Yakuza Games Catch All

I just finished Like a Dragon Gaiden. As someone who has played a bit of several games, it generally did a good job at introducing characters. However, the final chapter speed runs through Like a Dragon 7's plot, which I did end up reading about. As a way to get folks excited for the next main game, I think it succeeds pretty well.

That spider gadget was very cool. I never got tired of yo-yo-ing enemies around.

The more I read about Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth the more annoying I find it that they don't respect a players time.

Several articles I have read say the same thing as this one: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes 8 hours to get started, but it’s worth it

No really it isn't. I have a huge backlog there are tons of games, people have jobs, families, etc. Wasting 8 hours of a game to "get started" is just insulting. I may get it on sale someday but it isn't a way of telling stories that I like.

I think that's a good reason to play the side games like The Man Who Changed His Name. They're shorter experiences, while the mainline series is known at this point for indulgently long storytelling. This many games in, you know what you're getting into when you start them.

farley3k wrote:

Wasting 8 hours of a game to "get started" is just insulting. I may get it on sale someday but it isn't a way of telling stories that I like.

If you are new to the Yakuza series and/or have not gelled with a previous game in the franchise, then it's understandable to react the way you are (heck, I would have myself). However, a bit of context from Polygon and from a new-ish fan of the series who has played 0-3 and is partway into 4:

Polygon wrote:

Because Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth does become a good video game after eight hours. But it’s something special long before then. Maybe that’s why I feel comfortable recommending Infinite Wealth. You won’t be suffering for the preceding eight hours, but rather, partaking in something that blends TV, film, and games together — switching to the most flattering medium for any given situation.

Every Yakuza game takes a while to "get good", if by "get good" you mean it finally hits the point where you have freedom to engage in all the core and optional gameplay content at your whim. The early chapters of every single Yakuza entry (some more than others) are very narrative-heavy and fairly heavily railroaded. It's a series that is sort of like.... well, sort of like Star Trek Deep Space 9.

You've got a heavy amount of linear plot-driven story portions heavy on cutscenes and limited on B-stories or game content, much like DS9's later seasons had a good chunk of the episodes focused on the overarching narrative of the Dominion/Federation conflict. This is particularly true in the early and late portions of Yakuza games.

Then in the middle portions of you get that zany wacky freedom and gameplay emphasis which is like having a bunch of "adventure of the week" episodes that are free to explore specific characters or one-shot stories.

So... it's not that a Yakuza title doesn't "get good" until you're a few (or 8 in this case) hours in, so much as a Yakuza title doesn't give you much gameplay-rich freedom until you're a few hours in. It's not merely a rhetorical distinction -- it's very much a matter of whether you enjoy the full Yakuza experience or if you're mostly in it for the gameplay. If it's the latter, then yeah, your reaction is probably spot-on that it's not the game for you, and that's not a swipe at you! It's simply a matter of preference.

I'm a couple hours into Yakuza 4 and have thoroughly enjoyed its deliberate pacing and laying the groundwork of the game's story and new characters. But if it's the gameplay primarily that I was in it for, I'd be frustrated as hell that I'm around two hours in waiting for it to "get good".

farley3k wrote:

The more I read about Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth the more annoying I find it that they don't respect a players time.

Several articles I have read say the same thing as this one: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes 8 hours to get started, but it’s worth it

No really it isn't. I have a huge backlog there are tons of games, people have jobs, families, etc. Wasting 8 hours of a game to "get started" is just insulting. I may get it on sale someday but it isn't a way of telling stories that I like.

Completely agree. Cant get caught up with the FOMO and buy it this week

I definitely agree with not letting FOMO sway you into buying Infinite Wealth tomorrow, especially if you are new to the series and you could buy Like A Dragon (Yakuza 7) for much cheaper and it would be a better starting point.

That said, I agree very much with Farscry. I’ve played five Yakuza games and I have enjoyed them all from the beginning. But I’m not just there for the gameplay, I’m there for the whole experience, especially the story and the excellent Japanese voice acting so I am happy for the setup.

If that’s not what you’re interested in, sure, makes sense to stay away. But I don’t think the games spend this setup time to just waste players’ time and far from intending to insult.

Also might be worth saying that Yakuza games tend to have a LOT of optional content. So playtimes can sometimes sound really long but the actual main path is much shorter.

I’ve been playing Infinite Wealth this morning and so far it’s starting out like every other game in the series, with multiple 5-10 minute cutscenes interspersed with small sections of gameplay and tutorial, it doesn’t seem especially more egregious than any of the other games in the series.
However the game picks up dealing heavily with the consequences of LAD and Gaiden so if you skipped either of those games I would recommend playing them first or at minimum looking up a story synopsis.

Question for the Yakuza brain trust: I played Yakuza: Like a Dragon and loved it. I've never played another game in the series. I badly want to play Infinite Wealth. Should I actually play Gaiden first? And if not, can you recommend a good synopsis?

