It’s safe to say that Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name isn’t a great jumping-in point for the long-running series formerly known as Yakuza. For those who are up to date, however, it’s likely to prove to be quite a treat.
Taking place between the events of Yazuza 6 and the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name once again puts players in control of Kazuma Kiryu. Now going by the name of Joryu, he’s working as a special agent for an organisation called the Daidoyo – his cooperation securing the safety of those he cares about at the Morning Glory orphanage. After a job goes awry, however, it’s clear that a party is interested in bringing the legendary Dragon of Dojima out of hiding.
What follows is yet another dramatic – and violent – tale with many twists and turns, although one which perhaps also gives us a close insight as to what makes Kazuma Kiryu tick more than ever before. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, he has to navigate multiple factions that each have plans for his godlike strength, all the while keeping up his new persona in order to protect the ones he loves. Of course, there’s some fan-service along the way, with multiple familiar faces also making a return. But there are some new characters, too, and they’re some of the most interesting we’ve met to date.
Gameplay-wise, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is classic Yakuza. The action is mostly confined to Sotenbori, a location which fans are likely to be familiar with. You’ll spend your time visiting various locations within this busy district and, being in control of Joryu rather than Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s Ichiban, engage thugs, yakuza and other troublemakers in action-based combat. Two fighting styles are available this time around, with Joryu’s old Yakuza fighting skills being accompanied by a new Agent fighting style that incorporates the use of multiple advanced gadgets.
Initially, Joryu just has access to a lasso-like device, which he can use to grab and throw enemies in combat, and well as grab hard to reach items while exploring. This gadget soon becomes accompanied by drones, explosive cigarettes, and even booster shoes that allow Joryu to dash around the battlefield, causing damage to any enemies caught in his path. Are such tools a little ridiculous? Sure. They also make the combat of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name perhaps the most enjoyable yet.
In addition to the outrageous combat, your time with Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is once again buoyed by a wealth of activities and side quests keeping things interesting as you run back and forth across Sotenbori. There aren’t many genuinely new things to do on the side, other than to play some classic retro games, but the activities that do make a return are as entertaining as ever. It’s always fun taking part in a bit of karaoke, and you can also challenge your companions to a game of golf, darts and more.
The most substantial time sinks here are a coliseum, where you’ll find against a wide range of opponents and also recruit fighters to assist you in team battles, and helping your friend Akame develop her network. The latter involves you helping people around Sotenbori to bring them into the network, as well as completing more substantial requests. Developing Akame’s network can feel a bit like busywork at times, but the rewards you earn are worth the toll. Ultimately, like most of the side content of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, it’s up to you how much time you put into it anyway.
A digital release only, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is notably shorter than other entries the series. Those heading pretty much straight through the main story will see the credits roll in around 15 hours. The price is lower to compensate for this, though, and those seeking to see and do everything the game has to offer are still likely to spend in excess of 30 hours with the game overall. Also included is a special trial version of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, allowing players to get a taste of the upcoming new mainline entry in the series before its launch early next year.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is likely to delight Yakuza fans. While this is a cut down affair taking place largely in just one location, being reunited with Kazuma Kiryu once again is joyous, especially with the new tricks he has up his sleeves. It’s not really suitable for newcomers, but if you’re looking forward to the release of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, you should consider this an essential purchase. Those who wish to further pry into the life of the fearsome Dragon of Dojima will want to play it, too.