Sometimes when a series has numerous critically acclaimed titles and spinoffs, it can be a little daunting for newcomers. Do you start at the beginning, playing an old game that might be harder to learn or acquire, or play the latest release but risk losing out on the story? Fortunately, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is the perfect opener for both returning fans and those who have never dipped their toe in the rich world of Yakuza.
Let’s take a look at all you’ve got to look forward to in Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.
From Kiryu to Joryu
With cinematic cutscenes and early-game characterization to fill you in on what you’ve missed, Like A Dragon Gaiden wastes no time in introducing our hero Kazuma Kiryu. Going by the alias Joryu to protect his identity after faking his death, Kiryu must keep his past life a secret in order to protect those he loves most. From reaching the top of the Yakuza tree to working security detail, his fighting skills and sense of justice are as sharp as ever.
Giving up his family and the lure of Japan’s criminal underworld, the start of the game finds Kiryu acting as a secret agent for the Daidoji faction through a desire to protect his foster children. You’ll soon come to meet the Daidoji faction, who helped Kiryu fake his death in exchange for his silence on their illegal political and military activities. Enemies of the Daidoji who hide behind masks, and shady organizations, draw ever closer but are yet to reveal their identities. As Daidoji handler Hanawa says early on in the game, “the days when Yakuza could go strutting around the streets are over.”
Whether you’ve followed Kiryu’s story from the first moment he appeared on our screens, or you’ve never heard his name before, Like A Dragon Gaiden won’t leave you guessing. You’ll get all the story you need even if you’re brand new to the games, and soon be running through the streets in search of your next mission, determined to figure out what’s going on in the underworld of Osaka and Yokohama. You might even be inspired to pick up the previous Yakuza/Like A Dragon games, but prior knowledge is not necessary. If you’re curious, this one comes in after the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and between those of Yakuza: Like A Dragon and Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth (which comes out January 26, 2024).
Iconic combat styles
One of the things Yakuza games are so famed for is their visceral, satisfying combat, and the latest in the series is no exception. Like A Dragon Gaiden’s beat-’em-up style caters to all skill levels and abilities.
For new players or those who prefer to focus on the story, you can choose an easier combat level and benefit from automated assistance during fights. You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy Like A Dragon Gaiden, as the assistive mode will have you pulling off the most spectacular combos with the ease of a master. Alternatively, go for a challenge and bump up the difficulty, seeing how long you last in the mean streets of Sotenbori. Regardless of difficulty level, the combat still feels satisfying and tactile, allowing you to stylishly beat the snot out of local street punks and head honchos alike.
Combat comes in two styles, each to represent the different elements of Kiryu’s skillset: Agent or Yakuza. The Agent style was developed by the Daidoji agents and focuses on gadgets like the nifty Spider tool that grabs foes and weapons from afar. The Yakuza style is a more traditional approach to brawling, packed with powerful moves and improvised weaponry. Throughout the game, you’ll also get a chance to upgrade your abilities and protective items. By purchasing martial arts manuals you’ll soon improve your stats and special moves to suit you, whether you’re a more defensive or offensive fighter.
A whole city to explore
The complete trifecta of a good Yakuza game is a gripping storyline, incredible combat, and, finally, some trademark eccentricities in the form of new locations, characters, and minigames. Fortunately, Like A Dragon Gaiden has them all.
Enter the Hell Arena, a coliseum venue where you can fight to your heart’s content. Build a team from iconic Yakuza characters, including members of the Tojo Clan, and train them well, coming up with new strategies to take down enemies of increasing power. Experiment with techniques and line-ups, placing more resilient allies on the front lines, and ensuring support/ranged allies are placed strategically behind. Pick from Tournament, in which you’ll face a swarm of enemies; Hell Rumble, a face-off with demonic opponents; Special Event Matches, where rules vary wildly, or Hell Team Rumble, where you grab a team and face off against demons. Chat with your team in the Fighters’ Lounge, building relationships and reducing fatigue in between.
A classic Yakuza game pastime is the Karaoke bars where Kiryu and co spend many a night crooning into a microphone. The better you do, the more your audience will react. You’ll even be able to sing a duet with new character Akame (your jack-of-all-trades confidant and expert in the underbelly goings-on of Sotenbori) and enjoy the first-ever inclusion of a Christmas song, Sayonara Silent Night. Mariah Carey who?
Dress up the famously suave Kiryu in all manner of fashionable items in the Boutique, or head to the Arcade to play full ports of some of your favorite retro games at Club SEGA. Additions include Fighting Vipers 2, the never-before-released-on-console SEGA Racing Classic 2, and more classic SEGA favorites, allowing you to dip back into one of the best back-catalogs in the history of gaming. You’ll also be able to try your hand at darts or play Shoji with masters dotted around the city. Try talking to ladies at the Cabaret Club, or spending some time (and money) on Pocket Circuit Racing – kitting out your mini car with all the bells and whistles needed to accelerate to victory.
However you choose to spend your nights in Like A Dragon Gaiden, this game makes for a perfect introduction to the franchise.
Grab your copy of Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC now.