In answering my question, a little about me: I love JRPGs, as you can probably tell, and that was a big thing I liked about Like a Dragon. But the zaniness also clicked with me, and I know that's the style of the larger series. Also, having never played any other games, I have zero connection to Kazuma Kiryu, and so the portions of Like a Dragon that involved the larger meta-narrative of the series were also the parts that had the least impact for me.

Gaiden basically just expands upon the story of LAD and sets up how and why Kiryu appears in Infinite Wealth, so if you played LAD you’re probably fine just watching/reading a synopsis for Gaiden. This was one of the first results when I searched on youtube, I haven’t watched the whole thing but it just appears to be a beat-by-beat retelling of the entire game so it likely covers everything and is under 20 mins.

I'm a little over a couple hours into Infinite Wealth now. The story setup is fun so far, but I'm really just happy to be back with this crew again.

It runs great on Steam Deck as well, potentially better than LAD but I no longer have it installed so I can’t do a side-by-side comparison.

As much as I like the Kiryu-era games, having main characters with personalities that aren’t just varying degrees of scowling and brooding has really elevated the series.

Four hours in and I now have the main story goal? Today's goal is to reach Hawaii, tomorrow's is to be a Sujimon master!

Not pokemon and not animal crossing are going to eat so much of my time.

Stealthpizza wrote:

Not pokemon and not animal crossing are going to eat so much of my time.

When does the Animal Crossing stuff kick in? After about 8 hours, I'm still in Chapter 3.

Kicks in at Chapter 5. Also, even for a series that is very comfortable bending its established reality quite a bit, those specific parts of the game are real fever dream moments.

It's right at the start of chapter 6. I've gotten the island up to two stars now, and I can employ my not-pokemon!

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

It's right at the start of chapter 6. I've gotten the island up to two stars now, and I can employ my not-pokemon!

I'm waiting for the not-pokemon part of the game to really hit the wider public. It is the funniest thing I've seen all year. Which has been a month so far, but still.

The Sujimon Master looks like Michael Rooker, and I can't unsee that.

The island does kick in at the start of Chapter 6. It took me about 15 hours to get there, but I was doing side stuff including beating the first Sujimon boss.

The ability to auto win fights against weak enemies needs to be in all games with random encounters.

I got my island to 5 stars and am now moving on to be the best there ever was.

After 119 hours, I finally beat the game.

An hour of that was probably me pausing my way through the cutscenes where Ichiban and

Spoiler:

Saeko

interacted while full-body cringing.

Great game. It's basically what everything I play during the rest of the year has to measure up against.

I reached the point where I want to finish the story then go back later and clean up side missions. I went through the final boss mission a little under-leveled until I got to the boss and was suddenly about 5 level too low and did not have a good team for him. This weekend I got everyone up to the same level as the boss and trained a few new jobs. I will see if I can beat the story this week.

I just finished as well, at about 100 hours. There's still more I can do, but I need to take a break. It will definitely be on my top 10 list this year.

I got to the part of Infinite Wealth where Kiryu's story starts becoming a bigger part of the game. And I was struck with Yakuza madness. I didn't feel like I could move on until I finished up the games in the series I hadn't played: Yakuza 5, 6, and the Gaiden prequel. I had 5 almost wrapped up when I abandoned it 4(!) years ago, so I should be able to finish that out pretty easily, but I suspect 6 is going to be a monster.

And yes, I'm aware that I don't need to do any of this to understand or enjoy Infinite Wealth, but something in my brain has decided that I owe it to Kiryu.

That run went much better. What a great game.

I've just started playing it, and am on a flight to Hawaii! Looking forward to more time with this soon.

Yakuza 6 finished. Worth waiting a few years for, IMO. I mainlined most of the Yakuza remakes as soon as they were released in the west, finally stalling out mid-5, before finally returning to the series last month. And man, as much as I like Ichiban, there's nothing quite like seeing Kiryu in full righteous, shirtless wrath, staring down forty guys and some chump who thought he was good enough to take on the Fourth Chairman.

As is tradition, I am now able to rank the releases in the mainline series.

1. Yakuza 0
Still the best combat and story in the series, with a bunch of old character actors hamming it up and having fun doing it. The thing about starting the series from here is that it places a slightly outsized importance on Goro Majima, who arguably becomes less and less important as the overall series progresses. Yakuza 0 may be one of the best games of all time, and after six previous games, they really had the combat down to an art. It should be tedious to keep having all these random battles, but something about the ragdoll physics and the cartoon whacks of fists hitting heads makes what should be a really repetitive piece of gameplay into something cathartic and slightly meditative. And of course, there's the hostess mini-game. This, by all reckoning, should be an icky and exploitative element based around gamifying entry-level sex work. And yet--it somehow isn't? It's one of the best parts of the game? I think it's partly because the work itself is portrayed as a service job, not necessarily some glamorous and exciting thing. The customers have to be managed and soothed and handled, and the focus is on the women themselves, and not their actions or even necessarily their bodies (although the game definitely doesn't avoid this). This is something that resonates throughout the Yakuza series: a sympathy for 'disposable' people in Japanese society: criminals, hostesses, homeless, immigrants. It would have been too easy for this series to shut the door once it had granted sympathy to its criminal subjects. But the Yakuza series often extended that sympathy beyond its initial focus, and it was sometimes surprising who it included.

