Yakuza: Like A Dragon spotlights a faithful, authentic representation of becoming homeless. One of gaming’s most underrated social achievements of 2020.
The abandoned residents of the homeless encampment are written as tragic figures rather than one-dimensional stereotypes.
The most important life lesson? Despite losing everything and anything, the world remains just as competitive for lead character Ichiban Kasuga. There is always a new rock bottom.
– This article contains spoilers for Chapter 3. All Yakuza 7 screenshots were captured by Nir Regev on an Xbox One console.
When was the last time a video game had you scavenging underneath lily red vending machines for loose change or collecting dirty cans to earn a place to sleep?
The comfort zone ends when moths come out of the wallet and you’re out of friends and family to call. You quickly learn that every place of real estate has a price, even flat concrete with weeks old garbage surrounding it. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is not just a hallmark for the Yakuza series as a turn-based RPG but its open commentary on the down trodden of Yokohama.
Their lifestyles are beyond removed from the grid, the system, we all know. They barter almost entirely with resources instead of fiat money, modern amenities of civilization discarded. At one point, Ichiban Kasuga tries motivating the rest of the homeless population to join with him and go to ‘Hello Work’, a job center.
Kasuga felt Yokohama’s lost souls suffered from momentary depression and that they just needed to apply themselves more. When Kasuga arrived at ‘Hello Work’, he saw his fellow man being rejected for jobs left and right… But thinks his case will be different, he just needs a ‘can do’ attitude.
Yet, Kasuga’s interview ends in shambles due to his lack of computer training. It soon hits hard how difficult it is to return to society after you’ve left it.
That door is made of glass, you can see through it, witness others succeeding. But the knob is a fake, a prop and it barely turns clockwise. Thus, the self fulfilling cycle is not fully in one’s hands. Kasuga is forced into gray area work, off the books, not by will but lack of choice.
In party member Yu Nanba’s words, a former professional in the medical field turned homeless… ‘What a waste of time, I could been out fishing dinner!’
Living to Survive in Yakuza: Like A Dragon
When you’re hungry there is no time to worry about how others see you. No prestigious job, degree, or BMW to show off, there is only a warm meal or no meal. Basic instincts take over, as Yu Nunba teaches Ichiban Kasuga, “We can’t afford to worry about looking lame man.”
And even when you try your hardest and expectations are already sewer level low, sometimes that 500 yen coin is just a bottle cap.
When you’re down in quicksand, struggling rapidly to escape just pulls you in faster. Every mistake is magnified tenfold without a support system. Which is why a minor disappointment like not getting hired becomes more than just a setback for the homeless.
If Yu Nanba had fished, he doesn’t just gain a meal for himself. He earns a potential bargaining chip for other vital life items like medical supplies or even a blanket. Instead he fished for a job and came up empty handed in a sea of meaningless paperwork.
In Yakuza: Like A Dragon where even collecting thrown out cans requires the rental of a bicycle from someone else. Consider it the commute time to the white collar cubicle on the streets. Essentially paying for the right to work.
While the Yakuza game series has always explored the nooks and crannies of society’s underbelly… There is something particularly surreal feeling in Yakuza 7.
When you start the corresponding Chapter 3, “The Town at Rock Bottom”, all you’ve earned in the previous two chapters is stripped way. Even the DLC items are temporarily unavailable.
Sega’s Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio went through great lengths to make the player fully immersed in the idea of having nothing but the clothes on your back. And even that is a luxury not to be taken for granted.
In fact, Yakuza: Like A Dragon soon makes it clear there are rivals who treasure the same thrown away trash as you. Even at the very bottom rungs of the ladder, competition is fierce and unforgiving.
You’re encouraged to bump off other riders with your bike to stop them from collecting their own cans (or steal theirs). It truly sets forth the unspoken idea that someone must lose out in life in order for someone else to advance and win.
No rock can be left unturned in Yakuza: Like A Dragon if you want to succeed. Encouraging a sense of immersive survival exploration rather than feeling like a collect-athon for a 100% score.
One of the more fascinating elements of the homeless encampment is that the residents do not want to be found. They don’t want their families discovering their whereabouts.
There is a cemented belief that with old faces, old problems return. The community is even willing initially to pay tribute or protection money to a gang just to keep the peace on abandoned land.
Toshihiro Nagoshi’s Yakuza series is pushing new boundaries in gaming.
Where to experience Yakuza: Like A Dragon
– Console owners can check out Yakuza: Like A Dragon now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and coming soon to be optimized for PlayStation 5 consoles. Note: PS4 saves will not be transferable to the PlayStation 5 on this Xbox Series X timed exclusive.
– The title is also available on Steam for PC owners.
– If you’ve purchased Yakuza games in the past you’ll receive a reward at the start of your quest as a thank you from game developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. It’ll make Protagonist Ichiban Kasuga’s journey a bit smoother in the opening chapter of the Tojo Clan. Fun Trivia: There’s a lot of Dragon Quest references in Yakuza 7!
– Be sure to follow Yakuza: Like A Dragon head writer Masayoshi Yokoyama on Twitter.
– Check out more video game coverage on The Natural Aristocrat® in the Gaming section!