I’m absorbing the solar as I stroll alongside the attractive seashores of Hawaii when all of a sudden a gaggle of suspicious-looking characters take discover. As they method, threatening me, I’m transported from the truth of Hawaii round me to some type of alternate dimension the place I’m anticipated to tug off some thrilling heroics. My enemies not appear to be your common powerful guys on the road—their eyes glow pink, they’re in a position to spew poisonous fumes at me. However their new monstrous look is not any match for my candy collection of expertise, my trusty baseball bat, and a crew of comrades who’re able to dive in with their very own eccentric fight expertise. However earlier than they throw down, they’ll have to attend their flip, in fact.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the newest within the long-running sequence of video games previously generally known as Yakuza. Beginning in 2005 on the PS2, Yakuza launched the world to its gripping story of Japanese gangsters struggling to outlive the complicated loyalties and alliances of the prison underworld, typically compelled to struggle in overwhelming conditions in an effort to survive.
Infinite Wealth itself is a direct sequel to 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which departed considerably from the usual brawling motion that has lengthy been the sequence’ bread and butter. As in that sport, fight right here is completely turn-based, with all the RPG stats and options you recognize from video games which might be often set in additional fantastical realms. Starring one of the crucial charismatic characters of our time, Ichiban Kasuga, Infinite Wealth tells a satisfying and intriguing story of thriller and arranged crime. And it’s all set in a digestible RPG that rewards the time you place into it with out feeling burdensome or unapproachable.
A heroic fantasy unrestrained by the bounds of actuality
Although Infinite Wealth is ready in the true world and follows the gritty and sophisticated lives of individuals caught in a lifetime of organized crime, the sport by no means feels something in need of epic, particularly in fight. Most cutscenes and narrative developments are grounded in actuality, however the preventing virtually appears to happen in a parallel universe within the thoughts of protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, who tends to see the world like a fantasy sport, with himself the hero of stated sport.
The sport takes on a distinct persona as soon as the fists and weapons begin flying, one which embraces the tried and true staples of turn-based fight in a fantasy RPG. It’s joyous and vigorous—a breath of contemporary air in a style so typically dominated by the identical fantasy character archetypes in the identical previous predictable methods.
Infinite Wealth offers in these archetypes—your tanks, healers, harm sellers, and so forth—however it makes them its personal, with type and confidence. Enemies shift into twisted monstrous appearances of their real-world selves as soon as the fight begins. Combating animations are sometimes explosive, vibrant, and becoming for every character’s persona. The circulation of fight by no means fails to really feel thrilling and contemporary, but in addition acquainted. That is an RPG via and thru: Characters have hit factors and magic factors, and the latter can be utilized to deploy all method of offensive and defensive skills. You’ll get higher as you degree up, and there are tons of how to enhance your stats by way of consumable gadgets and higher tools.
If you happen to’re a veteran of turn-based fantasy roleplaying video games, you’ll discover that trusty rhythm of buff, debuff, assault, and defend right here in beautiful full type and never merely as a tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall breaking gimmick. Taking part in Infinite Wealth was a reminder for me of how a lot I really like turn-based fight, as a result of the sport continuously rewarded me for taking part in with technique. That dopamine rush of pulling off a number of well-selected turns is so rewarding that on the uncommon events I needed to grind to push ahead within the story, I used to be excited to get into extra brawls. The fight is strategic, but foolish. Deep, but approachably enjoyable. It not often felt exhausting to undergo spherical after spherical of fight. And defeat didn’t really feel imply or humiliating.
Infinite Wealth’s fight isn’t nearly assembly numerical conditions. Sure, if you happen to’re underleveled for a selected space or boss struggle, you may be in some bother. However I not often felt like the sport was unfair or forcing me to do my leveling-up homework. Fights that have been a couple of ranges above me weren’t inconceivable; they simply required a extra considerate approachthat didn’t neglect the important roles of buffs and debuffs. There have been some bosses that despatched me to a few Recreation Over screens, and it was clear that I used to be underleveled and below outfitted when this occurred. But when I stored my head within the sport and centered on exploiting as many enemy weak factors as potential and making every flip rely, I might come out on prime. And that feeling of dropping a couple of instances, solely to return again and out suppose my foes to victory, by no means received previous.
Although you may change out your characters’ courses, known as Jobs in Infinite Wealth, I not often did this on my first playthrough. Every inventory character class affords a stable collection of skills, and also you’ll shortly spot who ought to take the lead on what function.
Some characters will clearly be higher for dealing harm, like longtime sequence protagonist Kiryu, whereas others are very dynamic. Kasuga himself has a stable quantity of assault skills, but in addition capabilities properly as a healer and assist character (I had him operating round juicing everybody’s defenses throughout the tougher moments). In the meantime characters like Nanba, a former nurse whose direct assaults aren’t as highly effective as these of different characters, can function a stable healer in addition to a blisteringly efficient damage-dealing magic consumer. Digging into every character’s skills, all of that are defined in in-game textual content throughout fight, means you can study as you go. This isn’t a sport you want a PhD in, but it’s not overly simplistic both.
