Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 6, 2023 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a high-octane action/adventure that sheds light on Kiryu’s perspective following the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life leading up to Like a Dragon 8.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name returns players to the shoes of Kazuma Kiryu, not long after the events of Yakuza 6 — and concurrently with the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Kiryu faked his own death at the end of Yakuza 6 in a complicated gambit to protect the orphanage he had been running. To the world, he is dead. However, the Daidoji faction has him running missions for them under the false name of Joryu. Everything goes to hell on one of those missions, with Kiryu's handler kidnapped and a mysterious organization trying to get his attention to bring the Dragon of Dojima out of retirement for their own needs. It's an act that would cause the Daidoji to consider Kiryu as having failed to uphold his part of the bargain and dooming the orphanage, so Kiryu must set out on one more adventure to keep his identity a secret.

Like a Dragon Gaiden's story suffers largely for feeling more like a Yakuza: Like a Dragon DLC than a self-contained story. Its primary purpose is to explain what Kiryu was doing during the events of Like a Dragon, and the answer is genuinely "not much." It has perhaps the simplest self-contained story in the franchise's history, and it isn't particularly engaging. It's fun to spend more time with Kiryu, but since we'll be doing that in the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, it loses some of its impact. One of the last scenes in the game is one of the most impactful and heartbreaking scenes in the franchise, and it does a lot to justify the story, but everything up to that point feels like filler. Even the conceit of him hiding his identity is barely a factor, since everyone recognizes him.

The "like a DLC" feeling continues with the basic gameplay. Like a Dragon Gaiden goes back to the more standard style of the older Yakuza games, where you only have one playable character and all action is turn-based. You spend most of the game in Sotenbori, a location from Like a Dragon that was relatively empty, and while Kiryu's story fleshes it out, it's still one of the smallest areas in a Yakuza title, with only a handful of shops and locations to visit. The game lets you visit The Castle, a specialized battle arena/casino on a floating cargo ship, but it only has a few more things to see.

Most of what you can do is the standard Like a Dragon minigames. You can play golf, collect toys from toy catchers, gamble on various games, and so on. It's all fun enough, but it isn't fresh because you've seen it all before in other games. Probably the most distinctive addition is the return of Pocket Circuit from Yakuza 0. It's easily a fully fleshed-out minigame storyline, but it isn't much different from the Yakuza 0 version.

The game tries to pad this with the Akame Network, which is a network that collects information about people in need and relays it to Kiryu, who goes around and helps them. Some of these are standard Like a Dragon-style sub-quests, such as convincing a shy teen that ChatGPT isn't a replacement for dating advice. Most are quests where you're asked to find a random item or beat up a random foe, and there's little justification, so they feel like filler.

Combat in Like a Dragon Gaiden feels very similar to the beat-'em-up style in Yakuza 6. The biggest change is that Kiryu now has two specific fighting styles: Yakuza and Agent. Yakuza is Kiryu's standard fighting style; punches, kicks and grabs are part of his arsenal and can be charged up to do additional damage and give him super armor. In general, Kiryu's Yakuza style excels at single-target damage and is probably what you'll use for almost every major boss fight.

The Agent fighting style is more complex, as it trades strength for speed, with faster but lighter attacks. It also has access to Gadgets, which are special gear that you get as you progress to replace the charge attacks. Each one gives Kiryu a modified special attack. For example, Spider is an arm-mounted grappling hook that can be used to tie up and throw enemies. There are also drones that suicide-ram into enemies, explosive cigarettes that you can throw, and your shoes turning into jet boots so you can launch yourself like a rocket at enemies.

The Agent style is intended for multiple foes at once, and most of its skills and abilities are of limited use against single targets. The drones can be a good (if boring) way to chip away at strong foes, but almost every strong foe is either in a timed battle or regenerates health. The real fun in Agent style comes from grabbing multiple foes with Spider and swinging them into one another. At high levels, the game almost feels like Dynasty Warriors, given how many enemies you're taking on at once.

This comes into play in Arena matches, which is why where a huge chunk of the combat takes place. Arena matches are divided into fights that are either one-versus-one, one-versus-many, or many-versus-many. Depending on the challenge, Kiryu will default to either the Yakuza or Agent style, but some fights require you to be in a specific style.

Unique to the Arena is the ability to recruit and play as other characters in the game. There's a surprisingly wide variety of playable characters, most of whom are cameos from other Like a Dragon games and Judgment.Yes, you can even play as the weirdos, like the Yakuza boss who likes to dress like a baby. They're all more basic than Kiryu and only have a handful of attacks, but they have special abilities and actions. You can even level them up to get better stats and compete in a special Hell Team Rumble with them at your side.

However, the Arena feature is kind of simplistic. Being able to play as someone besides Kiryu is nice, but almost every character besides Kiryu feels weak and not well designed for single-player mode. It's more of a cute extra than anything you'd spend time doing. There are one or two characters who could break the game, but even then, it's because they can do things like stand back and spam status-effect-causing knives from a safe distance.

The combat in Gaiden is middling; it's by the book, and it isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. It's standard Like a Dragon style gameplay. The Agent mode is cute, but when I used it, I would mostly grab and throw enemies with Spider, and I was never able to make it as effective as Yakuza style in single-target combat.

Like a Dragon Gaiden's big issue is that there isn't much to it. There are fewer side-quests, fewer fighting styles, fewer enemies, and fewer cut scenes. You can finish the main story quest in around nine hours, and I completed almost everything else in the game in another six hours. It's a fairly thin experience that doesn't offer much over other titles in the franchise besides letting you play as Kiryu again in a non-turn-based way. It does feel more like a $20 DLC than a full-fledged game.

The inclusion of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth's demo adds some value to the package, allowing you to play out the story that follows Gaiden's ending, but it also makes Gaiden look rather weak in comparison. The sections of Hawaii in the demo are filled to the brim with new content and ideas, and in comparison, Gaiden has more of the "been there, done that" feeling. It's a neat chance to play a segment of the next game early, but whether that justifies the cost of the game depends on how appealing the demo is to you.

Like a Dragon Gaiden looks and sounds as good as a Like a Dragon title does, with a lot of cool cut scenes, dramatic sequences, and the same manly voice acting that defines the series. The current version only offers Japanese voice acting, but a dub is coming down the line. The demo for Infinite Wealth includes it by default. Like a Dragon Gaiden just looks a whole lot like Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and that was a pretty great-looking game.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a nice burst of nostalgia, but it isn't worth the $50 price tag. The die-hard Yakuza/Like a Dragon fans who've followed Kiryu from start to finish will likely find that this title feels too familiar and safe. It's nice to have one more adventure with him before what seems like his for-real swan song in Infinite Wealth, but this is easily the most skippable Like a Dragon title to date.

Score: 7.5/10

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