In a year where we could all use an extra dose of kindness and lighthearted fun, Yakuza: Like a Dragon delivers in droves. Not only does it debut a new series protagonist with Ichiban Kasuga, but it also transforms the series’ action-centric combat into a turn-based RPG with depth beyond throwing your fists around. Battles turn into tense encounters focused on exploiting elemental weaknesses, utilizing buffs/debuffs, and kicking enemies when they’re down for extra damage. And, let’s not forget summoning in some help from unlikely places like “Poundmates” when things get really dire.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio goes all-in with its RPG inspiration, making the main character a diehard Dragon Quest fan and having you help strangers and bond with party members Persona-style. Among the massive list of side activities, there’s even a “gotta catch ‘em all” system where you collect “Sujimon” for a professor. If that’s not enough, you can swap jobs, becoming everything from a break dancer to a chef for entertaining ways to take on the enemy.
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The RPG parodies are delightful, but even more impressive is how this entry wonderfully captures the heart and soul of the Yakuza series with a new cast. Ichiban is a loveable goof with a heart of gold, and he possesses the rare ability to see the good in people even in the worst circumstances. Watching him stop at nothing to make things better and become a true hero is a highlight, and Yokohama provides an interesting backdrop to his adventures as you learn more about the criminal underworld. Going off the adventure’s beaten path provides memorable side quests that are both hilarious and heartwarming; you never know where a conversation about baby formula may lead.
Ichiban’s journey isn’t just about silly minigames and outlandish ways to attack baddies, however. At the heart of his tale is intrigue, as you try to piece together why his former father figure betrayed him. The Yakuza series has always focused on choosing your own family, and Ichiban finds it in unlikely places with a blunt homeless man and former police officer with a penchant for spending money on booze and women. One minute, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has you chuckling over the absurdity of the situations you get put in; the next, it pulls at your heartstrings as you watch the tender moments between Ichiban and his team of misfits.
Want to read more about the best games that 2020 had to offer? We’re counting down our Top 10 for the year, so navigate to another entry using the links below!