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The Yakuza series is known for fantastic storytelling and men ripping their shirts off on top of buildings, having deep emotional moments and then duking it out. Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s story, however, goes above and beyond what many of the recent entries have offered. While it still uses a lot of the series’ main themes — such as found family, adoptive parental figures, and political intrigue — Like a Dragon takes these elements further, making what may be one of the most emotional stories in the series to date.
Ichiban’s story of finding hope through video games while living the life as the adopted son to a Soapland owner is truly special for RPGamers. Ichiban’s growth, his ability to Dragon Quest the heck out of everything in his life, and him constantly seeing the best in everyone are so refreshing compared to the stoic Kazuma Kiryu. The game’s ensemble cast offers fantastic stories of the seedy underbelly that exists in Yokohama, yet each character is lovable in their own way. The twists and turns in Like a Dragon keep players on the edge of their seats, making the game one roller coaster that you will be sad to get off of once the ride’s over.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s narrative is a huge part in what makes it one of this year’s standout experiences. The game provides a story that is pieced slowly together, and though this could easily go wrong, Vanillaware has managed to set it up almost perfectly. This is one of the best sci-fi tales that gaming has to offer, and despite having thirteen protagonists and other major characters, each of them is individually memorable and plays a crucial part in the story. The twists and turns of the plot are fantastic, and it’s incredible how 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim builds up the player’s knowledge in a non-linear manner to provide a hugely satisfying conclusion.
While many would argue it’s not the strongest entry in the series, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV had the toughest task so far, bringing the events of three different subseries together for a satisfying conclusion. Though having to ensure the massive cast gets its fair share of lines leads to a fair bit of repetition in the dialogue, the overall story of Trails of Cold Steel IV is full of all the depth and twists that players have come to expect from Nihon Falcom. After three games steadily ratcheting up the stakes, international war finally breaks out and the game puts to use all of the time it spent building up the history, culture, and factions within the Erebonian Empire as Class VII, new and old, races to avoid catastrophe. It’s definitely time for a break from the Empire and a fresh start elsewhere, but Trails of Cold Steel IV successfully places that all-important bow on the Erebonian Saga.
by Sam Wachter and Alex Fuller