Oh boy! I have been looking forwards to playing Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon ALLLLLLL year. Ever since I read that they were going to be completely changing the formula up to become a Dragon Quest inspired JRPG instead of the usual Action fare we have come to love over 6 Yakuza games and the detective spinoff of Judgment.
I defended the game again and again on the internet against every naysayer I ever came across, telling everyone to just trust Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio complicitly; they haven’t steered us wrong thus far so let them be even weirder and do whatever the hell they want!
AND GUESS WHAT.
I was dead right to say those things because Yakuza 7 is by far my favourite entry into the franchise so far.
I will start by addressing one of the main concerns that people had on the net: The Battle System. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of JRPGs and turn based battle systems and whilst I don’t tend to like them as much as action orientated gameplay, I can honestly say to you all right now that Yakuza 7 is so much the better for it.
The JRPG elements that the game presents us with are probably the best example of what turn based battle systems should be that I have ever played. It’s so very inspired by Dragon Quest – complete with brilliant references and musical tones that feel taken direct from Dragon Quest 11 but the finesse and modernized Yakuza style that it adds to these is what makes it all the more interesting.
Having this perfectly executed turn based battle system, coupled up with still being able to wildly swing a bicycle at enemies in your way and incredible action set pieces helps Yakuza 7 to firmly stand as one of my favourite JRPGs I have ever played.
Everything you would expect from a JRPG has been mixed expertly with the style and substance we all come to expect from the Yakuza titles. Dungeon crawling and party building is mixed with the weird and wonderful characters one would see in any of the Yakuza games, it even features save points at different sections of a dungeon – leaning so heavily into the JRPG fare.
The levelling system is also ripped straight from a JRPG – you get exp and level up from battles. That’s it, that’s the paragraph.
If you are after an action game and hate JRPGs then Yakuza 7 might not be for you but I implore you to give it a try because the game is so gosh darned fun.
As per every Yakuza game and JRPG, Side stories still exist but what makes them feel more worthwhile in Yakuza 7 is how they occasionally allow you to add dumb new characters into your party and I. am. Here. For. It.
Okay so the next thing that people were worried about on the internet… Kiryu is no longer the protagonist of the game, instead you playthrough as newcomer Ichiban. Fresh from his 18 year stint in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (more on the story shortly!).
But you know what? Ichiban is better than Kiryu. I LOVE Kiryu but Ichi is hilarious, charming and just downright dumb… he’s also just a really good dude. Yakuza has always done a really good job at showing of how some of these people are actually good guys when they want to be and Ichi is no different. He does remind me of Kiryu a lot of the time but in my genuine opinion he just oozes so much more charm.
Also… His hair is GLORIOUS.
Moving onto the story, the first few hours of the game are quite slow but they do a brilliant job at world building through Ichi’s eyes. Introducing you to the patriarch of his small time family Masumi Arakawa (Played by the absolute gem of a human George Takei). Whilst the first couple hours of the game are light on gameplay – they do a perfect job of introducing a whole new batch of characters and telling a beautiful story of the Arakawa family in the late 90s and early 00s.
I wont go too far into spoilers but the Story of Like a Dragon is incredibly epic. Ichi takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit and proceeds to do 18 years in prison for the family. Upon his release he learns of betrayal within the Tojo Clan who have been sold out to the Omi Alliance by the Arakawa family.
The story is a heart wrenching tale of betrayal and family, made so much better because you love every character you add to your party which adds a whole new layer of storytelling not possible within the previous Yakuza titles.
Even my wife, who has never really liked Yakuza games has really enjoyed watching this story unfold and the game is potentially my favourite story of 2020 and I’ve played through The Last Of Us 2!
Graphically and sound wise the game is stunning as well. It really felt like it has pushed my Xbox to the max and every hair follicle on Ichis head is rendered in a beautiful fashion. The game suffers a few times from texture popping and issues with whole areas not loading but all in all it pushes it to the limit of the console’s capabilities.
One thing I adored with Yakuza 7 was the introduction of the new map. After decades of exploring the same area and watching it grow – it was incredibly refreshing to explore Yokohama instead.
Hand on my heart, Yakuza 7 is my favourite title in the long running franchise so it is absolutely easy for me to sit here and tell you that I am giving Like a Dragon: 9/10.
If you are worried about the JRPG elements, don’t be. Open your mind because Yakuza 7 has everything I wanted from a Yakuza game. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has taken a huge amount of risks completely changing up the formula of such a long running series and it has totally paid off, giving me one of my favourite stories and most engaging RPG’s I have played this generation.