How Did Yakuza: Like A Dragon Keep Me Coming Back For More?

Most JRPGs are long as fuck and I almost always take a break halfway through, sometimes never coming back or revisiting it months later and forgetting most of what happened. Undoubtedly, this is partially because there are so many other games I want to play. Maybe something was on sale and I wanted to play it, diverting my attention away. That very thing happened with Ni No Kuni. I was loving it but I stopped to play something else, and I haven’t got back to it.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon, which will be referred to as LAD for brevity’s sake, is different though. Something about it made me want to keep playing despite its length. My playthrough took about 75 hours. So what does it do that other JRPGs don’t? Why did I keep playing right to the end, even going so far as to do almost every sidequest?

A plot that doesn’t like, drag on…

The Yakuza games are well known for their well written stories and LAD is no different. While the intro does take a while to get going, it uses that time setting up a lot of interesting plot threads that hook you right away. Pretty much every chapter of the game ends with a plot twist and some big reveal or a cliff hanger. There’s always something new that makes you want to come back for more and unravel more of the mystery set up at the beginning.

The great writing extends to the characters as well as the overall scenario. There is a fairly small group of main characters, but each one is so well written and endearing that you’ll be dying to find out more of their backstories and look forward to each of their stories getting a satisfying conclusion.

The same could be said of the side stories. There are plenty of them to play through but the majority are quite short and even if they predictably end with a battle of some sort, the payoff from the short story is well worth it every time. Importantly, the sub stories offer a change of pace in terms of tone. Unlike the overarching plot, most of the side quests are goofy and funny. One minute you’ll be helping a masochist find a way to enjoy pain again, the next you’re helping a homeless man find his pet crawfish. The lighter tone of stories gives you a way to take a break from the heavy themes of Kasuga’s adventure, stopping the game from being too monotonous.

When you’re not wrapped up in underworld crime, you can enjoy some legitimate business. Yeah, I hired a monkey and a roomba, so what?

Apart from the missions you find about the city, there are the Part Time Hero quests that reward you for collecting certain items, defeating certain types of enemies or doing specific battles. Then there are the Dragon Kart quests, which changes up the gameplay, turning it into a kart racer and of course, the business management sim. While the business sim is required at a certain point in the main story, it can also be done beforehand and continued on after that point.

The city itself may also have something to do with the game keeping my attention. Though there are 3 cities you visit in LAD, you spent 90% of your time in Ijincho, which is a fairly small area. I think this keeps the game from feeling overwhelming. By keeping the world map condensed, it avoids the feeling that games like Witcher 3 or most modern Ubisoft titles evoke with their map full of potential quests or collectibles. You know, that feeling that no matter how much you play you’ll never see even half of what’s in the game.

Combat & Jobs That Don’t Feel Like Work

Ijincho also never becomes stale, despite spending nearly 70 hours of game time in it. This is partially because it’s so detailed and realistic that it just feels like a real place, rather than how most towns in RPGs just feel like a place to buy weapons and move on. Another factor that helps with this is that most of the main story missions take place inside buildings that often only exist for that mission so you’re not really in the same place all the time, even though you’re always in Ijincho.

I haven’t even talked about most of what you’ll be doing in Yakuza Like A Dragon, and that’s combat. LAD uses a turn based system like most JRPGs. I think it does one thing that a lot of other games in the genre don’t do enough of and that’s almost always having enough MP to do your special attacks. Most special attacks don’t use up that much MP, so you can use them freely during battle without worrying about running out. The same goes for the ones that do because LAD’s levelling is well paced.

At least, that was my experience, doing every sidequest I found along the way. When a character levels up in LAD they get fully healed, which means that you almost never have to stop and heal everyone up between big battles and the times you do are quick because healing spells tend to heal a lot and don’t cost much MP either.

Much like the rest of the game, there is a decent amount of variety to be found in the combat. There are 18 jobs or character classes that you can switch between almost any time. Some characters cannot use certain classes until they get to a specific level and friendship bond with the main character Kasuga. Much like the small open world, this constraint improves the experience.

What I mean by that is that it keeps it from being overwhelming. Until you get a good bit into the game you don’t have access to all classes for all characters. That means you’ll probably not end up with analysis paralysis, where you can’t decide what class everyone should be, wasting time trying every combination out or being unable to decide and not trying any of them. By having them unlock as you go, it encourages you to try a few for a while and switch it up later down the line.

Another important aspect regarding the job system is that even though each character has a separate character level and job level, it doesn’t take very long at all to get them caught up on their job level. So if you switch from being a level 15 warrior to a level 1 enforcer, you don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of time getting that character back up to the same power level as the others.


So I think what it all comes down to in the end is pacing and tone. Unlike so many other RPGs, despite its long run time, very little of Yakuza Like A Dragon feels like busy work or grinding. The story is almost always constantly moving forward, and if the over serious nature of its main story becomes tiresome, there are a huge number of other stories and activities for Kasuga and the crew to take part in. The most significant aspect of those sub stories and side games is that they’re tonally very different from the main plot. They’re goofy, silly, and for the most part, short and quick, while also being rewarding in terms of gameplay. They give you more exp, money or gear. They’re also rewarding from a story telling point of view as the side stories are just as well written and the main story.

This idea of constantly moving forward is seen even in the combat. The fact that you level up frequently means it always feels like you’re making progress and takes the hassle out of jobs, adding variety and keeping up the overall pace of the gameplay.

Overall, outside of the abundance of overlong cutscenes at the beginning, Yakuza Like A Dragon is an extremely well written game, with a fully realised world and excellent pace in gameplay and storytelling that keeps it from ever getting stale.

If you’ve played Like A Dragon, what did you think of it? Did you think it ever got boring or did it suck you in like it did to me? And if you’re like me with most long games, what are some others that kept your attention like that?

Please Post Your Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights