You won't believe number 8
No, none of the suggestions are to make it an action game again. Yakuza Like a Dragon (or Yakuza 7 or Ryo Ga Gotoku 7) is the first time the Yakuza series has gone full RPG. Previous games in the series have flirted with RPG-like elements, and I would even go as far as saying that Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2 are action-RPGs. But with Yakuza Like a Dragon, or YLAD for short, there's no doubt about it anymore. It's an RPG. It even has turn-based combat, which is a controversial design choice. Personally, I love turn-based RPGs! But while it is a fun combat system, and the developer has done a lot of things right, there are definitely some things that give it away that this is the first time they've done something like this. I hope that they will continue to use turn-based combat for any upcoming Yakuza games, but I also hope they will refine and polish some parts it. Here are 10 things they should fix for the next game.
1) Make enemy positions easier to exploit
In combat, enemies will sort of wander around while you are selecting your attack, kinda like in Chrono Trigger. Great idea on paper, but when you select a skill that should hit multiple enemies and by the time the animation has played out, some enemies that you thought were going to get hit are outside the area of effect. So why not freeze their movements as soon as you've confirmed your action. In addition, let AOE attacks have an indicator circle/line or something. That way you'll actually be able to see if your attack will hit multiple enemies or not.
2) Better interface for seeing elemental weaknesses and such
You see this? This would be great to have in battle
Yakuza could learn a lot from another Sega-owned property here, namely Persona. During battle, you should be able to press a button to bring up an info window of the highlighted enemy. There you would be able see what the enemy is weak or strong to, just like in Persona. Additionally, when you select a target for an attack, it will say "Weak" if you have info on the enemy, but it will not say "resist" or something if you select a skill that the enemy is resistant too. That would be nice to have, as well as a little "weak" symbol in the skill menu if any enemy on the field is weak to a skill you have, again like in Persona 5. Oh, and a little icon next to each skill to show if the attacks hits a single target, can hit adjacent targets or all targets would be neat.
3) Overhaul the job skillsets
The skillsets for the different jobs are a little bit all over the place. It seems every job will learn some physical skills, maybe some magic, a few buffs or debuffs and maybe a healing skill. Which makes the jobs kind of blend together. For example, you'd think that the chef would learn either healing abilities in the form making of food that restores HP, magic based on frying or freezing food, or skills using sharp knives and other kitchen utensils to inflict damage. But in reality the chef does a little of all those things. And healing magic is all over the place. The fortuneteller learns the skills that revives enemies and cures all status ailments, the musician has the skill that grants gradual health regen, the idol job learns the single-heal and multi-heal skills as well as the skill that only removes physical status ailments, and the hostess learns skill that removes mental status ailments. Most of the jobs are like this. Some variety in the skillsets is nice, but things are just to spread out and unfocused here. Additionally, skills that do blunt damage is very common, but there are very few gun skills and electric skills. And why are there separate jobs for men and women? I can kinda get making some jobs gender exclusive, like idol for women and bodyguard for men, but why can't the guys be dealers or the ladies be musicians and fortunetellers? Makes no sense to give the women their own set of jobs, especially when there are only two female party members, one of which is optional.
4) Have more options for mixing and matching job abilities
Job systems are fun, but what's really fun about them is that they let you mix and match abilities. You can do this in YLAD too. Except that's it's really limited here. For each job you can only learn and keep two specific abilities when you switch to another job. After you've switched jobs, there's no option of keeping an entire skillset or choosing what skills you want to still have access too. This takes the fun out of leveling up a different job. Take the host job for example. The two skills you can learn and keep even if you switch jobs are both ice magic. Adachi, whose magic stat is pretty bad, doesn't really need those. But he could have benefitted from the host's physical attack skill that lowers an enemy's attack. So there's often not much point in leveling up a job for a character, besides the bonus stat boosts that carry over. Let me choose a certain number of skills that I can use after I've switched to another job.
