The season of Yakuza news is upon us, and, with that, comes the first formal update on upcoming games from RGG Studio this year. With two games on the horizon – Like a Dragon 8: Infinite Wealth and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name – the conference focused on revealing release dates and details surrounding both titles. While I was also hoping for a status update on the Judgement series and any hints as to a third entry, I knew it was mostly wishful thinking. It was clear that this Summer Summit was meant to stir up excitement for the two titles that will be releasing next, and it succeeded in doing so.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
First up on the agenda was Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. As revealed in Summer Game Fest earlier in the same week, this newest game featuring everyone’s favorite taxi driver is set to release on November 9th this year! This game will clear up confusion regarding Kiryu’s unexpected appearance in Like a Dragon 8 after his seeming retirement at the end of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and passing of the torch to Kasuga Ichiban. At the end of Yakuza 6, Kiryu makes a deal with a shady government official to fake his own death, reasoning that if everyone believes he is dead that nobody will come after his family, in exchange for agreeing not to disclose the secret of Onomichi. As we know Kiryu shows up in Yakuza: Lika a Dragon and appears to be on his own mission when he runs into Ichiban and team, Gaiden will shed some light on the organization Kiryu made a deal with and more on what that deal entails.
We know that Gaiden will feature beat ’em up style combat, as is customary for Yakuza games starring Kiryu, and he’ll be able to switch between two different fighting styles: Yakuza and Agent. While “Yakuza” seems to include moves from Kiryu’s Dragon style – Kiryu’s perfected, signature fighting style which incorporates moves from Rush, Brawler, and Beast styles – “Agent” is something totally new and will have Kiryu utilizing different spy gadgets in fights. The preview from RGG showcasing both techniques looks like tons of fun, and I can’t wait to try both out.
Another interesting tidbit involves the possible main villain, whose name was officially revealed to be Homare Nishitani III. While this new character shares the same name as the Nishitani from Yakuza 0. RGG further explained that the name “Homare Nishitani” is passed down to patriarchs of the Omi Alliance’s Kijin Clan and the identity of the character shown at the end of Gaiden’s latest trailer is still unknown. While it is my belief that RGG is purposely using the name “Nishitani” to create a link to Yakuza 0, not much more information on the subject has been revealed yet.
Like a Dragon 8: Infinite Wealth
For the main event of the Summit, much new information on the upcoming next installment in the Yakuza main story was shared. Prior to the summit, the game was already confirmed to feature turn-based combat and have Kiryu and Ichiban sharing the main protagonist title. In spectacular Yakuza fashion, the title and release window was also announced with a suitably goofy teaser trailer featuring Ichiban, who seemed to be a bit lost. People have theorized that Ichiban is in Hawaii during the trailers, and others think Miami, Florida, but the real question remains: what happened to his clothes? Like a Dragon 8 will be released in “early 2024” so players won’t need to wait to long to get an answer on these important questions.
In addition to a preview into Ichiban’s embarrassment, the subtitle to Like a Dragon 8 was confirmed to be “Infinite Wealth.” During the presentation, RGG has mentioned that the theme of infinite wealth will be central to the series moving forward, and contains an important meaning. This statement was shrouded in mystery as I asked myself the question, “what is infinite wealth?” At face value, infinite wealth might mean financial security in a way that allows a person to remain comfortable for their whole life. It could mean investing in something that continues to bring rewards long after the initial investment was made. Do Kiryu and Ichiban pool their business experience together to create the Ultimate Business? What does infinite wealth mean to a Yakuza – and to Kiryu and Ichiban specifically? The title has been one of the most intriguing things to me about the new game thus far, and I’m excited to see how literal or abstract the answer will be.
Just as interesting is a cutscene with Ichiban and Kiryu, in which Ichiban discusses his failed proposal to Saeko and seeks advice from Kiryu. There are many reasons why this cutscene is interesting. Firstly, it means Ichiban’s romance with Saeko (Saeko was one of many love interests for Ichi in Yakuza 7) has been canonized by RGG and that it will play a somewhat important role in the next game since this specific cutscene was shown at RGG Summit. Also, when Ichiban asked Kiryu if he’d ever been in relationships and made a proposal, Kiryu looks lost in thought and just says that he’s “been around a few times.” When Kiryu recalls a memory, the scene ends and fades to black as if to avoid the next segment of the scene which shows the specific moment Kiryu is thinking about.
Us Yakuza fans are starved for romance in any of the games. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any romance, in fact, there has been some nice moments. However, such moments usually end with a shocking death or with love interests suddenly leaving for another country. After Kaito ended up happily with his love interest during Lost Judgement’s Kaito Files DLC, perhaps RGG’s heart grew many sizes that day. While Yakuza is not a game explicitly about romance, it is definitely about relationships, and, at the risk of sounding like a song, sometimes love can be formed amid strong bonds. I am curious to learn where Ichiban and Saeko’s story leads, and to whom Kiryu was referring to. Personally, I hope he means Kaoru as they had the most screen time to develop a romance. And, hey, if Kiryu is also somewhere in America maybe he’ll run into her…
Unfortunately, there was no hint of Judgement news or any other games in the works during this summer’s presentation, but RGG did announce a Fall Summit 2023! Since November technically counts as fall, RGG could be planning another presentation shortly after Gaiden’s release date to give more information on Like a Dragon 8. I’ll need to wait and see, but I am holding out hope for a third Judgement game.