The Unplanned Variable

One man and his failed punch perm.

No-one would have believed that his unflinching resilience would allow him to uncover the sordid truth, but they were obviously underestimating the effectiveness of him repeatedly punching those that he deemed to be responsible. As antagonists in the Yakuza series regularly do. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is an exhilarating narrative-driven JRPG featuring an unashamedly exuberant protagonist, revitalised character development mechanics, surprisingly fluid turn-based combat, challenging boss encounters, and wonderfully unorthodox character classes.

Words can’t do them justice.

The creativity (and diversity) inherent in these character classes is staggering. Each fulfils a specific role in combat and has its own transferable skills, which not only makes them remarkably flexible, but encourages experimentation with different combinations of character classes.

This flexibility is bolstered by being able to forge (and upgrade) equipment, which helps immeasurably during the toughest boss encounters. You can forge both weapons and armour, but only weapons can be upgraded, and doing so often requires significant financial investment or rare components, but the results are definitely worth the investment. Making the Romance Workshop integral to your continued success, as the equipment that you find during your adventures is rarely comparable to that which you’ve forged (or upgraded) yourself. But that’s what the shareholder meetings in Management Mode are for. Reliably earning a ¥3,000,000 bonus for listening to the complaints of those who haven’t even contributed to the growth of your business, which is exactly what I imagine an actual shareholder meeting to be like. Only with less chickens.

You never know what Kasuga will do next.

Having earned over ¥45,000,000 during shareholder meetings, and having immediately spent those earnings, I can confidently say that the majority of what you need to upgrade weapons can be bought. It’s not always cheap nor is it always readily available, but it can be bought. So I’ve once again avoided learning the rules for various mini games. I’m not sure if I necessarily benefit from that decision, but at least I don’t need to fumble through shogi pretending to know what each piece does. Or whether the exclamations from participants are positive or negative.

Because I have absolutely no idea.

The introduction of turn-based combat is what makes Yakuza: Like A Dragon unlike other entries in the Yakuza series, but I can’t criticise its implementation nor the changes made to established mechanics, as it feels as intuitive as the real time combat that we’ve come to love.

Given that I’ve now purchased every entry in the Yakuza series available on Steam, I felt that it was finally time to experience the enrapturing narratives of each in earnest. I can’t say how many of these prodigious adventures that I’ll be attempting per year, but I am committed to finishing them, and will undoubtedly be devoting a considerable amount of time to these endeavours. Of the two that I’ve finished, Yakuza 0 and Yakuza: Like A Dragon, I’ve found both to be ridiculously content dense, and anticipate that those to follow will be just as immense. Which I’m wholeheartedly looking forward to. I don’t know what to expect from the next entry in the Yakuza series, but I highly recommend Yakuza: Like A Dragon as it fundamentally alters countless mechanics but still delivers an exceptionally enthralling experience.

Have a nice week, all!


Eighteen Years Service

Dutifully performed for the family.

Not that the family were nearly as appreciative as anticipated for this service, but things are rarely what they seem to be. I’d be more surprised if there wasn’t an ulterior motive involved. Hence why Kasuga’s relative innocence is so endearing, as he never fully understands how he gets himself into these dilemmas. Which include, but are not limited to: single-handedly reviving a failing senbai business, trekking across Yokohama to alleviate toilet-related anxiety, visiting a vintage cinema to be harassed by sheep, and watching over the fruit of a persimmon tree.

Each just as outlandish as the next.

Proving that the Yakuza series, with its reprehensible antagonists, and (surprisingly) rational protagonists, can be as silly as it can serious. Even if I doubt that there are any as ridiculous as Yakuza: Like A Dragon. But I consider that to be one of the strengths of this experience.

Comic relief is too often absent from darker narratives. Not only does it amplify those scarce moments of realisation, but it makes the experience more enjoyable between those bouts of heartbreaking revelation.
I honestly don’t know how I’d feel if I didn’t have a self-proclaimed Hero, a homeless Musician, a regretful Chef, and a brawling Breaker in my active party. But I can only commend the developers for their creativity,
as each of these character classes is as fresh as it is functional. They can be absolutely hilarious, too. I’ve never seen a man douse his enemies with a chilled bottle of champagne before. Nor have I seen a woman repeatedly bludgeon her enemies with a microphone. But I can’t imagine how its turn-based combat would
be were it not peppered with these absurdities.

His ¥1,000,000 investment paid dangerous dividends.

