Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Like a Dragon Gaiden | Kiryu
Title Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher Sega
Release Date Nov. 9, 2023
Genre Action Adventure
Platform PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Age Rating Mature
Official Website

I love the Like a Dragon (nee Yakuza) games. Like, a lot. I started playing them with the PS2 original and have adored following Kiryu’s journey all these years. So, of course a side story starring the Dragon of Dojima was right up my alley, and considering it’s a between-quel (interquel?) of Yakuza: Like a Dragon (also known as Yakuza 7) and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, I had to see what our favorite Fourth Chairman was up to. His cameo in Yakuza 7 was a standout moment in a game I thoroughly enjoyed, so getting the full rundown on his activities leading up to that moment was something I absolutely needed to see for myself.

Like a Dragon Gaiden | Kiryu

As noted, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a side story that plays out concurrently to the events of Y7, so if you’ve played that game, you know how this story is going to end, at least in broad strokes. If you were coming into this looking for high stakes, you aren’t really going to find them. What you will find is a surprisingly interpersonal drama exploring the ramifications of giving up one’s identity and grappling with the losses that come with it. When you’ve spent your entire adult life trying to remove the yoke of institutions from around your neck, how do you come to terms with submitting to a shadowy cabal that strips you of everything you’ve ever held dear – all so you can protect the ones you love the most?

Unlike Y7‘s turn-based RPG battle system, Like a Dragon Gaiden returns to the real-time brawler style the Yakuza games were known for. This time around, Kiryu has two fighting forms he can swap between: Agent and Yakuza. Yakuza style is a pared down version of Kiryu’s Dragon of Dojima style – heavy hitting, strong counters, will grab you by the head and slam you into his knee types of moves. It excels in one-on-one fights or against blocking opponents, since his basic moveset includes a stance break attack. Agent is new to Gaiden and gives Kiryu an assortment of fun gadgets to use during combat. Spider uses wires to bind enemies in place or fling them around the arena; Hornet gives Kiryu control of autonomous drones; Serpent lets Kiryu zip around the arena on rocket shoes; and Firefly is an explosive cigarette that’s great for clearing out crowds. Honestly, Agent is best for crowd control until you level it up enough to wreak havoc in EX Heat mode, at which point I was using it on single bosses as well. I found no end of delight in grabbing five or six guys with Spider and flinging them willy-nilly around a fight. Great stuff.

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The battle arena returns here as well with the Coliseum, and it comes with a fun twist: Hell Team Rumbles. Throughout the story, Kiryu will have the opportunity to recruit several characters to join his Coliseum team for group matches. Unlike large scale battle content in previous games, such as Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2, the Hell Team Rumbles here are real-time slug fests where Kiryu will fight alongside up to 10 NPCs against groups of enemies. You can also play as any of the characters in your roster, not just Kiryu. Characters are broken into three categories: fighter, tank, and healer. Each character can perform a special attack – raising everyone’s attack and defense, healing the whole party, etc. – but so too can enemies. You can raise teammate’s levels to 20 and their bond to three, with a higher bond leading to special effects lasting longer. Hell Team Rumbles can get pretty difficult in the Platinum tiers, so having a solid team of attackers, defenders and healers is a must, and I found Agent style really excelled here thanks to its stronger crowd control. Kiryu can also take part in standard solo fights, and you’re going to need to do a mix of everything if you want to see the Coliseum’s story play out in full.

Like a Dragon Gaiden | Team Hell Rumble

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Like a Dragon game without a ton of side content, and despite being a side story itself, Gaiden does not slack in the mini-game department. Returning are the gambling staples, mahjong, karaoke and golf, as well as Pocket Circuit, everyone’s favorite miniature car racer. While the story isn’t nearly as involved this time as it was in Yakuza 0 or Kiwami, it’s still a fun way to spend a couple hours. The new Pocket Circuit spokeswoman is Ran, a bubbly girl with adorable twin tails who recruits Kiryu to join CourStar, a Pocket Circuit location catering to adults who played during their youth. As with several of the substories in this game, there’s a strong through-line of reminiscence and handing over the torch, and I found it really well done. Nothing about the actual mini-game has changed from previous games, so it’s easy to jump right in if you’re at all familiar with Pocket Circuit. As for karaoke, this time around it’s basically all old-man hits, including Baka Mitai, TONIGHT -restart from this night-, hands, and the new song, Sayonara Silent Night, a catchy little diddy with just enough melancholy to really hit you in the feels. It felt very fitting.

