Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth Is An RPG For Adults Who Don’t Need Everything Taken So Seriously
Blake Hester is hard at work on Game Informer’s full review of the exceptionally long Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, but while he is gathering his final thoughts, I wanted to share my impressions so far.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth can be deathly serious when it wants to be. A character with a negative first encounter with the game’s protagonist, Ichiban, soon reveals he is in over his head with the local Yakuza and spent time in jail, leading to heartbreaking difficulties with his significant other. Ichiban is sympathetic and builds him up with his unique and often excessive brand of optimism. The moment is well-written and genuinely moving. Those moments (at least in the first 11 hours) are rare and hit hard as a result.
The majority of the game is an absurdist fantasy in a believable (and this time, surprisingly American) setting, and I am learning from my early hours that maybe this is precisely what I want from video games as my real-life age nears Ichiban’s. Riding around the city on a Segway with new friends as we beat up locals who pick fights for nearly no reason is a bizarre joy. After approximately 10 Like a Dragon games (a few of which I have played), the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has basically perfected the bizarre tone of its series to create an experience that manages to feel grounded when it needs to but silly at every single moment it doesn’t. And it’s exactly the kind of story I want now – a tale of adults in a city just trying unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble.
Perhaps it’s a product of finally rushing to the end credits of Final Fantasy XVI so that I could dive into Infinite Wealth guilt-free, but I have grown weary of the high-fantasy (and science-fiction) melodrama of the typical RPG. Where Final Fantasy XVI felt like an impression of a video game for adults with its liberal use of profanity, violence, and brooding protagonist, Infinite Wealth feels strangely relatable despite being a game where you have a pet crawfish named Nancy that can help you in battle. Ichiban has to find his lost passport, make friends as an adult, deposit money in a bank, and learn how to establish boundaries and not take on too many benign requests from strangers (a seemingly impossible lesson for him to learn). I aspire to be him not because he’s a badass but because he’s nice and makes everyone feel good about themselves. And all that is happening alongside a turn-based combat system that is fun to watch play out.
These are all lessons we learned about the new face of the Like a Dragon series from Yakuza 7 in 2020, but with Ichiban’s rolled-up pants, sandals, and Hawaiian shirt, he’s more casual and inviting than ever. Infinite Wealth is a game for players with fond memories of the RPG genre who have grown up and are ready for the stakes to be lowered from world-ending calamities to grown-up relationships. The one thing I do wish the game took from Final Fantasy XVI, however, is its Active Time Lore system because I don’t know who all these people are.