5) Change jobs on the fly and remove job stat increases
So many jobs, so little time
A couple more things about the job system. Having to go to a specific location to change jobs is a hassle. That needs to go. At most you should only have to go to the unemployment office to get access to new jobs. Also, as you level up a job, its stats will increase. That can be annoying when you change jobs because going from a level 15 job to a level 1 job means you'll see a fair decrease in overall stats. And suddenly someone gets one-shotted because their defense stat is now horrible. One thing is stats changing based on going from one job to another. I get that. But if you add stat increases based on job level to the mix, it really disincentivizes changing jobs and learning skills from other jobs.
6) Cut down on the number of status ailments
Status effects can be fun. It can add more strategy to a battle system and provide you with an alternative way of defeating an enemy. But there's a thing as too much. In YLAD you have 13 different status effects! And a lot of them are very similar. Not only do you have poison which means you will take some damage each turn, but you also have burn, cold and bleed which does the same thing (although cold is kinda funny since it's also contagious). Stun, sleep and charm means an enemy will skip their turn, while paralyze and fear means there's a chance that they'll skip their turn. Brainwashed means the enemy will attack an ally while drunk means there's a chance they will attack an ally. You see my point here? And on top of those ailments, you got general stat debuffs and buffs like increased and reduced attack, defense and so on. It's just too much. Speaking of stat buffs and debuff; man, do they seem ineffective. It's not like in Persona where you can really see a difference in damage and evasion when you use them.
7) No penalty in battle for switching characters
Remember how in Final Fantasy X you could switch out any character and that character could act instantly? That was nice. Tidus didn't even need to be in the active party at all times, unlike the previous three Final Fantasy games where the main character always had to be there. You can't do that in YLAD. Switching out a character takes a turn and Ichiban always has to be there. They even have that stupid "if the main character is KO'd in battle, it's Game Over thing"-thing from Persona. Just no. If I need Joon Gi-Han to pop into battle right away to pop some caps in an enemy because said enemy is weak to gun attacks, then I should be able too.
8) Reduce the number of weapon types
Did you know that each job in the game has a unique weapon type? With 17 jobs that means 17 weapon types! (19 if you include DLC). Can you believe it?! And each job can only equip the corresponding type. So let's say you're rolling with a party of four where everyone has a different job, and you stumble upon a safe which contains a new and stronger weapon. Yay! But with 17 different types that means there's only a 23,5% chance that you can actually equip the weapon you found, unlike armor or accessories which are mostly interchangeable, no matter the job. And it's not like you can change jobs on the fly so you can take advantage of this new and shiny weapon either. Doh! Either way, it just leads to a lot of inventory management and hassle because there are so many types.
9) Make Poundmates to be like limit breaks
Poundmates are fun. The people you meet through the sidestories can help you in battle with an attack, like a summon monster in Final Fantasy. But they cost money? I think it's nice that they have a cooldown so you can't spam them, even if you're a millionaire. But I just think it would be better to have them like a super attack with a meter that builds in battle while you take and do damage. Maybe they could even be equipable to each character to add some customization so it's not just an Ichiban ability.
10) Balance the game!
Few things in games annoy me more than difficulty spikes in RPGs, especially when there's only one difficulty setting. So when you hit chapter 12 and there's spike after spike after spike in so many boss fights, you begin to wonder what the developers were thinking! Especially since most of the game had been fairly easy up until that point. And why isn't there an easy difficulty setting? That's been a thing in all the Yakuza games I've played.
Now it might sound like I'm being very harsh on this game, but that's only because I really like it and I see a lot of potential for improvement. If you'd ask me about the brawler combat in the other Yakuza games, I wouldn't really be able to tell you much on how I think it could be better because that's not really my preferred type of combat. But I've played a good number of turn-based RPGs, and I know what I like and don't like, what I think works and not works. And I if the next Yakuza game is turn-based I really hope to see some of these improvements I've mentioned here, because there is a lot of potential here for a very fun and engaging system.