I’m soaking up the sun as I stroll along the beautiful beaches of Hawaii when suddenly a group of suspicious-looking characters take notice. As they approach, threatening me, I’m transported from the reality of Hawaii around me to some kind of alternate dimension where I’m expected to pull off some thrilling heroics. My enemies no longer look like your average tough guys on the street—their eyes glow red, they’re able to spew toxic fumes at me. But their new monstrous appearance is no match for my sweet selection of skills, my trusty baseball bat, and a crew of comrades who are ready to dive in with their own eccentric combat skills. But before they throw down, they’ll have to wait their turn, of course.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the latest in the long-running series of games formerly known as Yakuza. Starting in 2005 on the PS2, Yakuza introduced the world to its gripping tale of Japanese gangsters struggling to survive the complex loyalties and alliances of the criminal underworld, often forced to fight in overwhelming situations in order to survive.

Infinite Wealth itself is a direct sequel to 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which departed significantly from the standard brawling action that has long been the series’ bread and butter. As in that game, combat here is entirely turn-based, with all of the RPG stats and features you know from games that are usually set in more fantastical realms. Starring one of the most charismatic characters of our time, Ichiban Kasuga, Infinite Wealth tells a satisfying and intriguing tale of mystery and organized crime. And it’s all set in a digestible RPG that rewards the time you put into it without feeling burdensome or unapproachable.

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A heroic fantasy unrestrained by the bounds of reality

Though Infinite Wealth is set in the real world and follows the gritty and complicated lives of people stuck in a life of organized crime, the game never feels anything short of epic, especially in combat. Most cutscenes and narrative developments are grounded in reality, but the fighting almost seems to take place in a parallel universe in the mind of protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, who tends to see the world like a fantasy game, with himself the hero of said game.

The game takes on a different personality once the fists and weapons start flying, one that embraces the tried and true staples of turn-based combat in a fantasy RPG. It’s joyous and lively—a breath of fresh air in a genre so often dominated by the same fantasy character archetypes in the same old predictable ways.

Chitose swings a restaurant sign at an enemy.

Screenshot: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Kotaku

Infinite Wealth deals in those archetypes—your tanks, healers, damage dealers, and so on—but it makes them its own, with style and confidence. Enemies shift into twisted monstrous appearances of their real-world selves once the combat starts. Fighting animations are often explosive, vibrant, and fitting for each character’s personality. The flow of combat never fails to feel exciting and fresh, but also familiar. This is an RPG through and through: Characters have hit points and magic points, and the latter can be used to deploy all manner of offensive and defensive abilities. You’ll get better as you level up, and there are tons of ways to improve your stats via consumable items and better equipment.

If you’re a veteran of turn-based fantasy roleplaying games, you’ll find that trusty rhythm of buff, debuff, attack, and defend here in gorgeous full form and not merely as a tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall breaking gimmick. Playing Infinite Wealth was a reminder for me of how much I love turn-based combat, because the game constantly rewarded me for playing with strategy. That dopamine rush of pulling off several well-selected turns is so rewarding that on the rare occasions I had to grind to push forward in the story, I was excited to get into more brawls. The combat is strategic, yet silly. Deep, yet approachably fun. It rarely felt exhausting to go through round after round of combat. And defeat didn’t feel mean or humiliating.

Seonhee steps on her opponent.

Screenshot: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Kotaku

Infinite Wealth’s combat isn’t just about meeting numerical prerequisites. Yes, if you’re underleveled for a specific area or boss fight, you might be in some trouble. But I rarely felt like the game was unfair or forcing me to do my leveling-up homework. Fights that were a few levels above me weren’t impossible; they just required a more thoughtful approachthat didn’t neglect the essential roles of buffs and debuffs. There were some bosses that sent me to a couple of Game Over screens, and it was clear that I was underleveled and under equipped when this happened. But if I kept my head in the game and focused on exploiting as many enemy weak points as possible and making each turn count, I could come out on top. And that feeling of losing a few times, only to come back and out think my foes to victory, never got old.

Though you can switch out your characters’ classes, referred to as Jobs in Infinite Wealth, I rarely did this on my first playthrough. Each stock character class affords a solid selection of abilities, and you’ll quickly spot who should take the lead on what role.

Tomizawa attacks an enemy with soapy water.

Characters use a variety of unconventional weapons, such as a bucket of soapy water and a brush.
Screenshot: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Kotaku

Some characters will clearly be better for dealing damage, like longtime series protagonist Kiryu, while others are very dynamic. Kasuga himself has a solid amount of attack abilities, but also functions well as a healer and support character (I had him running around juicing everyone’s defenses during the harder moments). Meanwhile characters like Nanba, a former nurse whose direct attacks aren’t as powerful as those of other characters, can serve as a solid healer as well as a blisteringly effective damage-dealing magic user. Digging into each character’s abilities, all of which are explained in in-game text during combat, means that you can learn as you go. This isn’t a game you need a PhD in, yet it’s not overly simplistic either.

Gif: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Kotaku

Infinite Wealth’s combat is also thrillingly kinetic. On your turn, you can move in a limited circle surrounding your character. This placement is essential as many attacks will force enemies to knock into one another, their surroundings, or into the weapon of a comrade who’s more than happy to take an extra swing if the enemy falls into their threat range. And as characters walk around the battlespace, unrestrained by their turn in the combat order, there’s a sense of nailing the timing of your attacks correctly. You can swiftly deal damage to multiple opponents if you stay focused and look for easily missable opportunities.

But of course, combat isn’t the only thing you’ll do in Infinite Wealth, as the game is more than ready to deliver hours and hours of minigames and side activities, some based directly on games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing.

Ichiban Kasuga swims with a dolphin.

Screenshot: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio / Kotaku

Infinite Wealth is deep, but not overwhelming

Infinite Wealth is a big game. There’s a 40+ hour main story, tons of side stories, mini-games for dating, gig work, farming, and character battling. You can spend time hanging out with your party members to deepen your relationships with them (which pays off in combat), and you can explore some randomly generated dungeons to test your strengths.

But whereas many other RPGs can feel too big to wrap your head around, Infinite Wealth somehow feels vast without making you feel lost. Some of this, I think, has to do with the game’s relatively smaller maps in comparison to other RPGs. Both locations in Hawaii and Japan are maps you can memorize and travel around with ease, dotted with activities that make your combat skills better, be that by unlocking new combined attacks through raising your bond level with each character, or by finding new Jobs, items, and weapons to diversify your combat skills.

Infinite Wealth’s side activities are a rising tide, elevating the rest of the game as you spend more time with them. Some have an exquisite level of depth, such as Dondoko Island, which is a self-contained, fully featured resort management sim baked right into the game.

Side activities simply add more to the game. More strategy to manage, more combat skills to unlock, and more time spent with this game’s wonderful cast of characters, who for me were a gravity well that kept me glued to the main story more than anything else.

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