It doesn’t matter if you’re a newcomer to the series or a veteran, there’s a lot to get to grips with in the latest Yakuza game, thanks to a new cast, a new city and, most important of all, a transition from action gameplay into full-blown JRPG combat.
Also Yakuza: Like a Dragon is just a sprawling game with a lot to do in general, so I figured I’d share some tips on how to have a better experience with it.
Maybe they’ll be useful! Maybe you’ll tell me to fuck off because you’re a big tough gangster and you’ll make your own mistakes! Either is fine!
COMBAT IS SLOW
While it looks frantic, with people moving around all the time and heaving their shoulders and shouting things, turn-based combat in LAD isn’t on any kind of action-based or real-time timer. It’s pure, turn-based tactics. So take your time, especially when you’ve got new abilities or crew members to explore. No rush.
With one exception! Sometimes you’ll knock and enemy off their feet. If so, you’ll want to follow up with a standard physical attack immediately for extra damage, before they dust themselves off and get back up.
THIS IS A FANTASY GAME
While the overworld and story stuff obviously takes place in the real world, LAD’s combat takes place in the wild imagination of Dragon Quest-obsessed star Ichiban Kasuga. What this means is that once you encounter a gang of thugs and enter combat, they’ll transform into bizarre caricatures or even creatures. This is funny, but the game’s wider setting makes it easy to forget that standard JRPG combat rules apply here, so ignore the real world around you and remember that certain enemies will be vulnerable/resistant to specific elemental attacks like fire or ice, and that…you can use magic powers like fire and ice.
OPEN TAXI DOORS
Most of LAD takes place in Isezaki Ijincho, a fictional district in Yokohama loosely based on the actual Isezakichō. It’s huge compared to previous Yakuza games, which makes for a lot of running around between missions. That’s fine, there’s a lot to explore and you’ll probably want to do a lot of street fighting for levelling purposes anyway, but taxis are a very handy fast travel option should you want to speed things up a bit.
The only catch — aside from the fact they’re pretty expensive — is that you don’t automatically get access to every taxi stop in Yokohama. You need to activate them first, which can be done simply by opening a parked taxi cab’s door. You don’t have to take a ride, just open the door and decline, and from then on you’ll be able to travel to that spot.
DO THE SIDEQUESTS
This is always good advice for RPGs, but these are almost essential for the Yakuza series. There’s nothing wrong with the main storyline, but like every other Yakuza the real fun comes from its sidequests, where you run into all kinds of interesting people, and often end up doing some very wild shit.
So yes, do as many of these as you possibly can, they’ll be worth it. Two in particular are worth seeing to the end though, one involving finding Kappa statues, the other lost cats. There comes a point later in the game where you need a lot of cash to progress in the story, and the rewards you’ll get from these two will make that a lot easier.
NOT ALL SIDEQUESTS ARE SIDEQUESTS
While I just recommended you do as many sidequests as you can, there are some you need to do, making them simply…quests. The game’s pawn shop won’t unlock until you complete its sidequest, for example, meaning that until you do you can’t sell old or unwanted gear, an essential way of making money early on in the game when, made homeless, money is hard to come by. The workshop — where you can craft and improve weapons and armour — is the same, so don’t go blowing too far through the main storyline until you’ve unlocked both of these.
In addition to sidequests, LAD also offers a bunch of diversions, like arcade games, a Mario Kart-like racing tournament and the ability to serve as a company executive. You should definitely devote some time towards the latter, because there are some serious cash rewards on offer for some fairly minimal effort, which can be a huge help in the early and mid game when buying better gear will give you a much stronger performance boost than levelling up (which only becomes easier towards the end of the game).
LAD has a party of adventurers, which makes its immediate cast a lot more permanent and intimate than other Yakuza games, where characters could more often come and go. This is reflected in a new relationship metric, which tracks how close you’re getting to everybody and gradually increases during conversations and battle.
It’ll only progress to further levels of closeness, though, after you have a drink with them at the bar and listening to their life story. It’s a system that essentially takes all the beautiful character development from, say, Persona and cramming it into single huge cutscenes, and what it lacks for in elegance it makes up for with its payoff. Deeper friendships unlock more jobs (this game’s RPG classes) for party members, grants special attacks in battle and most importantly helps them level up faster when they’re not being used in battle, an essential boost when your party gets big enough that folks are having to sit out encounters.
Hi. If you’re new to Yakuza games, and at any point you see a character asking “are you sure you’re ready to go through this door?” and wonder why they’re being so considerate, save your game. Then go stock up on as many health and MP potions as you can, and ensure you’ve got the best gear your budget allows for. Then go through the door.
The “dungeons” in this game, even the smaller ones, can take forever to fight your way through, and are severely lacking in save points. Dying in a boss fight isn’t automatically game over; you’ll be allowed to try again, but at the cost of half your money, which is a severe punishment for a game that makes cash so hard to come by.
So, just as the loading screens will tell you, save often.
TRY TO AVOID AUTO COMBAT
There’s a lot of fighting in LAD, probably too much, and after a while it can be tempting to skip through random encounters by turning the game’s auto combat on and letting the AI manage things for you, but I’ve found doing this can actually waste some of your better healing items. The AI also fails to account for elemental weaknesses, which you’re better off learning yourself anyway, so I’d recommend simply learning how to manually attack faster, it’ll generally result in a quicker fight anyway.
While some party members are able to heal everyone pretty easily, that uses MP, and so you’ll always need a certain amount of MP-replenishing potions/drinks on hand. You buy these at stores, but don’t just run to the nearest shop like in previous games. The value proposition varies wildly between convenience stores, pharmacies and other shopfronts in LAD, so shop around for the best prices before loading up.
I’ll avoid specific spoilers here, but towards the end of the game, a certain venue will open up that lets you fight an ever-escalating series of encounters. It sounds like a grind — and kind of is — but it’s also a very good way of quickly levelling up your entire party, an opportunity you should make the most of before committing to the battles at the end of the game.
And that’s it for now! If anyone has any questions about any part of the game that make me realise I’ve left something out, though, I’ll update and add it to the post!