During last year’s RGG Summit, Studio Ryu Ga Gotoku and SEGA announced not one, not two, but three upcoming games for the “Yakuza” franchise. The news came alongside the announcement that the series will no longer be known as “Yakuza” in the West anymore but will be called “Like a Dragon” from now on. Somewhat fitting as Ryu Ga Gotoku literally translates to Like A Dragon. Technically, only one of these games was expected by fans, but even that came with a twist that I am sure no one saw coming, so let’s just say that all three of these games surprised us and weren’t expected, shall we? The first of the bunch was “Like a Dragon Ishin!” a remake of “Yakuza Ishin!” which was exclusive to Japan, and the fans of the series were practically begging for localization support for this one. The game recently came out, so you can say that the fans of the series are having a blast these days. Next up, we have the game that everyone expected, which is “Like a Dragon 8,” the continuation of the mainline series. The series I put this one in the unexpected category as well because despite us knowing that this was happening, RGG threw a curveball our way in the form of series lead Kazuma Kiryu returning once again and being the second playable protagonist in this game alongside Ichiban Kasuga. His story ended with “Yakuza 6,” and despite his cameo in “Yakuza Like Dragon,” seeing him return once again as a playable character was not something any of us would have seen coming, I am sure. Finally, the third game and the game we are here to talk about today was “Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name,” which I have said countless times and will keep saying is a terrible name for a video game.
What immediately hooked me in about this game, and I am assuming the fanbase in general as well, is that this will be once again a Kiryu-centric game. The game will fill in the gaps and tell the story of Kiryu’s whereabouts after the end of “Yakuza 6” and before the beginning of “Like a Dragon 8,” which is slated for a 2024 release. With “Ishin!” out and “Like A Dragon 8” far away, RGG is bound to shift its focus toward marketing this game, and so are we by talking about it. From this point onward, expect spoilers for the old “Yakuza” games and “Yakuza 6” and “Yakuza Like A Dragon” in particular, so if you have not played these games before, this has been your warning. Other than that, we only have one single trailer that practically tells us nothing to go by for reference, so all of this will be speculative territory and can be absolutely wrong when the game comes out. With all of that out of the way, let’s see why “Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name” will be worth your time in 2023.
Let’s start with the story here for a second. The official material tells us that the game will pick up after the events of “Yakuza” end, before the beginning of “Like a Dragon 8,” and tell us what Kiryu has been up to in between. If you weren’t aware, Kiryu, aka The Dragon of Dojima, died in the eyes of the world at the end of “Yakuza 6.” In reality, he faked his death to protect the ones he loved and went into hiding. The trailer gives us a glimpse of Kiryu meditating inside the Daidoji temple during the summer of 2018 when he gets approached by a mysterious man who offers him a job and gives him a new name, Joryu. What’s interesting about this exchange is that it seems like Kiryu has done multiple “jobs” for them before this, and this is perhaps how he gets contacted by Watase when he makes an appearance as a bodyguard in Osaka during Chapter 12 of “Yakuza Like A Dragon.” Secondly, he is hiding in the Daidoji temple, which, in his own words from the trailer, is a front for the Daidoji faction, which is also very interesting as Daidoji, aka The Fixer, was the man who wanted Kiryu dead in “Yakuza 6” for exposing the secret of Onomichi. Soon afterward, Daidoji dies because of his old age, but how and why Kiryu is being helped by them is not something that adds up as of yet. I guess we’ll have to learn it all for ourselves when we play the game. I do have one thing to say about the story here that worries me, but we can talk about that in the negative section.
The World And Characters
If you have played any “Yakuza” games before, then you already know that the characters and the world are the bread and butter of this franchise. Starting with the characters here, we do not know how many of them will be featured, but one thing we know for sure is that they’ll be memorable, as RGG always hits the mark when it comes to their characters. Kiryu is going to be known as Joryu here, as mentioned above, and other than him, we only get a glimpse at the mysterious stranger who offered him the job alongside the monk who was disciplining Kiryu. I am 90% positive that we won’t be seeing returning characters here, so don’t hold your breath for more Majima, Saejima, Daigo, or anyone else from the mainline roster. This game will more than likely only focus on Kiryu, or should I say Joryu, and feature mostly new faces that we have not seen before since Kiryu is hiding.