Infinite Wealth’s fight can be thrillingly kinetic. In your flip, you may transfer in a restricted circle surrounding your character. This placement is important as many assaults will drive enemies to knock into each other, their environment, or into the weapon of a comrade who’s very happy to take an additional swing if the enemy falls into their menace vary. And as characters stroll across the battlespace, unrestrained by their flip within the fight order, there’s a way of nailing the timing of your assaults accurately. You’ll be able to swiftly deal harm to a number of opponents if you happen to keep centered and search for simply missable alternatives.
However in fact, fight isn’t the one factor you’ll do in Infinite Wealth, as the sport is greater than able to ship hours and hours of minigames and facet actions, some based mostly straight on video games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing.
Infinite Wealth is deep, however not overwhelming
Infinite Wealth is a giant sport. There’s a 40+ hour principal story, tons of facet tales, mini-games for relationship, gig work, farming, and character battling. You’ll be able to spend time hanging out together with your social gathering members to deepen your relationships with them (which pays off in fight), and you’ll discover some randomly generated dungeons to check your strengths.
However whereas many different RPGs can really feel too large to wrap your head round, Infinite Wealth one way or the other feels huge with out making you’re feeling misplaced. A few of this, I feel, has to do with the sport’s comparatively smaller maps compared to different RPGs. Each places in Hawaii and Japan are maps you may memorize and journey round with ease, dotted with actions that make your fight expertise higher, be that by unlocking new mixed assaults via elevating your bond degree with every character, or by discovering new Jobs, gadgets, and weapons to diversify your fight expertise.
Infinite Wealth’s facet actions are a rising tide, elevating the remainder of the sport as you spend extra time with them. Some have an beautiful degree of depth, resembling Dondoko Island, which is a self-contained, absolutely featured resort administration sim baked proper into the sport.
Infinite Wealth’s story works for Yakuza veterans and newcomers alike
Infinite Wealth follows the tales of Ichiban Kasuga and Kiryu Kazuma, males who appear to be unable to flee the cruel realities of organized crime. The previous takes up a lot of the sport, whereas a few late-game chapters have you ever take management of Kiryu. On the coronary heart of the sport is a direct purpose: Kasuga is distributed to Hawaii to search out somebody necessary. Although this particular person will proceed to elude him for a while, what he does discover on the island of Hawaii is a fancy community of organized crime syndicates all vying for energy and management.
Kasuga shortly will get swept up into Hawaii’s crime scene as he continues his search, assembly many new characters alongside the best way, establishing belief and difficult opposition. The sport’s narrative is superb at introducing characters with lengthy and stunning arcs, and although it’s one other entry in a long-running sequence of video games, newcomers received’t really feel terribly misplaced. Some references to previous occasions and the construction of the Yakuza itself may really feel somewhat a lot for somebody model new, however Infinite Wealth has a centered and self-contained story with a number of twists and turns, heroes you’ll come to like and villains you’ll need to swing a bat at.
A few of the sport’s particular person chapters, nevertheless, are likely to revolve round a plot construction that grows predictable, one which sees some rising, uncontrolled motion that’s ended by the looks of one other character you weren’t anticipating or another, out-of-the-blue prevalence. These conditions don’t meet the precise definition of a deus ex machina, however they’ll really feel a bit too handy and contrived.
Regardless of this predictable sample of storytelling and motion, the principle story pays off with a protracted story that explores the matters of household and belief. Characters aren’t simply on display to be imply and shoot folks (although there are some relatively bloody scenes occasionally). I discovered myself playfully questioning the place the story would go; typically it went in a path I noticed coming from miles away, different instances one which fully shocked me. However whether or not I used to be catching on to rising foreshadowing, or being hit with a twist I didn’t see coming, I completely loved Infinite Wealth’s narrative—particularly its forged of characters, headed by its merely superior protagonist.
Ichiban Kasuga is an unparalleled hero
If you happen to’ve performed the unique Like a Dragon or the current The Man Who Erased His Identify, you’ll come to Infinite Wealth figuring out who Ichiban is. A former Yakuza member, he spent 18 years of his life behind bars, stepping out into the true world in his 40s. And he appears somewhat youthful for his age, even perhaps somewhat dumb, however in a loveable kind of manner. The sport opens with him working a largely common desk job after having seemingly left a lifetime of crime behind him. However simply if you thought he was out, he will get pulled again in.
What’s so stunning, nevertheless, is that Kasuga fails to observe the extra stereotypical path of male characters in such a state of affairs, one that usually sees aggression and confrontation matched with accelerated anger and violence. Positive, he’s very happy to get right into a brawl along with his bat and his buddies, however his timeless optimism within the face of issue and his willingness to increase kindness and forgiveness to those that wronged him shows such a excessive degree of emotional intelligence that he defies the expectations of the crime drama style. When the going received powerful, I discovered myself determined to listen to Ichiban ship a constructive spin, a possibility to beat adversity.
