The last week’s wait for a highly anticipated game always seems like the longest. The latest installment in the Yakuza series is finally upon us, which will bring a continuation of new series protagonist Ichiban’s story as well as Kiryu’s. RGG Studio, the developers behind the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series, has carefully sprinkled previews and teasers as to the game’s story and game mechanics, and I have some final thoughts to type out before the game releases on January 25th.
Infinite Wealth will seemingly have Ichiban try his hand at managing an entire resort – a level up from his previous business management skills acquired as the president of Ichiban Holdings in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. While I haven’t delved too deeply into the details to avoid spoilers, the island seems to have an Animal Crossing inspiration to it. Familiar faces can visit the island, and I’m guessing completing certain side quests and main story objectives will add to the list of potential visitors.
The business management game in the previous game felt like a complete game, and Dondoku Island looks like it’ll have even more to do. I hope, similar to the Ichiban Holdings board meetings, Ichiban will find himself in some delicate customer service scenarios he’ll have to apologize his way out of. It’s not clear to me if Kiryu will also help out on the island, or if this minigame will be exclusive to Ichiban. Since the game is featuring two protagonists and the trailers make it out to seem like they’ll be working together, I hope Kiryu has a chance to impart some business wisdom to Ichiban. Kiryu was, after all, a real estate guru back in the 80s.
Addressing the Gray-Suited Elephant in the Room
Ever since the official trailer teasing elements of the game’s story dropped earlier this year, fans were surprised to learn that Kiryu has cancer. It’s still not clear when he was diagnosed, what type of cancer he has, and what his prognosis is, but there’s a possibility Kiryu might not make it back for future games. I would be disappointed if Kiryu’s story ends like that; slowly withering away in seclusion, away from his family in Okinawa. Kiryu is such a great character and is portrayed as a triumphant hero even though he’s lived his life involved in organized crime.
For RGG to semi-retire him in Yakuza 6, fake his death, and create his return, all for him to die at the end of Infinite Wealth seems like a waste. Of course, I have no idea how the game will end, and will save my final judgement until then. But for as much as I love Kiryu and his story, the aspect of his retirement so far has been sloppily done. While it’s obvious at this point that Ichiban will be taking over the spotlight, it shouldn’t mean discarding a widely loved character to a grim fate. The Like a Dragon series is nothing more than a video game, and players – or this player, at least – like to see their heroes handled positively. I could be totally off the mark, as members of RGG have claimed Infinite Wealth to be one of the happiest games in the series, but it seems as though they’re setting us up for some big emotions.
Putting aside Kiryu’s story, I’m excited to see where Infinite Wealth takes Ichiban and his party next. The story trailer also hints at some tension between Ichiban and Saeko. It seems that they started a relationship sometime after Yakuza 7, and Ichiban even proposed to her, but Saeko didn’t seem to take it well. I hope that the tension between them is resolved, as I love Saeko (and the rest of the party) and it would really stink to see their group broken up because of that.
The wait is almost over to find an answer to all of my questions. The game is shaping up to be a big one, and will even take place at least partly in Hawaii. I can’t wait to explore a place I’ve never been through the minds and inspiration of developers who are known for their attention to detail. Infinite Wealth will also feature familiar locations in Japan, with one of them confirmed to be Ijincho. I hope that Kamurocho makes a return, especially if this is Kiryu’s last game. Kamurocho was noticeably absent in Like a Dragon Gaiden, which made sense given Kiryu’s isolation from his former life at the hands of the Daidoji, but I’m hoping to see some old friends. Less than a week to go…