We mentioned in our recent Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name review that RGG Studio has been on an almighty roll of late when it comes to all things Yakuza-related. As a result this riotous series, so long overlooked by mainstream audiences in the west, has finally become the sort of permanent fixture on 'Best RPG' lists that we always reckoned it should have been.

There's been a bit of a long-term plan to rejuvenate and redeploy highlights from across the history of this franchise in recent years, a drive to entice an all-new generation of players to the wonders of beating thugs to a pulp whilst making strange friends, learning completely unnecessary life lessons and upsetting the locals with your karaoke caterwauling.

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Not content with dropping a steady stream of choice cuts from its back catalog, RGG has also ensured it continues hitting out with absolute belters when it comes to the latest entries in this longest-running of gangster franchises. One such belter, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, released back at the start of 2020, introduced us to Ichiban Kasuga, the crazy-haired ex-convict turned hero-with-a-heart-of-gold, in the series' first ever turn-based outing.

Taking the button-mashy, arcade-styled action with which these games have become synonymous and replacing it with turn-based combat straight out of some fantasy-ass RPG might not have seemed like a great idea at the time - and it certainly has its detractors - but it very quickly became our preferred form of pugilism of the two on offer, and a move that feels as though it's breathed all-sorts of new life and fresh possibilities into a setup that was definitely - and we know Yakuza 6 and Yakuza 0 are all-timers - but it had 100% begun to exhibit a little wear and tear.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon was the best the series had ever felt mechanically at the time of its release. The story was gripping too, walking a fine line between genuine emotion, serious subject matter and the usual slapstick/incredibly odd humour that these games always deliver on so well. Ichiban also managed to do the impossible by filling the void left by Kazuma with style to spare, and the scale and scope of the world was a new high watermark in terms of side activities and silliness in which to indulge.

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And so, after the delightfully old-school Yakuza antics of The Man Who Erased His Name gave more traditionally-minded fans something to tuck into, here we are with a second helping of the new flavour in a sequel that's bigger, longer and better in just about every way. Yes, we might as well just say it now, this may very well be the best game that RGG Studio has made to date. An absolutely ridiculous statement given some of the epic crime operas we've been treated to over the years, for sure, but there it is.

Where should we start with Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, really? Ichiban's return sets him off an emotionally fraught journey - the family ties are strong with this one - that gives players a paradise playground to knock around in the form of Hawaii. This in itself would usually be enough to have us foaming at the mouth, an all-new and distinctly different setting is a rarity for this series to be sure, but this time we're also getting the return of Kiryu Kazuma as he joins forces with Ichiban in an effort to take down the island's shady Barracuda clan.

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If we were to attempt to explain much more about the plot, well, we'd be ruining things - and we know some of the biggest and most shocking plot points are out there in spoiler-land already - but let's just say that the narrative presented here tops Ichiban's first outing in every way and gives us lots of time in the company of two of the strongest protagonists in gaming. That's just facts. There's plenty of big old twists, some absolutely wild revelations, as many long cutscenes as anyone could ever ask for, and enough weird perverts, streakers and smelly old men dressed as pickles to last us until at least Easter.

The writing is never an issue with these games, though, is it? They deliver the goods every single time when it comes to serious crime dramas infused with the type of madcap bizzarro weirdness that Japan does best. We're as safe as we assumed we would be in that regard here, then, and it's really the effort to fill this world with worthwhile activities, to give Hawaii a satisfying flow in how it introduces substories, characters and activities, that does most to elevate this one beyond its predecessors.

There's the usual gamut of old-school arcade games to play - Sega Bass Fishing or Virtua Fighter 3 anyone? You've also got darts and Mahjong, proper seedy dating apps and dating games - now with real models - blackjack, poker, karaoke and all that jazz to boot. However, Infinite Wealth then goes way above and beyond in providing side activities and distractions that sit alongside the main story as genuinely worthy and involving ways to spend your time.

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Ichiban's latest adventure turns Yakuza: Like A Dragon's Sujimon index (think Pokedex for thugs) into a full-on Pokemon tribute with stadium battles, trainers, fighter evolutions and everything. It's got an entire island dedicated to ripping off Animal Crossing - believe us when we tell you it's bloody addictive - and they've even gone and chucked in a fully fleshed out ode to Crazy Taxi just for the hell of it. More than at any other point in this franchise's very long history, this stuff feels like part of the main thrust of the game, these activities are more than mere distractions, and they're fed back into and layered on top of a base experience that was already bursting at the seams with silliness with which to engage.

With regards to Hawaii itself, well, if we're being very picky, this is the one aspect of Infinite Wealth that doesn't deliver quite as much evolution as we'd (probably unfairly) hoped that it might. As great as it looks, and as nice as it is to have such a total change of atmosphere, it's still a little too similar in how it's laid out, in how it operates around you, to feel like a real break from past settings. It does make up for this by being stuffed full of unexpected diversions, and there's a shady side of paradise being explored in interesting ways here, but this is still resolutely a Yakuza game, for all its advancements, and if you don't like 'em this won't change things, regardless of a new setting or combat refinements or anything else.

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Oh, and let's not forget about that combat, by the way. The overall flow of fights feels slicker and smoother this time out, and Like A Dragon's excellent job system returns in an expanded form, framing traditional RPG classes into the likes of Hero, Samurai, Desperado and...eh...cabbie, all with their own wild collection of moves and skills. New team members are uniformly excellent, the battle banter is top-notch (nothing is funnier than the insults that Yakuza's enemies fling out, let's be honest), and we had a great time switching between Kiryu's various stances which have been cleverly transferred to turn-based action here. There's also plenty of flashy tag-team goodness for those who like to take down their foes in screen-shaking style (just remember to take your pals out drinking in order to strengthen your combo/team skills).

Indeed this is a crucial point as, more than any other entry in the series to date, this latest outing just seems to get how activities and rewards should flow into one another for maximum satisfaction. Time spent boozing, socialising and indulging in side activities results in tangible improvements, boosts and boons here, and that makes for a core gameplay experience that's never been better. So make sure to fill in those relationship bingo cards, folks (we're not joking), as knowing your friends well brings important benefits when it comes time to smash some faces all over the beach promenade.

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Now well over thousand words into a review and we're barely scraping the surface to be honest, but such is the way with Yakuza. We haven't even mentioned the customisable Segway you get to blast around Hawaii on yet have we? The most crucial point to be made in the end though, is that what we have here is RGG Studio at its very best. We're not gonna spoil any of the surprises, but Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth gives us a meaningful and properly emotional journey of self-discovery amidst all of the excesses for both Ichiban and Kiryu. It nails the tension, the violence and the drama. It's got the best combat and side activities in the series to date, performs perfectly on Series X and looks and sounds fantastic to boot.

So, best Yakuza game to date then? We reckon so. Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth manages to wrangle all of the franchise's excesses, its crazy side activities and epic storyline, into an experience that feels more fluid and refined than ever before. If you thought Kiryu and Ichiban joining forces sounded hella good on paper, you're in for quite the treat. Yakuza: Like A Dragon came close, but this fantastic follow-up manages to get a big fat 10 out of us.


Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth takes the fresh start provided by its predecessor and runs riot. This is a gangster epic that sees two fantastic protagonists join forces in a story that delivers the goods in terms of emotion, action, ridiculous revelations and madcap humour. Massively expanded side activities, series-best combat, a fun new location and unexpected adventures around every single corner make for our favourite RGG Studio joint to date. 2024 is barely started and we've got an all-timer RPG to dig into.