Despite taking some time to find a place in the hearts of gamers, the eight mainline Yakuza games are unquestionably a brilliant example of Japanese crime drama. Created by Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku, the series introduced the fearless protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, on the verge of redeeming himself from the yakuza.
If there's anything we've learned from mob cultures, it's that it takes a lot of work to turn away from family. But this is a task Kazuma doesn't take lightly. As expected, his journey has been full of misery, treachery, and plenty of revisits of his old life. But now, Kiryu has found a new calling. One that has him use his skills to team up with those he worked hard to fight off.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a new title by the studio. As a branch off of the series, new danger lies ahead of Kiryu's path and a new career. Care to descend the crime-infiltrated streets of Osaka? Sit tight as we unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly (if any) in Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review.
Return to a Different Form
The Man Who Erased His Name serves as both a prologue and an epilogue, bridging the gap in Kiryu's story between the events of 2016's Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and the much-anticipated 2024 release, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Following the not-so-happy conclusion of The Song of Life, where Kiryu faced a permanent ban from his family but gained freedom from Yakuza ties, Like a Dragon shifted the focus to Ichiban Kasuga. As a prologue, this new installment lays the groundwork for Kiryu's narrative, picking up some threads from the upcoming title.
Kiryu's life has been eventful, with a fortunate alignment of stars. Yet, challenges persist. After his staged demise in Yakuza 6, Kiryu assumes a new identity as Joryu, working for the Daijo, the secretive faction he opposed in the same game. All of this is in the name of safeguarding the orphanage he founded. Clearly, the Daijo has put Kiryu in a tight spot. This time, the challenge comes from within, as Kiryu faces a betrayal—his own heart. His innate desire to protect the vulnerable has led him to a situation where he's fighting against the very principles that defined his entire career.
In the earlier games, Kiryu's fighting moves resembled the epic action scenes of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan in a movie. Swinging a katana would cleanly slice through foes, and a rapid series of punches would send bad guys sprawling. But now, Sega takes it up a notch with “Agent Joryu”, our familiar Kiryu.
So, the new gig does have its perks. Kiryu gets an incredible set of gadgets that spice up the gameplay, fitting his undercover persona. Alongside some snazzy glasses meant to keep his identity under wraps, he's equipped with high-tech tools straight out of a James Bond movie. Picture this: rocket-powered shoes, an explosive cigarette, and the ability to summon a swarm of drones for distraction. It seamlessly integrates technology into the combat system, adding excitement without overwhelming players. It's like being Inspector Gadget, but without the goofiness and with a double shot of adrenaline.
The web shots awakened my inner geek, giving off a vibe similar to playing a slightly toned-down version of Spider-Man. Kiryu's gadgets even include shooting glowing webs from his wrists, which are handy for snaring enemies or grabbing a weapon.
The abilities are an upgrade we never really thought the game needed. And now that it's here, it's a challenge to revert to the old ways.
Back to Basics
Even though Kiryu gets a set of handy tools, they deal less damage than his traditional moves. Punches and kicks lie at the heart of the brawler's combat. Here, Sega retains the fighting elements we've come to adore in the series. Moreover, the heat gauge activates Kiryu's berserk mode. Once the meter fills up, you access abilities such as increased speed and extremely brutal finishers. The heat mode can go a level higher, where Kiryu lands heavier blows and can hurl objects from his environment toward enemies.
Another added move is Kiryu's ability to dodge heavy damage. Although it happens briefly, the fine-tuning is a testament to Sega's ability to further evolve its combat system.
Plus, two fighting styles feel more than adequate with the plenty of fighting you'll encounter. The best part is that Kiryu's fighting style doesn't feel outdated.
Crime Never sleeps; Neither Should You
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name proves that there'll always be something to do in the world of crime. For a premise that largely bases its storyline on crime mob activities, it doesn't seem to be running out of action-packed scenarios for players to dive into. The game is set across three locations. Players will traverse between Isezaki Ijincho, which features in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Lost Judgment. The third location, the castle, is the meat of the game. It holds most of the action, sequenced into mini-games.
Well, not all mini-games will call for busting a ninja move. You'll be singing your lungs out in Karaoke, playing a round of cards in the casino, or racing pocket circuit cars on mini tracks. The games come in handy when you need to cool off your shoes after extended periods of knocking the snort out of foes. But if you wish to turn up the heat, head to the battle Colosseum, where you lead a team of fighters. It's a perfect mix of chaos. Working your way up the ranks also grants you access to high-stakes casino mini-games.
Aside from the life of crime, Kiryu can also stumble into the world of desire thanks to the cabaret clubs. The clubs now feature live actresses with whom you can chat. One of the clubs to visit is the Castle Cabaret Club. Here, you'll meet one of the five hostesses, Kaname. Your interactions with Kaname influence your romance level, and a well-chosen drink, even if it comes with a hefty price tag, can elevate your affection gauge.
A Side Step
Stepping away from the mini-games and the main story, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name immerses you knee-deep in its substories. Thankfully, it feels like something other than a bizarre branch-off meant to add a few hours of gameplay. It's a fine blend that complements the main story. The Akame Network sets the stage for exploration, where you'll likely spend much of your time. The network unravels after your first meeting with Akame. Next, you receive quests from Akame, who also pays as an informant. The quests are like a trip back in time where Kiryu will face off with old enemies. You'll also get the chance to forge new alliances. The substories stick to the traditional Yakuza substories, so veterans of the series will feel much more at home here.
Completing the Akame quests earns you points, which you can use to upgrade your skills. But capitalism still prevails since you'll need a handful of cash to add to your points for an upgrade. Thankfully, some quests also grant you money. The highest amount you can earn is 1 million yen from End of Destruction and the Gold Scourge. If you require new pursuits, you can head to Akame's place in Sotenbori. But remember, the higher the reward, the higher the stakes.
Plus, as you rise in the ranks, you'll get to battle the Four Kings of the Colosseum.
Like a Dragon Gaiden stands out as one of the shorter games in the series, and while I feel that it might be time to let Kiryu take a breather from shouldering the entire franchise, it's clear that retirement is not on the horizon for him. I can't blame the directors for wringing out another captivating story from his character. Unlike some series that risk feeling repetitive, Like a Dragon consistently guides us through Kiryu's journey, making it a welcome addition. It's like that well-deserved promotion your hardworking colleague finally gets after putting in serious effort.
Kiryu's new gadgets take the franchise to new heights, blending seamlessly with the traditional fighting styles. The game might feel like a sped-up summary of the series for seasoned players, but for newcomers, it's a fantastic introduction to the Yakuza world. However, it's worth noting that Like a Dragon Gaiden's: The Man Who Erased His Name storyline is a bit shorter compared to its predecessors, and we already know the ending, given Kiryu's return in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. While it could have offered more than expanding on Yakuza 6's conclusion, it certainly whets your appetite for the upcoming title, promising Kiryu's adventures in Hawaii.
With a price tag of $50, it's a worthwhile investment, providing more action than other games in the series. I can't wait to dive into Kiryu's next chapter and explore the vibrant world of Hawaii.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft Windows)
An Exciting James Bond & Spider-Man Crossover
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name lives up to the franchise’s track record, giving fans another spectacular taste of crime mafia. Despite some shortcomings, it still hits the target with its revamped combat that features exciting gadgets.