I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Kazuma Kiryu would return as a playable character in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The previous game seemed like the perfect passing of the torch, but I won’t complain about having an old favourite back in action. However, blending the old guard and the new means Kiryu will never be quite how we remember him, and I’m not just talking about his hair.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon (god this is so confusing) came with ample changes — a new cast, a new story, and most importantly, a new turn-based combat system. It was a refreshing change of pace from real-time melee combat, made even better by absurd summons and different party member attacks. I still prefer the original action focus though, and will always choose pummeling my enemies to oblivion over a bunch of stylish menus.
As much as I’m looking forward to Infinite Wealth, Kazuma Kiryu feels unnatural with this new combat. Fortunately, it seems Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has longtime fans in mind, and has implemented a way for us to still have a good old-fashioned beat down with our favourite gangster. Our sweet, sweet, violent boy.
I recently played Infinite Wealth at EGX in London and was surprised to find Kiryu has a special ability called Dragon’s Resurgence. This allows you to transition into action combat for a short amount of time, moving freely and whaling on your enemies at will. You can only use this once the Hype Meter is full, so it’s just a little taste of old school Kiryu every now and then as opposed to a complete transformation. Either way, I love how it helps bridge the two eras of the series so well.
Kiryu still has multiple fighting styles as part of the turn-based combat system, honoring series tropes and ensuring the game is familiar for older fans: the first is Yakuza, a balanced style that allows him to perform Heat Actions; then Rush, which lets him make two basic attacks per turn and has a wider range of mobility; and Beast, which sacrifices agility for power and defense, making your basic attacks guard-breaking grapples instead. Retaining his signature style differences is another nice nod to previous titles.
Infinite Wealth has even more tweaks to combat. There’s now a ring beneath your feet during each turn, highlighting how far you can move, as depending on your distance from enemies or companions it can affect the damage done or whether you perform a combo. I didn’t think much of the other two party members in the demo, but I don’t have any context right now of who they are, so my thoughts may change in the full game.
Easing hesitant fans into Infinite Wealth by featuring familiar facets of older combat systems is a great way to please die-hards and pay tribute to Kiryu’s legacy without sacrificing the series’ new direction with Ichiban Kasuga at the helm. It’s not something I’d expect in future titles where Kiryu isn’t present, but it’s a nice touch. RGG Studio does well with every new change and direction it takes, and manages to innovate while keeping the spirit of Like a Dragon alive and well. If you’re still not keen on the turn-based combat, there’s always Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name to keep you satisfied later this year.
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