Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, a mouthful of a title that we will refer to Like A Dragon Gaiden moving forward, is a side story that follows the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and serves as a prologue to Yakuza: Like A Dragon that follows the continuing exploits of Kazuma Kiryu, the legendary Dragon of Dojima.
Kazuma Kiryu has been pronounced dead to the world and now spends his days carrying out tasks in the shadows as Agent Joryu. When a botched mission compromises his identity, he returns to his yakuza past to find himself caught in a web of conspiracy that will shake the core of the yakuza world forever. Also, he will find the time to try out every restaurant, karaoke, and cabaret club; because that’s how Kazuma Kiryu rolls.
Are you ready to take the mantle of Kazuma Kiryu yet again? Wear that agent suit and strap on those gadgets, we’re going on a deep dive into Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name!
Agent of Yakuza
Like A Dragon Gaiden returns to its original brawler roots seen in iterations of Yakuza prior to Like A Dragon, which combines the free-flowing movements seen in the later Yakuza titles such as Yakuza 2 Kiwami and Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and the Judgment series. What results is the most intuitive and smoothest integration of Kiryu’s moves yet, and it is a joy to play.
You have two fighting modes to choose from: Agent and Yakuza. You start out with the Agent mode, which specifically is designed for crowd control. The rush combo movements affect a wide range, while the finisher locks into a specific target to finish the job. You can also employ gadgets unlocked throughout Like A Dragon Gaiden to whittle down your enemies or to escape precarious situations.
The Yakuza mode employs a more one-on-one battle paradigm, better suited for bosses or opponents with high defense or a larger health bar. It concentrates on stronger counterstrikes and guard break charge attacks. It is much slower, but more methodical and can also allow you to take on weaker hits without being staggered.
Like A Dragon Gaiden eschews the experience point system and instead streamlines it to utilize Yakuza 0‘s character development by using money to increase skills. After you meet the fixer Akami (portrayed by First Summer Uika), you will earn Akami Points that serve to supplement money to further increase skills once you max out your basic ones. It also serves as a means to track activities because you’re not just eating in every restaurant for the pure joy of it.
I find that this system is quick and easy to use, unlike older Yakuza titles that force you to grind out experience and money to alleviate large difficulty spikes. These difficulty spikes do not exist in the Beginner and Standard difficulties, so you can bypass the grind and enjoy the main story at your own pace. You won’t find yourself slaving away in mahjong tables or picking random fights to beat the chapter boss.
Loot is generous throughout the levels and you can find equipment that will boost your stats and healing items to allow you to progress quicker. You can also use your Agent gadgets to acquire items from out-of-reach areas, which is a pretty nifty trick to have. As you progress more into the story, you’ll unlock area requests, which allows you to quickly get some easy money and Akami points.
The majority of the gameplay loop revolves around Osaka’s Sotenbori area seen in most Yakuza titles, and it is your main stomping grounds in Like A Dragon Gaiden. If you are waiting to see Kamurocho, you’re out of luck. This is where the open-world aspect of Like A Dragon Gaiden comes into full view. When you progress the story mission, you’re locked into a quest area until you complete the area boss.
Like A Dragon Gaiden features the same enemy types seen in most Yakuza titles. The scrapper thugs are easy to vanquish, the gunners who shoot from afar, the heavies who despite their slowness can deliver heavy damage, and the lieutenants who feature a beefier health bar while having more defensive strategies. As you progress through the game, they increase in number and difficulty, and you’ll never run out of random encounters.
The one area where combat really shines is how they’ve simplified the controls to make it intuitive. The bumper buttons make blocking easy as well as allowing you to lock on and dodge enemies. When you successfully dodge an enemy’s finisher, you will be able to counterattack to turn the tide. In previous Yakuza titles, the hitbox for these types of attacks is strict and can be frustrating, but I’m grateful that they were able to rectify this hurdle.
Money (Still) Makes The World Go ‘Round
Like A Dragon Gaiden, like other Like A Dragon games, rests on the life simulator aspect of its mini-games despite it being a fraction of the overall world. It depends on who you ask, but as a long-time Yakuza fan, I appreciate what they’ve done to streamline certain mechanics while not bringing back everything that constitutes its mini-game world.
Sure we can never get rid of the arcade machines, UFO catchers, gambling, shogi, and mahjong tables; but they are part and parcel of what makes the Like A Dragon ecosystem function, and without them, it’s like having RPGs without inns and equipment shops. The Akami point system really works well in this regard because it allows you to pick and choose rather than making it a part of the experience point system where missing an activity is the difference between not acquiring a skill.
So yeah, enjoy your karaoke, Cabaret Clubs, and other mini-games; they’re there to entertain you in between endless fistfights and melodramatic gangster banter. There’s always something new to enjoy albeit something subtle for longtime fans. And one thing I appreciate about Like A Dragon Gaiden is how it is more respectful of your time. For that, I’ll forgive them for taking away interactive vending machines and food bonuses when stacking menu items.
