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    Yakuza: Like a Dragon, il canto del “drago” del Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

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    Philippe Gloaguen
    @philippegloaguen

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    Here we are, in the first yawns of a November started not exactly on the right foot, sitting in front of a steaming coffee, ready to start a sensational and incredibly cool tour de force, clearly as far as the sphere is concerned. videogame. To send the most sensitive part of the brain of every gamer to the stars is not only the arrival of the new consoles, now around the corner, but also a long list of super exciting titles, coming out right at the turn of October, November and December.



    We have already started with a bang in the last days with Watch Dogs: Legion, the new chapter of the Ubisoft saga that has been able to give a strong shake to a brand, and it is clear how the curve of events is destined to rise with the next arrival of precious pieces. Which Assassin's Creed Valhalla, the new Call of Duty, Cyberpunk 2077 (unfortunately still postponed), Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and many other goodies.

    Among these headlines, however, there is also another one, perhaps passed too quietly but which, in reality, deserves much more important attention. And actually I expected it, because net of a sensitive and all in all rapid expansion, the Yakuza brand continues to struggle to enter the heart and above all in the sphere of acceptance and understanding of a large part of the gamer population, especially in our "Bel Village".

    Yakuza: Like a Dragon (so it has been renamed in Europe) has come - or rather it will arrive next 10 November - to tear me a smile in a difficult moment, not only due to the imminent lockdown, but also due to a serious loss, which in one way or in the other it marked even more a difficult year to forget, for good and especially for bad.



    And, let me underline, as a fan of the saga, I could not have wished for anything better from this new chapter, a chapter that inevitably marks a fresh start for the whole brand and that has been able to almost fully hit all the goals it had set for itself. Rejoice, friends, the Dragon is back. He's not Kiryu, but he has the right attributes to hold his own, and I'm already in love with him. I'll explain why, while the coffee cools and a timid rain outside is ready to remind me and remind us that November has finally arrived.

    The wings of liberties

    Kamurocho, late 2000. The young man Ichiban Kasuga, a humble yakuza loyal to the Arakawa clan, begins to make his way through the complicated and hungry world of the Japanese underworld. The Arakawa clan is a minor family affiliated with the Glorious Clan Tojo, whose origins we have already abundantly explored thanks to the other chapters of the series.

    The first chapters of the game have the task of acting as conductors, forerunners, for a story that, on the other hand, is destined to unfold several years in the future, well beyond the "golden" years of Kiryu and his incredible deeds. In order to save his family from expulsion from the clan, the patriarch Arakawa, for whom the protagonist Ichiban Kasuga feels an admiration without limits and without borders, is forced to ask his young protégé for an incredible sacrifice: to sacrifice himself by taking the blame for a murder. never committed and thus saving the fortunes of the family. Ichiban gladly accepts, eager as ever to repay a debt so great as to be worth any burden, even a heavy one.


    And this is how, after almost twenty years spent (unfairly) behind bars, the odd and always smiling protagonist (very different from Kiryu in this respect) returns to taste freedom with just one thought: to go and embrace his " father ”, on the strength of the promise made to him for almost twenty years before returning to his family once his sentence has been served. The reality that awaits Ichi, however, is far from idyllic: the Tojo clan, as we knew it, no longer exists and the whole world of the Yakuza is forced to cling to an increasingly thin and dangerously close to breaking thread.


    The Omi alliance, one of the Yakuza's historical enemies, has now taken over all over Japan, enough to push the most illustrious members of Clan Tojo to a crossroads: ally or disappear. Among these is also the indomitable Arakawa, which has now become only the shadow of what it once was. The fall of him is the symbol of the general collapse of the whole Yakuza, of which Ichiban is completely (obviously) in the dark. Once released from prison, in fact, the new protagonist of the series becomes aware of what is happening around him and, above all, in the entire city, now only a photograph of a now distant past.

    The new Yakuza starts slowly (as always), it gives the player time to get acquainted with a slight change of setting, dutifully "transition" but at the same time effective, bringing on the screen a new story but firmly anchored to those who are the dogmas of the series. We are again faced with a story of power, betrayal, honor and revenge, a story lived through the "innocent" eyes of a protagonist who undergoes a growth path that can be felt, perceived on the skin, thanks to himself. to the ability of the developers to create a story so mature and "violent", but at the same time narrated with that unmistakable light-hearted and playful tone of the series that thanks to Ichiban is felt much more.


    Number one!

