A New Age For Yakuza
Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are far from done with the Yakuza franchise. We may have closed the book on the series’ long-time hero (and best boy, and dad) Kazuma Kiryu, but the Yakuza name and spirit will carry on with an all new saga in Yakuza: Like A Dragon, commonly referred to as Yakuza 7. There was a reveal event that took place last month that officially unveiled what the new entry entails, and the biggest surprise that came out of it was the new turn-based RPG combat system. After Tokyo Game Show 2019, we’ve now had an in-depth look at gameplay along with a beefy six-minute English localization announcement trailer (see above).
Over the past 13 years, Yakuza has established a signature blend of heartfelt melodrama and comedic absurdity that has won over plenty of hearts. And judging from the story and gameplay trailers we’ve seen thus far, Yakuza: Like A Dragon is trying to carry on that tradition. We now follow the story of Kasuga Ichiban, who’s sort of an inverse Kiryu (I mean, look at his suit). But Ichiban will have his own unique tale through Japan’s criminal underworld and we’re here to break that down based on what we know so far.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon (its localized name) launches in Japan on January 16, 2020 and sometime later in 2020 for the West. Fun fact if you didn’t know already: Ryu Ga Gotoku–the developer’s namesake and the Japanese name for the Yakuza games–translates to “Like A Dragon.”
Kasuga Ichiban, Our New Protagonist
Yakuza: Like A Dragon will be a fresh start for the series as we step into the shoes of newcomer Kasuga Ichiban. That doesn’t mean the new game is completely detached from previous lore; Ichiban was a member of the familiar Tojo Clan under the Arakawa Family. Thus, Ichiban’s story begins in Kamurocho, the long-time home of the Yakuza franchise, but it seems that we won’t be there for long.
A captain of the Arakawa family, referred to as Jo, murdered someone from a rival clan and the patriarch, Masumi Arakawa himself, needs someone to take the fall. As a young yakuza goon, Ichiban eagerly volunteers to do it, saying that he’s been waiting to pay back a debt–Arakawa is Ichiban’s foster father as well. This closely echoes where we first saw Kiryu in the opening for Yakuza 1.
An 18 Year Sacrifice For Nothing
This means he has to spend a very long time in prison–18 years to be exact. Ichiban turns himself into the Kamurocho police, thus taking on the sentence and doing the time. However, something is amiss when he gets out. Expecting to be greeted by his fellow yakuza family members, Ichiban re-enters the free world all alone. As he walks out the prison door, he bows and exclaims his excitement to come back but no one was there except an old lady crossing the street who at least acknowledges him. It’s strange because Ichiban mentions having received letters from the boss while locked up that would indicate the family would be there for him.
It’s Not A Yakuza Game Without Betrayal
Curious about why none of his fellow yakuza were around, Ichiban embarks on finding the truth. He eventually finds Arakawa after all this time, now older with gray hair, but it’s not the reunion he wanted or expected. Arakawa points a gun at Ichiban and says that he needs Ichiban to take a bullet for him and die. Ichiban was shot and betrayed by his mentor and father figure–this is par for the course in Yakuza’s brand of drama and it’s only the beginning for Ichiban’s story.
Ichiban As A Person
When saying that he’s essentially an inverse-Kiryu is a short-hand way of saying that he’s much more eccentric–he almost reminds me of my personal series favorite, Goro Majima, though a lot less deranged. Ichiban seems to be a kid at heart with an ideal worldview despite being in the yakuza. In one early scene he watches fireworks with a glimmer in his eyes mentioning that the heroes will prevail at the end of the day, just like in his favorite game series Dragon Quest. Yes, Ichiban loves Dragon Quest. He also scarfs down five beef bowls before turning himself in, so the man can eat.
In his return from prison and search for the truth about what happened with his family in the Tojo Clan, he appears to be unconditionally loyal and earnest, which is a trait he seems to share with Kiryu. It’ll be interesting to see how hitting rock bottom changes or doesn’t change him.
Yokohama, Our New Home
After Ichiban gets apparently shot and left for dead, we see him awaken in a pile of trash. The first person to greet him mentions that he’s nowhere near Kamurocho and instead stuck in Yokohama, Isezaki Ijincho to be exact. It’s a port town that appears to be a lot less congested in the game than past locations. There’s a section called Isezaki Road that looks to be a bustling city center with shops, restaurants, and nightlife. In series tradition, the game pulls a lot from the real-world location it’s referencing.
Along with a fresh location never used in past games comes a whole roster of new activities and minigames to enjoy in the new city–more on that later (it gets wild).
Yakuza: Like A Dragon Quest
Not only is Ichiban a Dragon Quest fan himself, Yakuza 7 will, in some ways, literally play like Dragon Quest. In a drastic change in gameplay, RGG Studio is incorporating a turn-based RPG combat system. It was the most surprising aspect of the initial reveal considering the series has always been an action-brawler type of game. If we take things back to April this year, it turns out that the team’s April fools joke was no joke at all.
Fights can stir up in series tradition by running into hostile goons on the street; the game will then switch over to an RPG battle system where you attack by giving party members commands when their turn comes up. You’ll have HP, MP, elemental damage, and a number of attacks that can do different things such as AOE damage or knockback. It appears that you can navigate the arena during battle with some attacks accounting for position and environmental factors–hell, you see an enemy get knocked into traffic and getting run over.
