We have already got to tell you about Yakuza: Like a Dragon in our review dedicated to the flagship Microsoft products, but today we are here to tell you how the title fares on the "opposite" platform, PlayStation 5. Let's get the elephant out of the room right away, the game is virtually identical for both consoles, therefore the final choice on where to use it is entirely up to you. However, we are here to tell you about the work in general, the story of how Ichiban Kasuga you become one of the least conventional heroes on the face of the earth. The protagonist was presented to fans within one of the main chapters of the saga of Yakuza, but it affected the community so much that the development team wanted to dedicate a stand alone spin-off to it, different from the classic style of the series. In fact, here you will not find action fights, but turn-based mechanics that recall a lot of the JRPG of the past. Starting from the characterization of the characters present in the game, up to the mechanics and narrative threads, after finishing it we can say with certainty that Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a fun title, able to entertain not only the historical lovers of the brand, but also a different slice of public. The final result really bodes well for the future, so much so that it would be a shame that this title would remain unique to the franchise.
A little bit of texture
Without going around it too much, it is evident how Yakuza: Like a Dragon tells the genesis of Ichiban Kasuga, highlighting his flaws but even more or his merits. In fact, although he is a member of the Yakuza, the protagonist is moved by a deep sense of honor and justice, a sort of Robin Hood but with more violent and less reasoned ways. Ichiban is impulsive, direct, he goes on the tangent without thinking about the consequences: all things we loved about his characterization. In the general chaos that has been his life, our hero never stopped admiring his patriarch, who after introducing him to crime has become an example for him to follow, so much so that he deserves the real admiration of Ichi. However, in this "field" the risk is always around the corner: Ichiban will take the blame for a murder to avoid a war between clans, defining himself guilty and going to prison for the beauty of 18 years. During his confinement, Ichiban has always remained faithful, with the only thought of returning to his boss. The day of his release from prison, however, will not really be a party, 18 years is a long time especially for a man who has never had contact with the outside world when things change too quickly. This short opening is just a small portion of the story, but the staging is more than enough to grab the player's attention and empathize with different characters.
Net of everything, we found the story of a unique refinement, the team explored all possible themes: going from the most serious to the totally crazy and meaningless ones, treating everything with the respect that certain stories deserve. Regardless of this, there will be witty and crazy moments, moments that will make you smile but, at the same time, they will show you a hidden side of Japan. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is also and above all a journey into Japanese culture, where you can see many different facets. In fact, often there are not only good or evil, but there are complex gray areas to see. The title works well on this, taking those almost imperceptible shades and making them the main colors of a much larger and more complex design. Like a Dragon is about how a carp, aka Ichiban Kasuga, climbs the waterfall to become a dragon. A rude hero but with a good and kind soul, a pyrotechnic mix that made him rightfully enter our hearts.
What to expect
Although the protagonists are a total of four, namely Ichiban, Nanba, Saeko e Adachi, we find in the background a fifth, or the magnificent Isezaki Ijincho. This is not only the largest map ever made for the series, but as the hours go by you will understand its importance and uniqueness. Like any big city, it is made up of different areas and social classes, all united but at the same time separated. Each district has its own identity and is perfectly recognizable, a truly meticulous work by the team that manages to make the city more alive than ever. If you want to take a break from the main adventure, you can have fun with side activities such as the games room (where you will find other titles SEGA), bets, restaurants, study paths, minigames and much more. Every corner of the map is made to give you an input, even if not particularly invasive.
As for the combat system instead, in Yakuza: Like a Dragon it has been totally changed, becoming the classic turn-based JRPG. The title breaks through the fourth wall several times, creating absurd situations that fully justify what is happening: you will find yourself embroiled in fights that obviously do not reflect reality, but are closer to a fantasy world. Despite this, however, there is always a side that remains well anchored to the realistic structure of Isezaki Ijincho, resulting in a mix that is certainly atypical but quite fascinating to keep the player glued from the beginning to the end of the adventure. In fact, whenever you find yourself facing a battle, the opposing minions will undergo a "mutation" stimulated by the fervent imagination of the protagonist, creating a sort of hybrid between fantasy and real world a bit like it happened with South Park: The Stick of Truth. The team worked on a disproportionate number of different enemies, all unique with their own abilities. Based on the combination that you will find in front of you, you have to implement a different strategy, but not only: there are no areas with much stronger enemies, the game itself balances the level depending on where you have arrived in the story, always guaranteeing a balanced challenge from the beginning to end.
Each party member has his own class, this can be developed both from the internal dialogues of the group, and from certain actions that you will perform during the story. Ichiban has several sides of the character that will need to be taken care of, the more you do certain activities, the more these will be amplified, thus unlocking further tasks. As in any self-respecting JRPG, the dungeon, fun and never really complex. These guarantee a great way to break the monotony, but before tackling them try to prepare yourself as best as possible in terms of equipment and medical supplies. In this regard, the economic system of the game will make you feel constantly poor, you will feel the sweat and sacrifice in earning money, and above all you will notice how easy it is to squander it in a flash. In general, the level of the clashes is very good, each special move then corresponds to a minigame that if completed will yield you extra damage, so as to keep the attention alive during the turns even at a practical level and not just strategic.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon on a technical level on PlayStation 5 certainly cuts a good figure. It fully meets the flagship standards Sony, certainly does not excel but neither can it be fiercely criticized. The game in its entirety breaks, entertains and works. Action lovers will surely have something to laugh about, but it's also normal since this production isn't geared towards them. The game will make you experience the genesis of an extraordinary hero, ready to do everything to feel good with his conscience. Some dialogues or phrases leave their mark, giving the player a food for thought that is never banal until the end.
Although with 35-40 hours you can consider finished the main adventure, the many side quests e activity they will really keep you hooked for a very long time. Ichiban Kasuga is a great protagonist, charismatic and with a sense of honor all his own. To hear some in some ways reminds Luffy of One Piece, but as we see it is similar to many characters seen in many manga. But despite this Ichiban is perfectly recognizable, with a distinct style and charisma. If you have never tried a Yakuza and you are a fan of JRPG then give this title a chance, because you will surely not regret it.