Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name was announced during that thrilling 2022 RGG Summit as a shorter game that would follow Kiryu during the time between Yakuza 6 and 8 (Infinite Wealth).
While it’s digital-only in the west, Japanese or Asian copies can be played in English if you’re someone like me who really likes having physical copies.
It is impossible to discuss the premise of Gaiden without touching on the ending of Yakuza 6, so if you haven’t finished Yakuza 6 yet and want to avoid spoilers, all you need to know is that Gaiden is a great game with lots of fun side content and some intriguing story developments. You should stop reading here to avoid Yakuza 6 ending spoilers.
For those of you who are still here, let’s continue.
Gaiden picks up with Kiryu, who is now working as an agent for the Daidoji faction after they faked his death. The ending of 6 portrayed this as being Kiryu’s choice to best protect his loved ones, but here it feels more like a threat they’re holding over his head to make him comply. So Kiryu is pretending to be dead and acting as basically a secret agent under the codename “Joryu.”
Things go badly, and soon Kiryu finds himself on a mission to investigate what the Omi Alliance is up to in good old Sotenbori.
The combat system returns to the action brawler style rather than the new turn-based direction, and this is where Kiryu’s new role as a Daidoji agent is most apparent. In this game, you have two combat styles: Agent Style and Yakuza Style. Yakuza style is a slower, heavy combat style based around charging up for powerful hits. Agent Style, meanwhile, is a faster type of combat that makes use of gadgets.
Kiryu starts with a “Spider” gadgets that lets you shoot out lines to restrain enemies and swing them around, and more gadgets are added as the story progresses. I did fall back on regular attacks more often than not, but having some fun new options to turn to did make the combat feel fresh.
There’s also a special counter system when you dodge certain powerful attacks, and I enjoyed using that, too.
Although Gaiden has been described as bridging the gap between Yakuza 6 and Infinite Wealth, most of the game runs concurrently to Yakuza: Like a Dragon. If you’ve been wondering if you should play Gaiden before or after Like a Dragon, the answer is definitely after. It spoils many major plot events from Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
This gives the story a bit of an odd feeling since I had a rough idea of how everything would end up. It felt less like an important story on its own and more of simply showing what Kiryu was doing during the previous game. That’s not to say it was without emotional moments, though – it had some pretty heavy-hitting scenes despite the nature of its story.
It also has a ton of side content. Back when Gaiden was announced, fans were concerned that its shorter size might mean little to no side content, but the opposite is true. My playthrough lasted 25 hours, and I’d bet over half that time came from substories, mini-games, and other optional activities.
The live action cabaret club is awkward but entertaining, some of the best mini-games make a return, substories are as brilliant as ever with a lot of fun callbacks, and there are also smaller missions scattered across the map that give you simple requests like finding a lost item or photographing a specific spot. Then there’s the coliseum, which has several different modes, including a team battle mode where recruited characters fight alongside you (and you can even change who you control as the team leader). You can also customize Kiryu’s outfit, which is the best thing I never knew I needed.
Despite its immediate ties to Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Gaiden felt in a lot of ways like a love letter to Yakuza 0, and as someone who started the series with 0, it felt almost nostalgic.
Much of the experience felt focused on its side content and all the Yakuza goodness that brings. However, the story ended with some truly emotional scenes, as well as a few intriguing story hints that leave me curious about where these plot points are going in the future.
I had a great time playing Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. It’s a shorter (comparatively speaking) Yakuza experience, but a great one, and I can’t wait to see what Infinite Wealth brings.---
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