The turn-based fighting and the new cast of protagonists are two relevant changes that work. A game of height.
In 2016, the great plot of Kazuma Kiryu and Haruka Saramura came to an end (although we would have to wait until 2018). It was the end of an odyssey that had started a little over a decade earlier and that became one of the great bastions of today’s Sega. It is curious that, at first, the company did not want to bet on that Toshihiro Nagoshi project, considering it to be a very niche market and calculating quite low sales even in Japan. Not surprisingly, at that time in 2004 Sega had just become a third party and high debts led to that famous merger with Sammy. Precisely, it would be the founder of this company who would fall in love with the project and insist that it go ahead.
The new Sega Sammy started on the top with a great success, since the sales estimates were just 70,000 copies and ended up exceeding one million copies sold. The overwhelming success (especially in Japan, being such titles of Japanese idiosyncrasy) would encourage Sega and the development team itself to continue betting on it to the point of making it an annual franchise. During his fifteen years of life, we have lived seven chapters of the story of Kazuma Kiryu, two spin-offs set at different moments in the history of Japan, two installments with a different character for PSP, an alternate universe with a zombie holocaust, two large-scale remakes of the first installments, an online game and a spin-off set in the same universe but not directly related to the usual protagonists (Judgment).
When Judgment came out, two years after Yakuza 6 (the last chapter of the main plot), it seemed that the bet of the Ryu ga Gotoku Studio (which was named in honor of the name of the franchise in Japan) was going to be to tell us other stories from Kamurocho, the fictional neighborhood in which the story is based (although it is based on the Kabukicho location in Shinjuku). However, he surprised us all with a new numbered installment that would break with the foundations established by the previous ones: new characters, new locations (although some already known ones are visited) and a new game system. In the West it would lose the 7 to the detriment of the subtitle Like a Dragon, which would be the translation of Ryu ga Gotoku, the title of the series in its country of origin.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a game that wants to shine on its own and make it clear that there is life beyond Kiryu and company. The truth is that, during the first hours of this new adventure, everything gives you the feeling of being more of a spin-off and not so much a direct continuation as it is supposed to be, but when you want to realize it, the game has already in love as much as the previous installments and once again makes clear the excellent good work of a Ryu ga Gotoku studio that continues to maintain a very high level in its productions despite releasing a game every year.
Ichiban Kasuga, the antithesis of Kiryu
There are many interviews in which Masayoshi Yokoyama, the scriptwriter of the franchise, comments that the new main character, Ichiban Kasuga, had been as good as Kiryu and that his adventures could be at the level of those of the already legendary character. Of course, they do not try to hide the opposition that he supposes with respect to the previous hero: Kiryu was a serious person, he had well-slicked hair and wore a red shirt under a gray suit, while Kasuga is much more direct and casual, he wears a perm. quirky (she has her own in-game explanation) and wears a grayish white shirt under a red suit. But beyond their aspect of direct opposites, there is something in which they are very similar: their unmatched charisma.
Unlike Kiryu, whose story is being told to us in a slightly more disorderly way (Yakuza 0, which would be the first chronologically, came out after Yakuza 5), we know about Kasuga from his earliest childhood and we live it in a much more direct. It is something necessary to understand the basic plot that makes sense of everything: when he was a baby he was abandoned in some lockers at Shinuki station, for reasons that will be revealed to us. He would end up being welcomed by Jiro Kasuga, the owner of a soapland (a kind of brothel in which clients can be bathed by the girls or bathe them).