Sega had a playable demo of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth at its booth at Tokyo Game Show, and you can bet that I had to give it a spin. As a big fan of the series, I have high expectations for this new game.
While Like a Dagon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name will finally bring back the series' traditional hero Kazuma Kiryu, Infinite Wealth will pair him with Yakuza: Like a Dragon protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, which is likely going to be a treat for the fans.
The demo started with a quick look at part of the introduction cutscene, with Ichiban sitting on a plane bound for Hawaii. It's the same showcased in the story trailer from a few weeks ago, and the visual quality is great as usual.
Yakuza games have always excelled for the quality of their cutscenes, especially among Japanese games, and Ichiban's feelings are masterfully portrayed on his face. He's always been a rather expressive fella, after all.
After a few seconds of cinematic goodness, the demo jumped ahead to a sidewalk by a Hawaiian beach. Apparently Ichiban has been arrested by a corrupt cop named Roman, but Kiryu has come to save the day and dragged him out of trouble.
Our heroes have met up with two locals, Tomizawa and Chitose, and they're now working together with the objective of finding Roman and likely wringing the truth of what's afoot out of him. Yet, they're interrupted by a bunch of gangsters who work for their target and we're immediately pulled into combat.
While Yakuza: Like a Dragon fans will be familiar with the turn-based JRPG system included in the game, there are some new elements.
When it's a character's turn, you're now free to move them within a circle displayed on the ground, and many attacks are positional or have areas of effect, so it's important to find the right angles to maximize their damage. Attacks can also interact with the environment and props around the battlefield, which is reminiscent of the series' brawler DNA.
If you're close to a team member, you can also tag team your targets, which is rather satisfying.
Of course, Kiryu himself is new to this battle mechanics, but he brings his fighting styles with him. "Yakuza" includes the traditional heat actions from the series. "Rush" is faster and more flexible, while "Beast" sacrifices speed for power and lets you break the enemy's guard.
He can also fill up his gauge to activate "Dragon's Resurgence" and when that happens, you'll get a nostalgic moment in which he can freely move around the battlefield and beat the crap out of the enemies without any turn limitations. That's another neat little homage to the series' roots right there.
After the fight, Chitose steps in and argues that since our heroes are in Hawaii, they should take some time to have some fun, and she'll be happy to be their guide. This is basically the way the demo introduces the player to a couple of Infinite Wealth's minigames.
Crazy Delivery is a new one, and it proudly wears its Crazy Taxi inspiration on the sleeve. As Ichiban, you get a part-time job with the "Crazy Eats" delivery service and you have to jump on a bicycle to deliver food to customers waiting for you on the side of the street.
Yet, burgers and pizza slices are lined up on the street itself, so you need to first gather them before you deliver them. Sushi trays are more profitable, but you actually have to jump over cars in order to get them, which is riskier. Of course, there is a time limit, flashy power-ups, and various level of difficulty.
While the gameplay isn't incredibly deep, it's a fun little minigame with a nostalgic flavor that fans will likely enjoy, topped by the series' healthy level of over-the-top comedy.
The other minigame available in the demo was Karaoke, which fans of the series will be very familiar with. Three songs were available, one for Kiryu, one for Ichiban, and one performed by the new heroine Chitose. It's a fairly simple but very enjoyable and fanservice-rich minigame.
Relevant is the fact that it carries us to the "Revolve Bar." We're in America, after all, so the bar just has to be gun-themed. The bar serves as a hangout for our heroes and we meet Kei, the character played by popular Vtuber and YouTuber Kson.
While she doesn't talk much in the demo, it's nice to see her in the game, considering her backstory and the fact that she's a massive fan of the series. Her likeness has been reproduced in her 3D model, and she'll even thank you for visiting with her own voice. I'm sure her many fans will be delighted.
The demo also included a substory that didn't just let you take a tour on a cute trolley car, but also had fully voiced cutscenes, which is certainly good to see in a series known for having players do a lot of reading.
I was able to roam Honolulu a bit, also thanks to the ability to ride Segways which speed up the traversal. Encounters with roaming thugs are another familiar element of the series that has been preserved, while the portrayal of the city is really beautiful.
It's very different from the usual Japanese environments we're used to in the series, and what I saw definitely got me excited for visiting Hawaii as Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu. You can even jump into the sea and swim, with Ichiban throwing his clothes to the wind to take a dip. The sea is its own minigame, with highlighted areas where you can search for items.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed my relatively brief time with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The game is already shaping up like a sizable expansion of the series' formula. The story appears to be very interesting and likely just as emotional as we may expect from a Yakuza game.
While some may have been worried due to the big changes at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio with the departure of Toshihiro Nagoshi, it feels like the franchise has kept its soul and charming flavor.
Of course, the jury is still out until the game releases on January 26, 2024, for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC, but from what I played and what we've seen so far, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth may very well be that ultimate middle-aged Japanese man simulator that we all want.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was previewed on PS5 at Sega's booth at Tokyo Game Show 2023.