each of his six friends, Kasuga can have a heart-to-heart talk with him at the bar over a glass of alcohol, find out what he cares about, and offer all possible help. The party members generally have a lot of optional dialogues – both at mealtimes, and even just while walking around the city. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is trying really hard to make her characters alive, believable, and she does it well.

Isn’t this the main thing for an RPG?

Yakuza is doing well in the new genre: Like a Dragon was able to convey in a step-by-step format the drive inherent in the previous action-parts, and practically did not lose anything. Its combat system requires both tactics and reactions; it remains only to iron out the obvious shortcomings in the next part – and a candy will come out. And the plot of the seventh part, although it is not devoid of flaws (too much Ichibanu gets away with), but at the same time develops quite dynamically and carries away to the very end.


  • catchy plot and strong staging;
  • the new combat system is funny, entertaining and dynamic;
  • the characters are very lively, and there are many dialogues.


  • loss at death of the main character;
  • too many random battles;
  • a sharp jump in complexity at the end.


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