Yakuza: Like a Dragon has Sega’s much-loved series taking to the new generation in style, an Xbox Series X launch title that offers multiple ways to tap into its power. Yes, much like our recent preview of Dirt 5, it seems Series X’s lineup so far has a trend towards giving players more ways to play – and that’s no bad thing. Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, Like a Dragon – also known as Yakuza 7 in Japan – moves to experimental new ground by replacing the usual 3D brawling mechanics with turn-based RPG battling. It’s a time for overhaul, and this is the series’ most daring reinvention yet. It also lands on Series X with clear boosts over existing consoles: adding 4K support, offering 60fps, and also hastening its loading times. But does it deliver entirely on all counts? And to what extent is this making the most of Series X for launch?
Interestingly, Like a Dragon is already available in Japan for PS4 only, but the upcoming Western release turns to all formats at once – including Xbox Series S, X and PC (though curiously, PS5 is delayed to next year). The preview build we have concentrates on chapter five – some way into the game, but with enough progress to get to know the new cast and the Yokohama setting. The move into RPG territory is a bold one. In truth, the shift from brawler to a turn-based format has turned out to be seamless enough. The engine fundamentals are the same as Yakuza Judgment before it, and so world exploration will be familiar to Yakuza fans, even if the move to turn-based battling adds a layer of strategy we’ve not seen before. You can assign jobs to each team member, giving every character stat boosts and nerfs, or different abilities. Player positioning factors in during battle too: running past bikes can cue an extra attack. Enemies can interrupt a move, based on location – though direct movement is out of your control.
It’s Yakuza broken down and rebuilt, but, crucially it all works; the menus are clearly laid out, and it’s a welcome change of pace. In fact, by selecting moves from a skill list, it gives the studio license to really go all in with some of the most over-the-top ideas yet in the series. The city that sets the stage also sees something of a revolution; we see Like a Dragon move to a newly-rendered district of Yokohama for this outing. It makes a welcome leap away from the series’ usual focus on Tokyo to lend new leading man Ichiban Kasuga a fresh canvas and obviously, it’s a good jumping on point for newcomers to the series.