    One of the "darkest" points of this Yakuza: Like a Dragon was definitely represented by the change of protagonist, one of the most delicate aspects of this "transition". Leaving Kiryu, let's face it, was not easy for the developers or the fans but Ichiban, I want to tell you with my heart in hand, was able not to make me regret the good Kazuma-san even for a second.


    Funny, arrogant, light-hearted, but incredibly loyal, affectionate and ready to sacrifice himself for others, the new face of the Yakuza series is a character with whom it is impossible not to get in tune, also for the way in which he approaches events. He always has a smile on his face, he doesn't let himself be disheartened by an endless sequence of frighteningly negative events, managing to keep his moral integrity intact despite everything. And this is precisely his strength, this is his best weapon: always trying to do the right thing, possibly for the "greater" good.

    And, inevitably, this becomes precisely the engine that drives his actions, desperately searching for the truth behind the inexplicable events that followed his confinement, events that prompted his idol, his mentor, his stepparent to abandon the way of honor at any cost, typical of the creed of a Yakuza, to support and even take control of the executioner of the Yakuza itself.

    Ichiban wants at all costs to find out the reason for all this, but to follow this path he leaves no one behind. As per the tradition of the series, getting from a point "a" to a point "b" will not be immediate, but will follow a path of tangible growth, marked by the evolution itself of both Ichiban both of its allies.

    There is not only the story of Ichi that is fascinating and deserves to be lived, the whole "outline", as usual, deserves to be lived to the full, since everyone has something to say, for better or for worse, and they contribute to creating an intriguing narrative sector that is lost in some cases, but which on the whole maintains more than dignity. And it's thanks to him, the "number one", because if everything works, it's also thanks to his smile and his great charm, who from the first to the last minute never stopped accompanying me.

    And it does not matter if perhaps it is not original or particularly elaborate in its conception: Ichi has all the credentials to be the worthy heir of the Dragon of Dojima, despite his tattoo is a reminder of how far he still has to go.

    Do we have a fist fight? Yes, but in turns!

    In Naples, a very particular expression is used to define the concept of "let's face it", an expression that I will not repeat here (like the language of Mordor), which can be translated into Italian with an "in the face". But it is exactly from it that I want to start to analyze what, in all probability, is the most interesting and above all the most burdensome aspect for the purposes of evaluating the project itself: the combat system.

    Let's face it, we all looked at each other like John Travolta in the famous meme when Sega and the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio announced that the new Yakuza would have gameplay based basically on a turn-based combat system, let's not be picky.

    Imagining a balance in a title belonging to a saga that has always based a large part of its fortunes on the speed and frenzy of caciaroni clashes, punches, dodges, parries, counterattacks, special moves and so on, was not exactly simple, I realize this, but I like to point out that I was one of the few who immediately showed interest in this change of course, and in the end I can say that I was right.

    The new gameplay of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is not only more than valid, but rather, it raises the whole saga towards a new qualitative peak and, let me underline it once again, more than deserved. I enjoyed myself as I had not done for months, perhaps for years, in becoming familiar with a playful framework that is certainly not original and revolutionary, but full of super fascinating and well-contextualized gems.

    You know Persona 5? Well, aesthetically and playfully speaking the new Yakuza is very reminiscent of the experience offered by the glorious JRPG of Atlus. The player, in combat, has the following options available: attack, defense, objects and techniques (and escape) which, of course, follow the classic routine of turn-based battles, embracing a much more marked strategic and tactical vein than could be to imagine. As a good RPG, in fact, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is also concerned with bringing up various attacks and resistances of various states, which once again are very valid both from a playful point of view and from a purely artistic and inspiration level.

    It goes without saying that every fight, especially when you pass the first 4-5 chapters, obviously becomes more difficult and less immediate, and "forces" the player to take a very different approach than in the past. Studying the weaknesses and behaviors of the enemies therefore becomes the tip of the balance in every battle, also because the artificial intelligence that moves them is more witty, more alert, has more "cazzimma", as we say in our country. Often, for example, enemies tend to call for reinforcements, to hatch traps, to steal pieces of equipment or to instigate party members to make them lose control, thus exposing them to attacks that are impossible to avoid, just to name a few.

    The latter is actually a technique also available to some of Ichiban's allies who, as per the tradition of any good self-respecting role-playing game, make up what is a real party of four members, each with characteristics and exclusive abilities.

