Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (I’ll cut this down to LaD Gaiden from now on…) is the newest entry in the Like a Dragon series and acts as a prequel to the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, along with acting as a partner title to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, giving us background on Kiryu’s whereabouts during that title.
It’s hard to say this without it seeming negative, but LaD Gaiden is essentially just another Like a Dragon game, but I mean that with all the love in the world. Unlike the previous title, this is a return to the brawler style for the main storyline for the first time since Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and damn it feels good. Kiryu in this game is one of my favourite incarnations of him, with both his Agent and Yakuza combat styles being utterly insane. Agent Style is an entirely new style for Kiryu this time around; owing to his new training as a member of the Daidoji, he fights with much more technical prowess than any game before, instead of the dirtier street fighting techniques of the past. This style also comes equipped with four gadgets, which are some of the most bizarre and hilarious tools I have ever had the pleasure to use in this series; first off, Kiryu has the Spider, a wire Kiryu can use to tie up and toss enemies around; he also gains access to the Hornet, a weaponised attack drone which he can summon to attack or defend; Firefly, a cigarette grenade, need I say more; and finally my favourite… Serpent. These are rocket shoes used to propel Kiryu into and through hordes of enemies. I found this style to be mostly a little underpowered, aside from the Serpent shoes, which blitzed through groups, and the Agent styles's EX Heat combos, which did an unreal amount of damage. The Yakuza style was much more in tune with Kiryu’s previous forms, with most of the moveset being identical to his Yakuza 6 counterpart. This style led to one of, if not the strongest feeling incarnations of Kiryu since possible Yakuza Kiwami (Tiger Drop anyone?). Much of the game felt like it pushed side content pretty hard, so I ended up getting insanely strong incredibly quickly, utterly slaughtering most of the game's bosses even on the hardest difficulty.
The story was fine for the most part. I can’t say it was incredible, nor even that it stood up to most of the franchise, but it did a decent job telling the stories it needed. The first half of the story was really strong, and the final chapter was also incredibly engaging, but much of the moments in between felt lacking in direction and a little bloated, forcing a lot of busywork to pad out the runtime here and there. The main villains were pretty hit or miss, but for the most part, they made a good impression, especially considering their much more limited screen time compared to previous games. Admittedly, the final cutscene emotionally obliterated me and had me spilling more than a few tears, so the ending will stick with me, and it did make me more excited for Infinite Wealth.
LaD Gaiden, despite being a smaller title, didn’t skimp out on the side content, which has always stood out incredibly well within the franchise. First off, there are the usual mini-games strewn around Sotenbori, where the majority of the game is based: Mahjong, Shogi, Golf, Pool, and a few others along with the returning Cabaret Club mini-game which is… interesting. Kiryu can meet five different women, who in this game are all real-life women chosen through a competition, and through growing a relationship with them, you’ll eventually be able to go out on a date with them leading to your “reward”... a seductive video. It’s bizarre, but it’s incredibly fitting for the franchise. Next up there are “Stroll ‘n’ Patrol” missions, which can be found randomly around Sotenbori, rewarding you a small amount of money and Akame Points for doing mostly minor tasks like gifting people items or finding hidden objects for them. Akame Points work as part of the Akame Network, a system encompassing much of the side content, akin to the completion lists of previous games. This also gives Kiryu access to all of the Sidestories the game has to offer. This can be picked up from Akame herself, in a similar manner to the case board from Judgment. Having them all centralised was very convenient, but removed some of the charm of finding random Sidestories around the cities of the previous games.
The game's best side content (for me at least) all takes place at The Castle, which contains a few other smaller mini-games, such as the casino and gambling hall, yet it is primarily built around the Coliseum. This functions similarly to older titles, rewarding money in exchange for Kiryu battling in a variety of fights, with 1v1 battles, and rumbles, which face Kiryu against groups of opponents, along with the pièce de résistance, Hell Team Rumble. This is a large group event, stacking Kiryu’s team against other huge groups of enemies. Through Sidestories and other means, Kiryu can build a team of allies to face off in this mode, all of which have unique abilities. It’s simple, but the scale of these fights makes things feel so much more exciting than the other modes.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a wonderful return to the classic formula of the Like a Dragon franchise, bringing Kiryu back to centre stage with heaps of fun combat mechanics, a story full of the usual twists and turns and engaging characters, and a vast wealth of side content.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a masterful entry in the franchise, and only makes me crave even more from the series.