The reveal of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name was a major surprise for fans, and I was incredibly curious about what this game would bring in a previously unexplored gap in Kazuma Kiryu’s life. After playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I was left with many questions about how Kiryu is back in the fold after the polarizing ending of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Fortunately, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name answers the questions I had a few years ago while posing new mysteries in an excellent, concise game.
My expectations for Like a Dragon games are high due to the franchise’s well-written stories and surprising twists, and Gaiden manages to shatter those expectations in ways I was not expecting. Moreover, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a return to the signature brawling gameplay that fans know and love, and its even better than ever before. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio also greatly expanded on Kazuma Kiryu as a character in a story that tugs on heartstrings, gives plenty of laughs, and continues a momentum toward major moments in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
Spoiler warning: A few story spoilers regarding the end of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will be discussed.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Bridges The Gaps
The story of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name takes place three years after the ending of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and leads right into the beginning of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, so a notable portion of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is also touched on. After faking his death, Kazuma Kiryu becomes an agent for the Daidoji Faction under the alias of Joryu. Since Kiryu is considered a dead man, he’s prohibited from returning to Okinawa to be with his family, and his true identity must be kept hidden at all costs.
The Daidoji Faction is constantly monitoring Kiryu to ensure he does not return to society as the Dragon of Dojima and break his pact. This situation presents a whole host of challenges and hardships that tests Kiryu to his very core. Although Kiryu is steadfast in his beliefs and morals, his work as a Daidoji agent means potentially stepping over lines he doesn’t want to cross. Gaiden beautifully builds on Kiryu’s character in these new circumstances, and I believe Gaiden’s story is the most emotionally driven one in the series thus far. Additionally, Kiryu’s new lease on life gives him access to people and insight that would have seemingly gone unnoticed to the Dragon of Dojima.
Like a Dragon Gaiden is best experienced after catching up with Yakuza: Like a Dragon since the game proceeds as if players are aware of certain characters and connections within this crazy yakuza/criminal underbelly of Japan. The context is important as Gaiden bridges the gaps and reaches a really important point from Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s main story. Coincidentally, Gaiden introduces characters and story elements that are completely new and in some cases, mysterious and open-ended. Overall, the story absolutely moved me.
A Better, More Powerful Dragon
At the start of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, Kiryu has access to the all-new Agent style. Agent is very reminiscent of Yagami’s Crane fighting style from the Judgment games due to its focus on crowd control and mobility. In fact, some of the combos and attacks look very similar. However, Kiryu has many tricks up his sleeves (literally) through the use of gadgets, which are somewhat gimmicky in battle. One of these many gadgets is the Spider, a highly durable string that can hinder and throw enemies around.
Further, RGG Studio made a slew of major improvements to Kiryu’s Yakuza fighting style from Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6. The Yakuza fighting style has all of the Heat Actions and moves that fans can expect with adjustments and a few new abilities thrown in. The Extreme Heat ability also makes its return, and players may switch fighting styles while still being in Extreme Heat as well. This versatility allows Kiryu to switch up his offensive capabilities on the fly while still dishing out stronger combos. Extreme Heat is especially helpful in the Coliseum and its many high-difficulty fights.
More gadgets are unlocked throughout in-game progression, and new abilities may be unlocked by spending yen on upgrades. I found the upgrade system to be incredibly streamlined in the absence of a leveling system in Gaiden since it’s easy to stockpile money like Yakuza 0. The straightforward upgrade and improved combat systems make Gaiden one of the most fun action games by RGG Studio to date.
The Sights and Sounds of Gaiden
Since Kiryu may no longer roam the streets of Kamurocho, most of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name‘s story and gameplay is contained within Sotenbori and a small portion of Yokohama. The city has a lot of activities and mini-games to play, including karaoke, cabaret clubs, Pocket Circuit, and arcade games. Items are scattered through the game world as well such as consumables and locker keys. Although the city is smaller than Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho, Sotenbori has plenty of content that kept me interested from start to finish.
Moreover, players gain access to the Akame Network after meeting the titular informant in the story. Gaiden’s many substories are coordinated through Akame, so Kiryu wont be stumbling upon substories by just roaming the city again. She’s a really great character, but she’s also a useful vendor and tracks the player’s stats and achievements. Akame Network has its own reputation/leveling system that has its own perks, too.
Kiryu’s meeting with Akame is the gateway into the Castle, a vast and luxurious area that’s financed by the Omi Alliance. The Castle has notable story implications, but it’s also home to more mini-games, the Coliseum, and the Boutique. This time around, the Clan Creator feature has been combined with the Coliseum in a sense, allowing players to control Kiryu and other characters in high-stakes fights to grow in popularity and rise up the ranks.
Although Kiryu is not wearing his signature silver and red suit in Gaiden, he has access to the apparel available in the Boutique. More apparel becomes available as players progress the story, and outfits may be saved and selected for wear inside and outside the Coliseum. Kiryu is incredibly photogenic in Gaiden thanks to his expanded wardrobe.
Gaiden’s Few Faults
Although Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is an amazing game, there are a few aspects that could be improved and should be worth noting. Firstly, the game’s lack of an English dub at launch is unfortunate considering Yakuza: Like a Dragon and the Judgment games all had the option on day one. I absolutely love the Japanese dub for Like a Dragon games, but I think having the English dub option without a patch would have been ideal.
Another part of Gaiden that should be noted is that the Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Special Trial Version is available with the version 1.10 update. Updating Gaiden is necessary to access the Special Trial Version after completing the main story. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth Special Trial Version includes Story and Adventure Modes, which Final Weapon plans to cover in another review.
Those who prefer owning a physical copy will need to import Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name since it’s not sold at retail in the US. This unfortunately breaks the consistent streak of physical releases for Yakuza/Like a Dragon games in the US. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth appears to be on track for a physical release, thankfully.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Is Another RGG Studio Showpiece
Players have a 25 to 40 hour experience ahead of them in Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Once more, the tried-and-true Premium Adventure mode allows players to progress side content at their leisure. From start to finish, I was thoroughly impressed by what Gaiden offers as a sort of “in-between” game ahead of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth‘s release on January 26.
Although the game is smaller in scale than typical RGG Studio-produced games, Gaiden upholds the franchise’s standards with an impactful main story, whimsical side content and moments, and an engaging combat system. RGG Studio manages to evolve Kiryu as a character in compelling ways, and the game’s ending sequences will prove to be some of the most memorable in the Like a Dragon franchise’s near two-decade long history. Gaiden is a can’t-miss game and an essential component as the lead-up to Infinite Wealth.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name releases on November 9 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio provided a PlayStation 5 copy of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name for review purposes.