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Also returning are cabaret clubs, though this time around all the cabarets are a new “immersive” experience, with full motion video of women performing the hostess roles rather than in-game models based on those women. You have five girls to choose from, including streamer Kson. The cabaret plays out exactly the same as in previous games, with the girls answering Kiryu’s questions and chatting with him until you raise their affection level sufficiently to earn some alone time with them. I found the experience mildly novel, though felt there was too much delay in the video playback of each woman, giving every encounter a bit of an uncanny feel. It’s nothing insurmountable and didn’t distract that much, but if you’re used to the more seamless experience of previous games, it might take some getting used to. It was neat to see the women be themselves, though, and I always appreciate Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s commitment to using real industry members, considering how often the stories in their games attempt to dispel negative stereotypes around red light district work.

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But Leah, you’re asking, how is the story? Honestly, it’s fantastic, though I feel that should go without saying. It’s a Like a Dragon game, of course the story is good. But like I mentioned earlier, the stakes here are not particularly high by Yakuza standards. Since Like a Dragon Gaiden takes place concurrent to Y7, we ultimately know where Kiryu will end up. This story isn’t about that, though. It’s focused entirely on Kiryu’s relationship with Hanawa, his Daidoji Faction handler, and the tight line Kiryu has to walk in order to keep his identity secret. It’s all about how Kiryu struggles to keep his part of an unfair bargain in which he gave up everything – even his name – to protect Haruka, Haruto and the Morning Glory Orphanage kids’ health and happiness. As a puppet of the Daidoji group, Kiryu – now going by Joryu – has no freedom, though Hanawa seems to do his best to give the former Dragon of Dojima leeway. That can’t last forever though, and when an unknown group stages an attack against the Daidoji, Kiryu’s conviction and morals are put to the test.

Like a Dragon Gaiden | Kiryu

The basic setup is simple enough. The Daidoji are hired to assist the CIA in helping some unnamed terrorist group from another country. They’re supposed to provide cover for a gold bullion hand-off, but it turns out to be a front and the Daidoji group are blindsided by a surprise attack. Hanawa tasks Kiryu with looking into a possible connection between the attackers and the Seiryu Clan in Yokohama, which goes nowhere, but does give us a concrete time period in which this side story takes place. What Kiryu does find in Yokohama are the Omi Alliance, who are up to no good, and after some back and forth with Tsuruno, the Watase Family lieutenant, Kiryu is given a red dragon and a single clue: Akame.

Like a Dragon Gaiden | Akame

Back in Sotenbori, Kiryu ends up under the wing of Akame, an information peddler. Akame acts as both a big story player, as well as Kiryu’s base of operations throughout the game, taking on an assortment of odd jobs from the city’s “jack of all trades” to help keep the streets safe for the homeless. Despite her ties to the Omi Alliance and other underworld entities, Akame has nothing but the best interests of Sotenbori in mind. She’s a fantastic addition to the pantheon of Yakuza characters and I love her. She’s fiery and a bit of a smart ass, but she’s savvy and resourceful as well. She’s also incredibly cute. The entire cast in Like a Dragon Gaiden is fantastic, though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not find someone here who isn’t at the very least interesting.

For all my love of this side story, there were a few issues. I played on the PlayStation 5, and performance was overall quite stellar, but I did notice a lot of pop-in when running around Sotenbori, and on occasion when I loaded back into the street from an instanced area (Stilj, CourStar, some substories) the game would hang on the gray loading screen for an uncomfortably long time. There were also some really noticeable typos throughout the game and a very unfortunate open font tag during the climactic cutscene. It will likely be fixed in a future patch, but felt out of step with how clean previous titles have been regarding the text. And this is admittedly a “me” problem, but there were so many menus when doing Pocket Circuit that I felt really didn’t need to be that excessive. There’s no reason the main races and rivals at the very least couldn’t be nested under the same menu instead of having to exit out of the mini-game entirely every time.

Like a Dragon Gaiden | clubbing

Overall, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a standout entry in this storied franchise. Agent is a fun new addition to Kiryu’s fighting styles, and I really loved the Coliseum this time around, especially the Hell Team Rumbles. Playing dress-up with Kiryu was a ton of fun, and every game should give him the opportunity to walk down a runway. Akame is a wonderful character, and her integration in both the main story and the substories made her feel integral to this snippet of Kiryu’s life. I found the interpersonal drama with Hanawa compelling, as well as everything involving the Omi Alliance. This game also packs a serious emotional gut-punch and features perhaps the best acting I’ve seen from Takaya Kuroda to date. If you’re really craving that old school Yakuza combat and storytelling, Gaiden is a solid experience. It took me a little over 30 hours to complete all substories, finish the Coliseum, complete the main races in CourStar and defeat the lion’s share of rivals. It’s well worth your $49.99 USD.

Review Score

Review copy was provided by the publisher.

Leah McDonald
Leah's been playing video games since her brother first bought an Atari back in the 1980s and has no plans to stop playing anytime soon. She enjoys almost every genre of game, with some of her favourites being Final Fantasy Tactics, Shadow of the Colossus, Suikoden II and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Leah lives on the East Coast with her husband and son. You can follow Leah over on Twitter @GamingBricaBrac