Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Dec 022019

Today I’d like to talk about Yakuza: Like a Dragon again, not to discuss new story or gameplay detail, but to take a closer look at what we already know and what it means for the game’s protagonist.

Ichiban Kasuga is the main character of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. He’s also a huge fan of Dragon Quest, to the point where they got permission to name-drop Dragon Quest in the reveal trailer.

When the game’s switch to turn-based combat was announced, some fans speculated that it was because Ichiban imagines fights as though they’re battles in Dragon Quest. And… that’s canon. It is now a confirmed fact Yakuza: Like a Dragon is turn-based because Ichiban sees combat that way.

At first, I thought that was just a cute in-game justification for the change. I’m not a fan of series switching up their core gameplay (even to a genre I love), but having it be due to the protagonist’s mindset is a nice idea.

But what if there’s more to it than that?

When we discussed the surprise character reveal at the end of the last trailer, I mentioned that some fans theorized it could be a hallucination. You see, there is reason to believe Ichiban is losing touch with reality.

In the Japanese demo for Yakuza: Like a Dragon (or Yakuza 7: Whereabouts of Light and Darkness, as it’s known in Japan), Ichiban gets his first weapon in a very sword-in-the-stone fashion, and then we get to see the first battle where Ichiban and his party members face off against three guys giving them trouble.

When the battle begins, the enemies change appearance. We’d already seen this throughout gameplay demonstrations, as it seems enemies and combat will all have a more fantasy flair to them. With the context of the first battle, however, we also get to see how Ichiban reacts.

He’s startled by the fact that they suddenly changed appearance. Not only that, but one of his party members asks what he’s talking about and tells him to focus on reality.

Ichiban then realizes that he’s the only one who saw the change.

Ichiban: Just me…?

So not only is the turn-based combat the result of Ichiban’s perspective, but so are the way enemies appear during battles. From there, we can assume the other fantastic/illogical aspects to the combat system can be seen by Ichiban as well, rather than being there just for the player’s amusement.

And the game acknowledges this.

It might all just be a nod to the game changing style, but making it clear that only Ichiban sees these things make me wonder if something else is at work. When that certain surprise character appears at the end of the trailer, he describes himself as the guardian of the treasure. What “treasure” is Ichiban looking for? Why does he need to fight the treasure’s “guardian”? I don’t know, but it’s one more sign that Ichiban’s view of the world affects more than just combat.

Ichiban spends 18 years in prison after taking the fall for a crime he didn’t commit, then comes back to be betrayed and shot by someone he trusted. He then regains consciousness in another city with no idea of how he got there. Could all of that trauma have taken such a toll on Ichiban that he’s starting to lose touch with reality and imagine these things?

I think these references are more than just justification for the gameplay change. I think Ichiban’s delusions will be important to the story of Yakuza: Like a Dragon – whether he’s suffering from actual hallucinations or just hiding behind fantasies to protect himself from the truth. One way or another, I believe reconciling the fantasy-style presentation with reality will be important to Ichiban’s character development.

(Now, what would be especially interesting is if we get to play as Ichiban before he’s arrested and the gameplay/presentation is still “normal.”)

What do you think? Is Ichiban losing touch with reality? Will his apparent delusions of enemies changing form be part of Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s story? Or is it all just a humorous nod toward the gameplay shift? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  4 Responses to “Is Ichiban Kasuga Losing Touch With Reality?”

  1. I personally want life to be turn-based.

    Seems like I gotta lose touch with reality as well. I’m sure I’m already close!

    • Well, if you follow Ichiban’s example, you need to:

      1. Become a huge Dragon Quest fan
      2. Turn yourself in for a murder you didn’t commit
      3. Spend 18 years in prison
      4. Get shot

      Therefore, I recommend only following step 1 of his method!

      (Although who knows, when the full game is out, we could learn Ichiban was seeing turn-based battles and transforming enemies even before going to prison.)

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