    Just the Bond with allies is an important aspect for production. Developing a more solid bond can lead to the unlocking of numerous "combined" skills, to be used in battle, but also to the birth of very interesting exclusive lines of dialogue. But be warned: interrupting a friend who talks to you may not be a good move (remember this while wandering around Yokohama, you may need it).

    Yakuza: Like a Dragon, be who you want to be!

    The skills represent another important step in the role conversion of the series, and I feel once again to affirm that the goal has been hit in full. State alterations, for example, strongly depend on them, and we have noticed in some cases some truly intriguing types of attacks, both from the point of view of utility and from the point of view of mere aesthetic discourse.

    We have come across, for example, a particular technique that uses pigeons as an instrument of death or another in which the burp becomes a gunshot, literally, just to give some examples of how, carrying on the tradition and at the same time evolving it strongly, the developers have been able to come up with a product in some ways light-hearted, but which actually hides a much more marked depth than it gives to see even if you look at some very interesting goodies. For example, despite the combat turn based, you have to keep in mind that in the title there is a "live" parry system that asks the player, with the right timing, to block or in any case try to reduce the damage suffered with the pressure of the circle. .

    In addition, there is also a real system of environmental damage, which is activated however in certain circumstances. Are you fighting in the center? Well, maybe a speeding car can do the dirty work for you, but beware, it could also take you full and hurt you a lot ...

    But the gameplay of Yakuza: Like a Dragon doesn't just reside in the combat system. The good Ichiban and his allies, as in the past but now in an even more marked way, they have different slots of equipment and accessories to fill and, trust me, the role-playing vein of the game is coming even more damned out.

    To make everything even more interesting there is the dynamics linked to the growth of the character, not only on a physical level but also and above all on a mental level. In addition to the more classic levels, which independently increase the statistics of the character, we also find two important additions, undoubtedly able to give a touch of panache to the whole production: the Personality and the Rank work.

    In the first case, these are peculiar traits of our Ichiban, which can increase or decrease based on our actions and our choices, directly affecting the progress of the game. Ardor, self-esteem, kindness, charisma, acumen and style are the personality traits of our hero and enhancing one instead of another can lead both to great advantages in battle (specific elemental resistance, for example) and outside, since based on the choices and consequently the developed personality it will be possible to access different side missions and specific themed events.

    Even the work rank is a pleasant addition, albeit in reality less conspicuous than the Personality, which instead also affects the latter, but is no less important for this. Based on the maxed traits, you can unlock different jobs, which heavily affect the skills and techniques of the characters, but also on the same physical parameters.
    In short, in terms of gameplay I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that I am more than satisfied with the work done by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio with this new chapter of the series. Innovation, fidelity and audacity are the strong points of a work carried out with a lot of love and care, which exudes from every pore the will of the development team to restart strongly after Yakuza 6 and Judgment, dispelling any possible doubts about the quality and solidity of a new road undertaken which, if a good morning starts in the morning, seems to be truly the right one.

    A dragon… to see!

    To be seen, in all honesty, Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon has really left me some very good impressions. The new setting, Yokohama, reproduced in a very faithful way in its facets, it represents the first point in favor of a production that even from this point has been able to fully hit most of its objectives. The change of air, necessary and almost obligatory, you can hear everything and is a fundamental detail of the fresh start strongly desired by Sega with what, on balance, can be considered one of the most ambitious chapters of the series.

    I admit it: as a lover of Japanese culture and its splendid costumes and landscapes, I was gladly lost in the streets of the new location, in a slightly larger map than what we were used to and, as usual, overflowing with enemies from tackle, shops, side missions and places of interest in general. And, needless to repeat, the glance is very respectable.

    The Dragon Engine, even on PS4 Pro, shows itself in splendid shape, thanks in particular to the excellent work done in particular on some elements, such as lighting and polygonal modeling of both the main characters and also a good part of the supporting actors. Even without the help of HDR, the new chapter of the saga manages to bring a very clean and super detailed image to the screen, thanks to the skilful use of a quantity and a quality of very valid effects.

    Especially during the day, in fact, the illumination it helps to soften the “curves” of every detail in an evident way, giving the players an overall picture of the highest level and visually very satisfying. To surprise us in a particular way were - as in Judgment - animations and facial expressions, once again at the top and which seem to have all the credentials not to disfigure even in a possible comparison with the new generation products, now imminent.