2. Yakuza Kiwami
It's hard not to list these games in the order that they were remade/released, but the actual first game (or rather the remake) in the series is a really strong entry. And though it's not as fluid and fun as the gameplay in Yakuza 0, it's still enjoyable and the plot is just as strong now as it was in 2006.

3. Yakuza 6
You can kind of squint at the Yakuza series and rank them by how interesting each of their villains are. But if we were truly doing that, Song of Life would probably top the ranking. Just one of the villains of this game,

Spoiler:

Takeshi Kitano as Hirose

is the standout of the entire series, leaning on the strengths and body of work of the actor to create a really transcendent character. But all of the other villains in this story, and there are like five more of them, had understandable motivations and were memorable opponents. The two primary antagonists are particularly hateful little sh*ts, and when Kiryu finally confronts them on his own terms, six games in with the full confidence and righteousness of a fifty-year-old battle-hardened superman, it's probably the best moment of the whole series.

4. Yakuza Kiwami 2
There's a big gap between this and the next three games on the list. Kiwami 2 has a slightly overconvoluted plot, but it's an interesting sort of tangle, and if anything it adds to the feel of Yakuza as an old B-movie series. It also features one of Kiryu's toughest opponents in Ryuji Goda, and the last time we get to do a whole lot with Goro Majima. Sadly, it is also the final appearance of the hostess club minigame.

5a. Yakuza 4
5b. Yakuza 5

There's not much daylight between the fourth and fifth entries in this series. Both feature new, non-Kiryu protagonists, although Kiryu always comes in as a playable character by the end. Four edges five for me because the characters it introduces are a lot better, with Saejima, Akiyama, and other guy. Five also features Saejima, Akiyama, and other guy, but we've already met the first two before, so on pure character work alone, four is superior to me. Though I could be convinced that the mini-games of Five are far superior, so maybe that brings it up in the rankings. These two games are where I feel like the Yakuza series kind of loses the thread. The actual plots of these games are hot nonsense. I barely remember either one, and I literally just finished Five. Five in particular is littered with enormous holes, and has a villain with a barely plausible, or understandable motivation, and it's never really clear why anything is happening the way it is. The only thing that saves it is that the finale very sharply becomes about Kiryu and surrogate daughter Haroka's relationship, and is actually pretty poignant.

7. Yakuza 3
This is a bit of an unfair ranking, as three was released in an unfortunate console generation. While technically a PS3 release, it really feels more like a PS2 game. There's a quantum leap between this and Yakuza 4, released in ostensibly the same generation. Yakuza 3 supposedly was remastered, but it's not a particularly great remaster. Everything feels real rough and clumsy, and when you clear it and get to four, it's a huge relief to leave this game engine behind. The thing is though, in a lot of ways Yakuza 3 is one of the most Yakuza-y of the Yakuza games. This feels like the point where the Yakuza games lean into farce a little bit and find their tone. Kiryu fist fights a tiger. A guy suplexes a bull. There's some really top notch moments, and while I think the plot is a bit overcooked, it's at least based on an interesting conceit, and the villains have realistic, if petty, motivations.

kazooka wrote:

I got to the part of Infinite Wealth where Kiryu's story starts becoming a bigger part of the game. And I was struck with Yakuza madness. I didn't feel like I could move on until I finished up the games in the series I hadn't played: Yakuza 5, 6, and the Gaiden prequel. I had 5 almost wrapped up when I abandoned it 4(!) years ago, so I should be able to finish that out pretty easily, but I suspect 6 is going to be a monster.

And yes, I'm aware that I don't need to do any of this to understand or enjoy Infinite Wealth, but something in my brain has decided that I owe it to Kiryu.

Chapter 8, right? I just got there. It's going to be a fun diversion. I don't know much about Kiryu's backstory, not having played any game in the series other than Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but I love how Kiryu is up for anything -- and how the crew comments on how he's like Ichi in that regard. They're both such great Video Game Protagonists.

Question for anyone else who is playing, or has played, Infinite Wealth.

I just finished Chapter 9, into Chapter 10. I was hoping to clear some more side stories in chapter 9 but almost all were disabled: it was a straight push through the main stories. And now I’m back in Japan. Will the Hawaiian side stories open back up in chapter 11?