From serving noodles in Yakuza 5 to the go-kart races of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the Yakuza / Like a Dragon series has always been one of the leaders in the "games within a game" space. Effectively producing miniature titles that wouldn't look out of place if sold standalone on the PS Store, they provide engaging, enjoyable, and often comedic distractions from the serious tones of the main story. So, when RGG Studio chief producer Hiroyuki Sakamoto himself admits the team's latest effort "could probably stand on its own" since it's that "expansive", something special is almost certainly on the way.
In Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, you'll be ignoring the joint plot of Ichiban Kasuga and Kazuma Kiryu to help restore Dondoko Island to its former glory. A few hours into the main game, Ichiban saves a turtle in a Side Story, and is then invited to the island so he can clear it of rubbish and attract holidaymakers with his own version of Butlin's. It's pretty much Animal Crossing on PS5, PS4 with a more forgiving Tom Nook... hopefully.
Demoed as part of a larger Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth preview event, we were only able to play the mode's opening 30 minutes, but it was enough to get a decent understanding of what the general gameplay loop looks like and the sort of resorts you can aspire to create. At the start of your journey, you'll clear junk to provide space for buildings, lodgings, and attractions. These are constructed from resources you'll gather by chopping down trees and breaking rocks apart on the island, all in the name of improving your build talent.
All you can make at the start is toilets, tables, and cushions, but eventually, you'll begin attracting guests and get on the ladder to a five-star-rated resort. Certain parameters must be met in order to rank up your holiday destination, including its overall popularity and customer satisfaction. The better you do the more government funding you'll receive, resulting in a loop where the more you put in, the more you'll get out. What makes the mode even cooler is some of the people taking a vacation on Dondoko Island are memorable characters from previous Yakuza games, allowing Ichiban to meet them for the first time and you a nice nostalgia hit.
There's more to the island than just cleaning and construction, though. A Dokopedia tracks the fish you catch, insects you find, and food produce and collectibles, which all help to improve your understanding. Then you'll have your own house on the resort that can be decorated and styled to suit your tastes. Upgrading it levels up your Livability meter, which improves Ichiban's health on the island and how many resources he can collect.
It all makes for an optional mode that demonstrates how RGG Studio continually loves to go above and beyond what its fanbase expects. A Yakuza / Like a Dragon game nowadays wouldn't feel right without absurdly engaging and addictive side activities, but Dondoko Island is such a big step forward for the "games within a game" concept that it deserves spinning out into its own thing. RGG Studio has said Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is the largest and longest entry in the franchise to date; if Dondoko Island is anything to go by, the Japanese developer wasn't kidding. This is the team at its non-compulsory peak.
Do you love ignoring the main story in Yakuza / Like a Dragon games for these in-depth side activities? Will you be doing the same in Infinite Wealth and restoring Dondoko Island to its former glory? Let us know in the comments below.