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Yakuza: Like a Dragon review – a gangland buddy movie that’s game for a laugh

PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Series X/S, PC; Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio/Sega
Allowing you to control a group of characters, rather than just one, is a bold move for this hilarious Japanese reboot

Video game reboots are usually undertaken in order to drag longstanding brands into 21st-century modernity. But Like a Dragon preserves the old-fashioned, somewhat unreconstructed vibe of the previous Yakuza games, while adding a new twist that diverts it into a different genre. Like its predecessors, this is essentially an interactive Yakuza film, but instead of beating up street goons by bashing buttons, Like a Dragon has you choosing actions and attacks from a menu as you would in Final Fantasy. This lets you control a group of characters, rather than just one – a bold move that in the context of a Yakuza game, makes perfect sense. Rather than following just one character, this is a gangland buddy movie.

The action starts in the familiar surroundings of Tokyo’s fictional Kamurocho district, where Ichiban Kasuga is happily employed as a low-level yakuza. Ichiban is an interesting character: orphaned and brought up in a soapland (a brothel masquerading as a bath house), he’s far too nice to be a gangster. He keeps doing things like letting people he’s supposed to be shaking down off their debts, inducing apoplexy in his Clan Captain. Luckily the Clan Patriarch sees him as a surrogate son, but soon, everything is turned upside-down: Ichiban displays his blind loyalty to his boss by taking the fall for a murder committed by another Clan member, and he spends the next 18 years in prison.

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