Turn-based combat that feels as fluid and as natural as the real time combat of Yakuza 0, despite being the notable difference between this and other entries in the Yakuza series. Countless alterations were made to established mechanics to revitalise them, and numerous character classes were introduced to replace the default protagonist proficiencies. Selecting your party isn’t easy, either. Each character class has its own strengths and weaknesses (as does each party member), and balancing those to adequately prepare for encounters can be tricky.

But it’s also incredibly fun.

Not only because I’ve been fascinated by character classes since those treasured days spent playing Final Fantasy V, but because there are transferable skills and statistical bonuses that benefit each party member regardless of their current character class. Which is neat.

Presenting Kasuga as an avid fan of the Dragon Quest series certainly explains why he sees the world as he does, as his world is far more compelling than the real world. Which makes this adventure entirely believable. We really did fight a giant automated vacuum cleaner, which ate its own creator with its super suction mode. Those were real things that happened in the real world. Of course they were. I’m not entirely sure that these ludicrous events would be as believable were they not presented as such, but it feels like the developers are trying something ridiculously zany with Yakuza: Like A Dragon. So I doubt that this is necessarily indicative
of future entries. Even if turn-based combat was to return, I doubt that it would be as absurd as this. Or that certain mechanics, such as Mental Points, would return with it.

Have a nice week, all!


The Kamurocho Revitalization Project

The deadliest real estate agent.

Yakuza 0 is an exhilarating JRPG featuring an extensive main campaign, two substantial minor campaigns (the Kamurocho Real Estate Royale and the Sotenbori Cabaret Club Czar), an absurd amount of mini-games, and hundreds of optional challenges. It’s a ludicrously content-dense experience with over a hundred hours of enjoyable content. It can, however, be difficult to know what you should be doing and when, as there are few indications of when content becomes unavailable. But the (aptly named) Premium Adventure mode alleviates the majority of those concerns.

As you’re able to revisit both cities post-completion.

Exploring both Kamurocho and Sotenbori has been a pleasure as they’re beautifully detailed, vibrant, ever-evolving cities brimming with Substories that allow you to explore the motivations of each protagonist. They also allow you to buy video games for children, to enjoy flamboyant disco dancing, and to train a dominatrix.

The sheer absurdity of these Substories is what makes them so enjoyable. In fact, the entire experience is somewhat absurd. It’s heavily exaggerated but amazingly enjoyable. Of the mini-games, and there are many, the most notable is Pocket Circuit Racing, which is as challenging as it is fun. Bowling has also been brilliant. These mini-games are as perfectly executed as they are oddly compelling. Not that the developers needed to include dozens of hours of optional content, but did because you clearly didn’t have enough to do. Yakuza 0 also serves as a prequel to Yakuza Kiwami and the rest of the Yakuza series. Cautiously skimming through the events to follow confirms that the characters, locations, and events in Yakuza 0 are representative of the series as a whole. Making it a capable prequel that leaves you wholly immersed.

I think it suits him well as a real estate agent.

I was most impressed by the optional challenges which are (more or less) busywork. Mostly because they don’t feel like busywork. As there are countless ways to accrue CP, including, but not limited to: playing certain mini-games, defeating opponents with certain combat styles, eating local cuisine, playing pool, or singing karaoke until your lungs burst. They’re so diverse that everyone will find something that they can actually enjoy earning CP with. These points can then be invested in bonuses towards combat, exploration, or even your business ventures.

I also found combat to be incredibly satisfying.

Both Kiryu and Majima have three default fighting styles (and a fourth hidden style) with each representing a concept. Be it versatility, strength, or speed. Brutalising enemies allows you to build Heat, which can then be spent to unleash devastating special abilities that differ depending on the fighting style that they’re using.

I honestly wasn’t expecting an experience as comprehensive as this, and have nothing but the highest praise for Yakuza 0 for delivering an unforgettable one-of-a-kind main campaign which was as engrossing as it was heartbreaking. The scale of the cities is deceptive, as neither Kamurocho nor Sotenbori seem large enough for this amount of content, but it’s overwhelming how vast these cities actually are, and it’s embarrassing that some open world experiences are so empty by comparison. The art direction and voice acting is outstanding, too. It’s an experience that is quite unlike anything that I’ve played before. Which I couldn’t be happier about, as this is my introduction to the Yakuza series and it has been an incredibly successful one. Hence why I highly recommend it to those looking for something different but incredibly rewarding.

Have a nice week, all!