Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review
While fans of the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series await its newest entry – Infinite Wealth – coming early next year, developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has a few tricks up its sleeve beforehand. Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (Gaiden) was initially planned as additional content for Infinite Wealth but has since become a standalone experience. Though it may come across as glorified DLC due to its length, make no mistake: Gaiden is a game all Yakuza diehards should check out.
Following up on the ending of Yakuza 6, Kiryu has been in hiding since being forced to fake his death. To remain in the shadows, Kiryu signed a pact with the Daidoji faction, now working as an agent under the alias “Joryu.” Gaiden kicks off with Kiryu having already spent a significant amount of time with the Daidojis. Most importantly, it provides an exciting and ultimately satisfying explanation as to where the long-running protagonist of the Yakuza series disappeared after the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Keeping It Tight
Depending on how much side content you wish to tackle, Gaiden’s runtime will range from 10-20 hours. This might be a shock to some who have come to expect the Yakuza titles to be 50+ hour behemoths. I found this to be rather refreshing, however. Gaiden tells a tight, competent story that doesn’t get bogged down as much as its predecessors. With that said, you can still expect plenty of the series’ signature twists, turns, wit, and humor to make up the heart of Gaiden.
Gaiden’s presentation isn’t the only similarity it shares with Yakuza games of the past. At this point, if you’ve played even one game from the franchise, you’ve essentially played them all. However, fans who loved the change to a turn-based combat system in Like a Dragon may be disappointed to find Gaiden goes back to its action roots. But it’s essential to bear in mind that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio wanted to tell a more condensed story than usual. Slowing the action down to a methodical turn-based system would fly in the face of this philosophy.
Patience Is a Virtue
The good news is that the action is as rewarding as ever before. Admittedly, Gaiden’s combat starts as a rather mundane exercise involving simple button taps to defeat your foes. It’s when given several hours and a handful of cash that the heat indeed gets turned up. Combat is hard-hitting and every bit as slick as you would come to expect from the series. Two different fighting styles and a boatload of maneuvers ensure you’ll have a method for taking down each enemy type. It’s just that having Kiryu reach his full capabilities can be a bit of a drag.
Where Gaiden does hit a home run right from the jump is in its striking visuals. Whether in Osaka, Yokohama, or (my favorite) the Castle, locations are gorgeous, dense, and fun to explore. All districts bustle with side activities, such as cabaret clubs, karaoke, racing, arcades, etc. As is often the case with the Yakuza franchise, exploring every nook proves to be a major selling point of Gaiden. Sure, none of the three locations are comparatively large when standing shoulder to shoulder with games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3. But they always come across as more than the sum of their parts due to how painstakingly detailed from top to bottom they are.
Unfortunately, other portions of Gaiden didn’t receive the same love and care as the environments. Gaiden suffers from a few issues. Most notably, it has an excessive problem with the physics engine. Far too often did I see enemies bouncing around after being defeated or objects flying across the screen. There’s also a ton of pop-in and clipping that’s hard to ignore. Studio director Masayoshi Yokoyama advised that Gaiden’s entire development cycle was only six months. I can’t help but feel it needed some more time in the oven. Admittedly, however, despite its setbacks, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Gaiden.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means. For Yakuza/Like Dragon fans, it’ll be a familiar, albeit enjoyable experience. It has a few shortcomings – the most egregious being a painfully slow first few hours. But once it gets going, Gaiden packs a punch. One that’s sure to keep you satiated until Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth drops.
***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***
- Fun combat once upgraded
- Gorgeous, dense environments
- Signature humor on display
- Early game drags a bit
- Could be too short for series veterans
- Handful of bugs