The Like a Dragon (née Yakuza) franchise is known and beloved for its idiosyncratic tone, lovable characters, and complete devotion to minigames. You get fishing minigames! Dating minigames! Cabaret club management minigames! Movie minigames! And they often come with a surprising amount of depth and replayability.
With the release of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the franchise has outdone itself with Dondoko Island, a ridiculously deep minigame that is a spin on the Animal Crossing formula. (Infinite Wealth also includes detailed parodies of Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap — the Nintendo love is real.) As someone who never got into Animal Crossing, I was surprised by how much I clicked with this game mode. It’s faster, more action-oriented, and a little bit trashier than Nintendo’s mega-successful series.
The fictional Dondoko Island, set off the coast of Hawaii (where much of the game takes place), is a former resort destination that has become littered with trash by a gang of local pirates who use it as a landfill. Infinite Wealth protagonist Ichiban Kasuga strikes a deal with the proprietor: Help clean it up and transform it back into a hot vacation spot, and he can take a portion of the profits.
At first, the minigame looks and feels a whole lot like Animal Crossing. Sure, there are decisions specific to this franchise — you clean up trash by whacking it with your bat and occasionally have to fight pirates that show up. But most of your time is spent building and placing new furniture and attractions, catching fish and bugs, doing interior decorating in your shack, and gathering resources. As you improve Dondoko Island, you’ll attract visitors, who you can help keep happy by giving them preferred gifts. Sound familiar?
Even as a non-Animal Crossing player, Dondoko Island has its hooks in me. Even though I’m deeply invested in Infinite Wealth’s sprawling story, I find myself spending more and more time on Dondoko Island, clearing out trash and chasing an elusive bug with my net. Maybe it’s my investment in Ichiban, or maybe it’s how much I appreciate the franchise’s commitment to being laugh-out-loud funny. The very idea of pirates, with a leader dressed in Halloween costume pirate garb, using this island as their personal landfill and being upset when we clean it up is very funny, as are the island’s red and green mascots who “help” you by standing around looking perpetually worried.
Or maybe it’s that this is just one smaller part of a broader world, one that I can travel back to and spend my well-earned cash from island maintenance on nights out with my party or expensive clothes. There are small quality-of-life improvements from the Animal Crossing format, too, like how catching more of a specific fish or bug eventually increases the fee you get for selling it. The cycle of visitors, who only stay for a few days at a time, helps keep things moving. If this guest is only here for two more days, I think to myself, I might as well finish out their stay and make sure they leave a big tip. And when they leave, I’ll have new guests to attend to with all-new needs.
If this sounds great to you, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Dondoko Island is a ridiculously deep game mode, and you can spend hours and hours in it. It’s one of many complete games hidden with Infinite Wealth’s buffet of activities. The bad news is that you have to be patient. It’s going to take you a chunk of game time to unlock Dondoko Island, more so if you’re the kind of player who likes to explore and do a lot of side quests. It took me about nine or 10 hours, but it took my colleague Chris Plante [Ed. note: a total dork who felt the compulsion to play every single side quest] around 20 (with many, many hours still left to go to complete the game).
If you’re impatient, mainline the main story quests, and they’ll get you there. But that wait is worth it and not at all a chore. You’ll be immersed in the game’s world as you prepare for your great island adventure.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, just one more day on the island before I head back to the main story…