For 15 years, the Yakuza franchise has focused on the yakuza legend with a heart of gold, Kazuma Kiryu, as he fights his way through Kamurocho in search of justice. His story is over, though, and the next game in the franchise, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, is bringing brand new character Kasuga Ichiban into the spotlight and tons of new RPG-esque gameplay. All of this was demoed in the 14 minute English language gameplay debut.
That’s right, it isn’t just long-time series mainstay Kazuma Kiryu who’s being retired, the iconic action beat-em-up combat the series is known for is also being replaced by a new turn-based RPG battle system. That’s sure to ring bells in the head of anyone who’s a fan of Sega’s other iconic Tokyo-based RPG, Persona 5…
Set in 2019 following the events of Yakuza 6, Yakuza: Like a Dragon follows the story of Kasuga Ichiban, a member of the formidable Tojo Clan who, much like Kiryu Kazuma, takes the fall for a crime he did not commit in order to protect the honor of his clan. When Ichiban emerges from prison almost two decades later in 2019, though, he’s found that the world has changed immensely and moved on without him. Stuck as an outsider in an unfamiliar town, he gathers a crew of unlikely allies in order to find out the truth behind what happened while he was behind bars.
Ichiban won’t be dishing out punches alone, though. Him and up to three other party members will fight thugs and baddies across the streets of Yokohama in more methodical, turn-based RPG encounters. Part of the reason for this switch to an RPG battle system is that Ichiban is obsessed with Dragon Quest, and the regular thugs you run into on the street will often transform into otherwordly warriors (in Ichiban’s head, at least) once battle begins. Alongside the brand new combat system, Ichiban and his companions can take on up to 19 different job classes that change their outfits and abilities in battle.
We’ll have to wait until Holiday 2020 to see if this shift in genres pans out for the Yakuza series. You’ll be able to grab the game on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One, and Xbox One owners will be treated to an Xbox Series X copy on the house thanks to the Smart Delivery system Microsoft is employing for cross-gen games.