Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name feels like a love letter to series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu. From start to finish, you’re both reminded of his past and all the faces that played a part in his rise and fall, and introduced to a future where the Dragon of Dojima may very well no longer exist. Taking place after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and threaded in and around Yakuza: Like A Dragon, we’re given context to where Kiryu has been and is going up to the upcoming Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
It might not be as long as other entries in the Yakuza franchise, but what it does exceptionally well is tell a story that brings up characters and stories from previous entries to help shape the potential end to Kiryu’s story. For fans of the series, seeing the reveal that Kiryu has terminal cancer in the Infinite Wealth story trailer adds an air of sadness to Like A Dragon Gaiden. Knowing this could very well be the last game where Kiryu is the star certainly feels like a bitter pill to swallow, but Ryu Ga Gotoku has made sure we’re reminded of the brilliance of Kiryu and what an honest, loyal, and decent human being he is in a world that never let him be free.
When his identity is at stake, along with the Morning Glory orphanage being attacked, Kiryu is thrust right back into the conflicts of the Yakuza. The dissolution of both the Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan is another huge part of Like A Dragon Gaiden, and if you know anything about the series, you’ll know how big a deal this is. Under the new alias of Joryu, he’s thrown straight back into a fight he must win, against some of the most dangerous characters he has ever faced. It’s filled with all the humour you expect from a Yakuza game, but it also has a ton of heart that’ll leave you reaching for the tissues as it approaches its end.
I feel the Yakuza games share comparisons to the Rocky movies with how they play to every emotion perfectly, giving you what you want to see while making you feel sad, happy, excited, and tense, getting a feeling you know what’s going to happen but enjoying every single step of the ride towards the predictable end. While this isn’t the end for Kiryu, not yet at least, there’s still a feeling of finality to the character, at least with regards to his ties to the Yakuza. We’re reminded of characters who’ve died, both friends and enemies, and the way in which the story touches on these makes sentimentality a running theme through the five chapters.
There’re tons of moments during the main story that I loved, but one final fight scene was utterly glorious, reminiscent of Avengers: Endgame. It’s about as thrilling as the Yakuza series has ever been, and I feel that fans are going to go wild. Even the side quests are laced with nostalgia. While I have a lot of high praise for the story, gameplay is paramount to enjoying yourself, and thankfully, Like A Dragon Gaiden has streamlined its approach to the fighting styles to give you a more balanced time in combat. You get a grasp of exactly when to use the two fighting styles, with both having positives for different confrontations.
Yakuza style is great for one-on-one fights, especially against the tougher opponents and bosses. Strikes are aimed at one individual at a time, but they pack a punch when mixing up the combos. Parrying a strong attack at just the right time will allow you to initiate a QTE that does a ton of damage, and using heat mode will work wonders as long as you’re dodging and blocking enemy attacks. Agent Style was by far my favourite. Firstly, your area of attack is much greater, meaning you can take out more enemies at a time, and when heat mode is in full swing, your roundhouse kicks are going to take out a flurry of street thugs.
Secondly, you’ve got a ton of gadgets that can be used. You can use drones to attack enemies while you continue striking; glide across the ground thanks to jet booster shoes; and throw cigarettes that explode after a few seconds. They can all be upgraded to do more damage, and when you become more familiar with them, Agent Style is a glorious symphony of high-tech gadgets and varied punches and kicks. You’ll earn money in a multitude of ways, which can be used to upgrade your health, attacks, and heat abilities, as well as learn new moves, and more.
While fighting is always satisfying in Like A Dragon Gaiden, there’re tons of activities to get stuck into. Whether you want to go to an arcade and play classic SEGA titles or jump on a claw machine; dive into a game of pool or mahjong; hit the driving range; sing karaoke; play pocket racing; or visit a live-action “immersive” cabaret club, you’ve always got something to do. You’re even rewarded for taking part in activities thanks to the Akame Network. Akame is a new character that helps the homeless while in return gets information from the streets in an effort to help Kiryu. By completing a multitude of actions simply by going about your day, you’ll start to level up within the network.
You can also complete sub stories and quick jobs like beating some thugs up or returning items to citizens to gain more XP within the Akame Network, and by doing so you’ll unlock ‘investment opportunities,’ which are essentially a way for you to cut corners in earning more Akame points or make more money. There’s a shop where you can spend points to unlock new clothes and gear (offering an RPG element to your stats), and at certain points you can also go for drinks with Akame and learn more about her. She’s an interesting character that has struggled in her life, and being there for her not only benefits you in the long run, you also begin to care for her and want to help her network expand.
Another awesome feature to Like A Dragon Gaiden is the Castle, a floating container in the sea that is home to a gigantic casino and fighting coliseum. Once there, you can visit blackjack and poker tables, a high-end cabaret club, and more. There’s also a fighting coliseum where you can fight some of the toughest participants the series has ever seen. You can go in alone or recruit fighters to join you in the team battles, and while there’s DLC to allow guys like Majima and Daigo Dojima.to join your ranks, there’re other fighters you’ll find around the Castle and also in some of the sub stories, including an awesome crossover I won’t spoil here.
The main city of Sotenbori has a similar kind of vibe to Kamurocho, with bright colours and neon signs filling the streets which look particularly beautiful at times, all with a river flowing through the centre. The Castle is a particular highlight as it looks like the Vegas Strip, and gives Like A Dragon Gaiden that something extra. It’s a gorgeous game to look at, and while it’s not a particularly big area to explore, there’s still lots packed into it, with some nice little details around every corner. There’s a surprising amount of side stuff to do that’ll flesh out the campaign, but it’s the story that takes a centre stage here, filled with so many references and reminders of why this franchise is so loved.
Like A Dragon Gaiden is a wonderful game that has some amazing moments, but it’s also a lot of fun to play. Combat is thrilling regardless of the fighting style, with both having advantages in battle. The minigames are in abundance, giving you plenty for Kiryu to do when not chasing down gangsters, and even the sub stories, while not as enjoyable as previous games, have some cool nods to the legacy Ryu Ga Gotoku have done so well to craft. In what could potentially be Kiryu’s final chapter in an action-adventure title, it does more than enough to satisfy fans of the series, whilst still offering enough for new players to enjoy.
Minigames are fantastic
Combat is engaging
Akame jobs are a little dull
Sub stories aren't as interesting as previous titles