The game opens on New Year’s Eve in the year 2000. Ichiban is the lowest ranking member of a small yakuza family in the Tojo Clan. When an indispensable senior member of the group murders a member of a rival family, Ichiban agrees to confess to the murder and serve the prison sentence in his stead with the promise that he’ll be welcomed back into the fold upon his release.
But 18 years later, things don’t quite go as planned. Ichiban’s patriarch betrayed the Tojo Clan while he was imprisoned and now works with their former enemies, the Omi Alliance. Worse, he refuses to acknowledge Ichiban and leaves him for dead in Yokohama, where Ichiban soon finds himself in the midst of a complicated three-way conflict between the local Japanese, Chinese, and Korean crime syndicates. Ichiban is a yakuza without a family just trying to uphold the honorable ideas of what he thought the yakuza were supposed to be in a land he’s unfamiliar with.
As expected from the franchise at this point, the story is wonderfully told through a regular stream of cinematics on par with some of the best Hollywood crime movies, and there are plenty of surprises mixed with the series’ trademark humor. It’s captivating as hell.
While the story’s setup is similar to the original Yakuza, Ichiban makes for a much more relatable character than Kazuma. He’s not a hard ass. He doesn’t want to be the boss. He’s just a good-natured kid who grew up in a brothel and is now trying his best. And he absolutely loves the Dragon Quest games, which is cleverly noted early on as the reason for the new turn-based combat system. The homages to JRPGs don’t end there, with plenty of other references to other series like Pokemon and Final Fantasy scattered throughout the 15-chapter adventure and numerous side quests.
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2020
Platforms: XBO (reviewed), PS4, XSX, PS5
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
For the most part, combat works extremely well. Similar to Paper Mario, some attacks require additional button presses to score extra damage, and if you press the block button just before an enemy attack hits, you’ll score a perfect block and take less damage. You can also get in extra damage by quickly attacking downed enemies before they get up, adding a little more strategy.