Ichiban Isn’t Alone In His Fight
With this being a turn-based RPG, Ichiban surely needs a party to tag along with him in brawls on the streets. So far, we know that he’ll have a former detective named Kouichi Adachi and a cabaret hostess named Saeko Mukouda by his side. You’ll also have a local car mechanic and the man you first meet in Yokohama as allies.
Heat Actions, Partner Attacks, And Summons
A signature of Yakuza combat were the vicious (but never lethal) heat actions, which were special, high-damage attacks that changed depending on the context in the environment. Yakuza 7 still features these, but of course in RPG format. We also got a peek at partner attacks where two party members sync up for flashy, tag-team strikes. What’s even more wild is that you’ll be able to call in summons. You can bring in summons to deal damage by paying for them on your phone (in-game that is), one of which is a superpowered crayfish that’ll viciously claw at your enemy’s face. It’s utterly ridiculous and I’m here for it.
Look, I thought the absurdity reached its peak with Kiryu tossing people into rivers (or hiring a chicken to run his real estate business) or Yagami kickflipping dudes in the face, but Yakuza 7 will be in a league of its own.
There’s A Job System
Ichiban can take on different fighting styles through the game’s job system–you literally have to go to a Hello Work office to change jobs. There’s the Bouncer job that has Ichiban sporting a snappy suit and a sword, and a Host job that includes an attack by popping champagne in an enemy’s face. And if you want Ichiban in oversized streetwear, a bucket hat, and a whole lot of jewelry, you can take on the Dancer job which looks to use capoeira-style moves like Majima’s Breaker stance in Yakuza 0.
Different stats like HP, MP, attack, defense, vitality and elemental resistance will change depending on your level and job. It seems that the RPG systems are going fairly deep.
The Chinese Mafia: The Yokohama Liumang
In Yakuza 7, it seems that Yokohama is home to a number of competing factions and interests, even groups of different nationalities–it’s not entirely clear if they’re enemies or allies either.
There will be a faction of the Chinese mafia called the Yokohama Liumang that’s led by a character named Tianyou Zhao. We don’t know much about him yet, but he seems to be a cheeky one, referring to Ichiban as “Kasuga-kun.”
The Korean Mafia: The Geomijul
A Korean organization called the Geomijul are also players in the dynamic of Yokohama’s criminal underworld. They’re led by Seong-Hui and she appears to be a shadowy operative–the group is described as “shapeless as a spider’s web” which makes sense given “geomijul” can translate to “spider web” in English. Not much else is known about them.
The Yokohama Yakuza: The Seiryu Clan
As for the yakuza presence in Yokohama, you’ll be dealing with the Seiryu Clan. They’re led by chairman Ryuhei Hoshino who says, “To us, reputation is everything.” The Seiryu Clan seems to have full control of Ijincho, but are also said to be working in the shadows. There isn’t much else we know about them yet.
Right-Wing Nationalism In Japan
There are a few seconds in the story trailer that show a darker side of Japan’s socio-political climate. It appears that a right-wing nationalist movement plays a role in the story–you see a political figure speaking to a large crowd, followed by protestors with signs with clear anti-immigrant messaging and t-shirts that say “Bleach Japan” which could be the racist movement’s name. Considering that part of Yakuza 7’s story involves Korean and Chinese people and organizations, hostile nationalism could be integral to the drama that unfolds.
See Some Old Friends Along The Way
On a much lighter note, you may notice some old friends from past Yakuza games in the story trailer. For one, the adorable orange-head mascot from the seaside town Onomichi in Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life is back! We see someone sporting the Onomichio costume, but your guess is as good as mine as to why. Even the grown men in diapers from the “Be My Baby” substory in Yakuza 2 make an appearance.
Yakuza Kart Is Real
In what looks to be the wildest new minigame coming to Yakuza 7, Dragon Kart doesn’t just bring kart racing to the series, it’s a full on Mario Kart-style thing with power-ups, drifting, and weapons. It’s ridiculous to see in action and you really wouldn’t want to have it any other way. It seems that there’s nothing wrong with some street racing in Yokohama using little go-karts outfitted with rocket launchers and gatling guns. I’m just a little bummed we didn’t get this earlier so we could call it Kiryu Kart.
Karaoke Is Back
Karaoke is arguably the best minigame in all of the Yakuza series and it’s back for this time around. Ichiban seems to be really enjoying himself in the short clip we see of the karaoke minigame, and I’m very excited to hear what new, catchy, and silly songs these characters can belt out. It’s taking on the rhythm system established in Yakuza 6 and Yakuza Kiwami 2, and if karaoke is like previous games, these songs may give you insight into characters’ true feelings about other aspects of their lives.
As with any game in the series, Yakuza 7 looks stocked with minigames. While Dragon Kart and karaoke standout, you’ll be able to gamble with licensed PachiSlot machines from Sammy and Universal Entertainment, one of which is Fist of the North Star-themed. DartsLive and golfing make returns as well as hanging out at hostess clubs. You can also go to the movie theater and fight to keep Ichiban awake through a series of frantic button prompts. Another new one appears to have Ichiban riding a bike around to collect cans for money. And there’s sure to be more revealed as we get additional information closer to the launch of Yakuza: Like A Dragon, aka Yakuza 7.
Source: Game Spot Mashup