The Yakuza franchise is now a globally acclaimed and longstanding series, yet still appears to be in its infancy in terms of the sheer amount of content that the game series can explore. Laying its roots all the way back in 2006, the franchise has only recently ventured out into wider and more standalone storylines and characters, finally moving away from Kiryu's storied saga to new beginnings.
By comparison, Yakuza: Like a Dragon was incredibly ambitious as a result. The turn-based combat was surprisingly complex, with things like weaknesses, affinities, status effects, and several other aspects that made the new battle system compelling. That being said, Yakuza: Like a Dragon's battles did have some quirks that held back the experience to a degree, though the disappointing aspects never significantly detracted from the overall gameplay experience. One unique aspect of battle encounters was the dynamic nature of positioning in Like a Dragon.
While Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi has left the studio alongside director and producer Daisuke Sato, the series is continuing - there's a new Judgment, Yakuza, and original IP in the works, but interestingly enough, it looks like the fictional world will catch up with ours.
Like a Dragon introduced an entirely new combat system to the Yakuza franchise, moving away from the button mashing beat em' up mechanics that Yakuza had used previously. Instead, Like a Dragon plays like a classic turn-based JRPG, fostering more methodical and strategic gameplay while maintaining that whacky Yakuza charm. This detachment from the formula that had previously worked so well for the franchise worried fans, however the majority were pleasantly surprised with the change. With the overwhelming amount of other mainline and spin off Yakuza games being beat em' ups, the new gameplay offered a welcome change to most.
That being said, for a studio and franchise that's been ingrained in the beat 'em up genre for well over a decade, Yakuza: Like a Dragon was still a very impressive new venture for the Yakuza series. Like a Dragon successfully translated the spirit and identity of Yakuza into a traditional JRPG framework in a way that didn't alienate longtime fans of the series. Like a Dragon's sequel will certainly seek to replicate this momentum, and improving these aspects would be the best way to do so.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.