That Infinite Wealth takes place in the true world makes these attributes of Kasuga much more resonant. These aren’t characters obsessive about discovering some mysterious, magical plot gadget to cease an evil overlord in some fantasy realm. As a substitute, these are characters with relatable flaws and considerations, searching for to proper wrongs and enhance one another’s lives. This isn’t a story of escapism. Whereas the story might contain prison dealings of the type few can declare to have information of, every character’s funding within the story, the rationale they’re preventing within the first place, feels extra relatable than it seemingly would if this have been a excessive fantasy narrative with all the unrealistic trappings of the style. With out hyper fictitious lore to burden the participant with, Infinite Wealth is a narrative you may see your self in.
Ichiban made me giggle and cry so typically throughout Infinite Wealth’s principal story. I got here to see him as a heroic determine not as a result of he might beat the crap out of the dangerous guys (which he definitely ain’t dangerous at) however as a result of he impressed in me an enthusiasm for all times, each out and in of the sport. One scene specifically sees Kasuga ship such a constructive philosophy on residing life in your 30s and 40s, doing so with out the burden of disgrace for not having achieved sure milestones, that I used to be instantly delivered to tears, ending that night time’s gaming session with a way of optimism about my very own life.
The emotional wealth that Kasuga affords the sport works to make him an incredible and provoking character, somebody who you get pleasure from inhabiting. However he additionally makes the story extra attention-grabbing. This isn’t a bog-standard story of a person out to get vengeance on the mob.
A couple of tough edges, room for enchancment, and a regrettable value construction
Infinite Wealth arrives in early 2024 and is already, in my thoughts, a robust contender for the most effective gaming experiences of the 12 months. That stated, there have been a couple of parts that might have been higher. Whereas these didn’t completely bitter the expertise, they did nag at me over the sport’s lengthy marketing campaign.
Infinite Wealth’s graphical presentation is considered one of its extra underwhelming points, significantly in cutscenes which are sometimes filmed with cinematic digicam placement that doesn’t work properly with the sport’s largely duller textures and picket character animations. Ichiban himself might be the best-looking character and essentially the most well-animated, however even the opposite principal characters are a little bit of a step down, with inflexible facial and physique expressions. There’s an odd-looking, glowing define surrounding most characters throughout their closeups, whereas not so distant textures, even in cutscenes, typically simply look odd. Non-playable characters undergo much more; we’re speaking Oblivion-level oddness and rigidity to facial expressions. It may be somewhat tough to take a look at.
I convey this up not out of some perception that prettier graphics at all times equal a greater sport. Slightly, it’s as a result of Infinite Wealth’s narrative, with its concentrate on its glorious characters, deserves a greater presentation than what this sport affords.
That stated, the poor presentation is considerably offset by the stellar music in Infinite Wealth’s soundtrack, particularly in fight. I even took my time with activates a number of events as a result of I used to be too busy bobbing my head to the number of upbeat electronica and steel that makes for pure ear sweet.
However whereas I very a lot love Infinite Wealth’s fight and anticipate to be pouring many extra hours into its dungeon actions to tackle higher threats, I do want it was simpler to buy higher weapons and kit. All too typically I discovered myself checking right into a weapons store to search out that that they had nothing anybody in my social gathering might use. It makes for some laborious treks throughout the map to discover a good improve.
I additionally want Infinite Wealth didn’t select to ship me to a sport over when the principle social gathering character dies. Upon Kasuga (or Kiryu when he takes the helm) getting KO’d, you’re taken to a proceed display. This tilts the technique a bit an excessive amount of towards prioritizing the principle character. To be truthful, this solely turned a problem throughout the boss fights I stupidly took on whereas being underleveled, however prioritizing one character’s life over all of the others is one thing I might do with out.
Lastly, one of the crucial complicated problems with Infinite Wealth lies in its pricing construction. The bottom version runs on the new customary of $70, however there are additionally $85 and $110 variations.
The most important drawback with that is that the $85 model is required to unlock New Recreation+. This can be a perplexing resolution to say the least—particularly in a sport that’s so chock stuffed with actions that you simply’re unlikely to complete them multi function playthrough. Fight in Infinite Wealth solely will get extra dynamic and thrilling the extra folks you might have in your social gathering and the extra expertise and Jobs you might have—it is a sport that begs to be performed a second time with all the skills you’ve earned. But Sega desires you to pay an additional $15 for that privilege. There’s merely no cause for this to be the best way that it’s, and it’s a serious stain on an in any other case stellar RPG.
Regardless of a very unlucky pricing construction, Infinite Wealth is a powerful and satisfying early 2024 title. It options a wonderful forged of characters, thrilling fight, and tons of rewarding facet actions which not often really feel like an extreme burden of busywork. Infinite Wealth additionally tells a deeply human story of connection, household, and the significance of sustaining hope within the face of adversity. And it contains a powerfully efficient fight system that’s thrilling to play and see in motion.
Its story might be most rewarding to those that have performed earlier Yakuza video games, however it tells a self-contained narrative that’s often fairly good about getting you in control on previous occasions. And even when the story does dip into its personal lore and historical past an excessive amount of, which can undoubtedly fulfill long-time followers of the sequence, Infinite Wealth makes for a wonderful introduction to those characters and provides you causes to be invested in them within the right here and now, with an entertaining story that manages to remain contemporary over the course of its many hours of gameplay.