Like A Dragon Gaiden also separates its Side Stories from its Main Story in a meaningful way by categorizing them into Akami Requests. In order for you to start them, you only need to accept the request. Unlike in the previous Yakuza games where you will trigger them by moving to a random location. They don’t feel as obligatory, despite losing some immersion, but as a quality of life improvement, I’m glad it’s separated.
The coliseum mechanic is also quite fun and not as tedious as the previous games. I liked finding fighters, training them, and joining the battle royale “hell matches” to test my mettle. It’s an improvement over the other battle management sim mini-games because it’s not too convoluted (looking at you Yakuza 2 Kiwami) or repetitive random battles (looking at you Judgment) to get the point across.
The mini-games, while they feel like they’ve just been added on from the previous games, really add new mechanics such as the “fully immersive Cabaret clubs”. While it depends on who you ask, interacting with FMV actors adds that extra layer of realism to get more out of your experience. While I do miss the Cabaret Club Grand Prix management sim, this dating mini-game is a call back to the previous mainline games that implemented this mechanic.
One annoying feature in previous Yakuza games is the QuickTime events during cut scenes. Like A Dragon Gaiden improves this by minimizing it to the point where I can only count a couple of them being active (one is during a Heat Action). This improves the momentum of Like A Dragon Gaiden‘s cinematic moments rather than dealing unnecessary damage to you, ruining the mood.
If there’s anything that grinds my gears, it is Like A Dragon Gaiden‘s creative direction with making Kiryu an agent. It initially fits with the overall plot, but as we progress through the story, we realize how ridiculous it all is. The gadgets in particular, while they work with the gameplay, seeing them in action during story beats makes it awkward and over-the-top. Yakuza’s appeal has always been grounded in gangster realism and despite the melodrama, it still feels serious. You really need to suspend your disbelief by a huge amount else you’ll probably not have a good time.
Another ridiculous moment of contention is Kiryu’s stubborn denial of his true identity even to characters that know him. While it was fun for the first few times, it became somewhat of a noticeable annoyance in Like A Dragon Gaiden‘s story. While we’ve seen ridiculous plot holes in the earlier Yakuza series, Like A Dragon Gaiden crossed the delicate line that separates the main story tone and the side story tone. As a longtime fan, I’ve accepted it as a series quirk, other players may not be so forgiving.
Like A Dragon Gaiden is the shortest Like A Dragon title to date with its main story running between 10-15 hours long depending on how much you spend on side stories, and up to 30 hours to complete many of the side quests and mini-games available. It serves as a fun albeit ridiculous epilogue to Kiryu’s exploits and may as well be one of the last times we’ll see him in this type of format.
Like A Dragon Gaiden, like most Yakuza games, offers a high level of stability and polish. There were some minor hiccups such as stuck camera movement and input lag that can be frustrating especially when trying to land the counterattack. Otherwise, it is a stable game on Day One, something you can’t say for a lot of games.
I don’t fully recommend Like A Dragon Gaiden to first-time players of the series as it is really embedded in the lore of the series. It is an epilogue to a Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, a direct midquel to Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and in some ways, a prelude to Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth. While it provides more context to the world at large for returning fans, newcomers really need to start with something fresh like Yakuza 0, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, or at the very least, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life to fully appreciate Like A Dragon Gaiden.
What We Liked
- Fluid and intuitive combat combine the best aspects of all RGG Studio’s brawling titles.
- Stripped down but still a fully immersive open world that’s respectful of your time.
- A treat to all long-time fans of Like A Dragon.
What We Didn’t Like
- Some game mechanics and creative direction conflict with the main story’s grounded tone.
- Not recommended for first-timers.
Verdict: Buy It!
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a gift for fans of the series in more ways than one. It’s a refreshing return for long-time hero Kazuma Kiryu as well as the well-loved Dragon Engine. It’s great to get back into the shoes of Kiryu, whether it is through combat, exploration, or playing the many mini-games. It may be the last time we’re graced with his presence in this type of format, so enjoy it!
That being said, it may be a stretch for newcomers and casual fans to go deep into the Like A Dragon lore with this title. I mentioned earlier that there were some quirks that I’m willing to forgive, but many newcomers will probably be confused. I recommend starting out with an earlier title and coming back to this title when ready, but it definitely is supplementary reading to get a better grasp of the overall lore.
Otherwise, it is a quick romp through Osaka as we get ready for the future of the series with Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth. It gives you one more look into Kiryu’s story as he takes a back seat to his successor, Kasuga Ichiban. While we already had a proper send-off with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, Like A Dragon Gaiden is a fitting epilogue for a legend. Thank you, Kazuma Kiryu!
*Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name was reviewed on a PS5 and an Xbox Series X with a review code provided by the publisher.