    I was amazed by the general quality of the faces and the diversification, even of simple enemies, and the fact that all this is combined with a sensational general stability makes everything even more magical. Waiting for the much desired 60fps, come on For PS4 Yakuza: Like a Dragon sports an excellent technical-visual balance, which is based on a unique mode with the lock a 30fps with a resolution anchored (unfortunately, but nothing very serious) on 1080p.

    Good, but not sensational, the original Japanese dub. Some actors seem not very focused and not very involved in the part, and if I have to admit even the one who plays the same protagonist did not fully convince me. I do not feel, however, to express an opinion on the English one, which I have actually used very little, but I am forced to report some problems related to the Italian localization.

    Many translations have left me with a decidedly bad taste in my mouth, almost giving the impression that in some cases you were not really aware of what you were talking about. Overall, however, it is only right to "overlook" some of these less successful aspects, especially in the face of a virtuous product, eager as never before to take the stage once and for all in a more "open" context but still to be discovered ( and be able to seduce).

    USEFUL INFO

    I played (loving almost every nuance) of Yakuza: Like a Dragon on PlayStation 4 Pro, thanks to a promotional code provided by the publisher. I enjoyed shooting around Yokohama for over 30 hours, focusing (obviously) on the main campaign, without disdaining some secondary activities and, above all, dedicating a lot of space to free exploration.

    Duration
    • Very high longevity: at least 25 hours to complete the campaign, which easily exceed 100 to complete everything properly.
    Structure
    • The game features a turn-based combat system (big news) and a very strong new RPG vein. In the title we find main missions, secondary and random events.
    Collectibles and Extras
    • Some extras (like "begging" near the dispensers) are really very nice.
    Game Card
    • Game Name: Yakuza: Like a Dragon
    • Release date: January 16 2020
    • Platforms: PlayStation 4
    • Dubbing language: Japanese
    • Texts language: English / Japanese

    Yakuza: Like a Dragon undoubtedly struck me: leaving out an after all "ordinary" story and in line with the series, I found myself holding everything I could have wished for from it: fun, playful depth and many, many things to do. Taking on the role of the new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga was a real honor, because the new protagonist was able to withstand the impact of the passing of the baton with a big hit like Kazuma Kiryu, presenting himself at the starting line of this "new beginning ”for the series with all the right attributes in the right places. Of course, some stereotypes are more evident than others and some passages even in the narrative itself are less interesting than others, but overall we are facing a more than commendable work.

    Everything is multiplied by analyzing the gameplay, and here there is little to say: what a pleasure! The new turn-based combat system has sent me into ecstasy and the fact that it is based on a marked, evident and important role-playing component, does nothing but magnify its qualitative index. And, net of its cross-generational nature, Yakuza: Like a Dragon defends itself very well also from a technical point of view, thanks to a Dragon Engine once again in great shape, even on current generation consoles (we tested it on PlayStation 4 Pro). Too bad for a dubbing that is not wonderful and for an Italian localization that is sometimes imprecise but, beware, complaining about this these days is like raising doubts about Margot Robbie's actual “feminine” value.

    But, to conclude, let me go back to the Neapolitan in me: accattatavill! If someone hadn't grasped, well, it's very simple: this new chapter of the saga is a mandatory purchase, both for newbies and and especially for veterans. Believe me!

    Review by Salvatore Cardone
    Graphics

    Very nice to see on PlayStation 4 Pro, without making a technical miracle scream. Stable at 30 fps and strong with a Dragon Engine still on the ball, Yakuza: Like a Dragon represents a good result for Sega and the Ryu Gatoku Studio, on which stands out the beauty of a new location reproduced with great fidelity in which it is easy (and almost obligatory) to get lost.

    84
    SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

    The original dubbing, in all honesty, did not fully convince me. Some "faces" gave me the impression of not being exactly in focus, but on the whole they knew how to carry out their duty. The sound in general and the soundtrack are good, very much in line with the past (and the future) of the brand, while, as blessed as it is, the Italian localization made me turn up my nose in more than one circumstance.

    80
    GAMEPLAY

    What was perhaps the greatest unknown of the production, that is the new management of the combat system, turned out to be the most decisive weapon of the whole project. Fun, satisfying and dynamic, but at the same time incredibly strategic and tactical, the new combat system of the saga wins and convinces and, we are sure, will represent the future of the saga for a long time. The aspects related to the bond and combos with allies and the development of the protagonist's personality are also very valid, as is the management of the works.

    90
    Total Rating scale
    88
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