Speaking of hiding, that brings me to the world of the game. Again, there is no official confirmation on any of this as of yet, but I do have a strong feeling that for the first time in the series’ history, Kamurocho won’t be our playground in this game. Logically, it can’t be since Kiryu is “dead” and he can’t be seen in public, so Kamurocho is naturally a no-go and based on that logic, I think Sotenbori and perhaps even Ijincho are out of the question. That means a new world, and that is exciting if you ask me. Kamurocho has always been in every “Yakuza” game; it’s where all the events happen, and we have run around its streets so much that we practically are residents of that city block at this point. Breaking that trend and seeing a new location not just as the player but also through Kiryu’s eyes is a thrilling prospect, and I can’t wait to see how it’s handled.
The Combat And Minigames
Let’s get the minigames out of the way here first. We know the Cabaret Club minigame is going to return for this game, as RGG gave us official confirmation not long ago. The question remains, will it be the game from “Yakuza 0” and “Yakuza Kiwami 2,” where you run the club as a manager, or if it will be the one where you visit the club and chat with the hostess’. We’ll have to wait and see, but if I were to place a bet, I’d say the one where you are the manager as that’s a fan favorite, and announcing that the Cabaret Club minigame will be returning bodes well for that over the other one. Other than that, we have no clue, but this is a “Yakuza” game after all, so expect to see some old favorites (fingers crossed for Karaoke with new songs) and some new games exclusive to this one, as it’s always the case.
Now, for the combat, I have a very interesting theory for this one. For starters, this game will feature a real-time beat ’em up/ brawler combat and not the turn-based system they are going forward with since “Yakuza Like A Dragon.” The old games “Yakuza 3, 4, and 5” have a different style of combat when compared to the in-between games “Yakuza 0” and “Yakuza Kiwami,” which also have a different style of combat when compared to the Dragon Engine games “Yakuza 6” and “Yakuza Kiwami 2.” Ask any “Yakuza” fan, and they’ll be quick to note that the best system of them all was the one in “Yakuza 0” and “Yakuza Kiwami,” and the reason behind that would be style switching. These are the only two games that allow Kiryu to switch his fighting style by the press of a button in the middle of combat so he can choose between Brawler, Rush, Beast, and The Dragon Of Dojima Style on the fly. The Dragon Engine games got rid of style switching and gave us a more streamlined combat system, which didn’t go well with a lot of fans as they found it one-note and, simply put, a regression. If you ask me, because of the different games opting for different mechanics because of different technologies, Kiryu’s fighting never got an identity of its own, which I know is a bold statement and may as well be an unpopular opinion, but give it some thought and you’ll know what I mean. Here’s my crazy theory, though, this game may give Kiryu’s fighting that identity I was talking about. Why? The “Judgment” games So, the spin-off series “Judgment” is made using the Dragon Engine but brought back style switching, and trust me when I say that the combat in those games is a billion times better than any “Yakuza” game. RGG finally cracked the case of a great combat system with the “Judgment” games. Because of the experience behind those games, we may get a Kiryu here who can switch styles, or we may get one who has a huge moveset comprising all of his styles packed into a single style. The key difference here is that Yagami from the “Judgment” games is much more agile when compared to Kiryu; however, Kiryu’s fists hit like a truck when compared to Yagami’s (at least lore-wise), so seeing The Dragon Of Dojima get a definitive combat system for a game that will probably be the last time he sails the ship solo is a send-off that is befitting and almost screams perfection.
A small and quick point to mention is that RGG has confirmed that this game will be a much shorter experience than the mainline games have been, so I am sure that it won’t be a full-priced endeavor. RGG’s history speaks for itself, as they have always charged players fairly, and if they are coming out and saying that this game will be shorter, then its price will be lighter as well. Even what they call “short” is like 50 hours long, at the least, if you decide to do everything, so pricing is not an issue here either way. Don’t expect an English dub for this one either, which is fine; I can listen to Takuya Kuroda’s voice as Kiryu or, in general, all day. We’ll know when we’ll know, but I thought this was worth mentioning. Plus, this will be a Dragon Engine game, so you can bet that it’ll look stunning.
Let me clear this thing up before starting this: I am dripping with joy and am excited to play this game when it comes out, but there are still a few things that I feel can go wrong with it. I won’t dwell on them too much, but here are a couple of things that I feel can bring this game down a tad:
The story may take a hit or two for two reasons. First, series veteran and the man behind the “Yakuza” series, Toshihiro Nagoshi, left SEGA and RGG after the release of “Lost Judgment,” so this will be the first game without him, and while I have full faith in the team behind this game in general, it’s still scary when an experienced driver leaves his seat behind. Secondly, because of the length that this game is going for, I wonder if this tale will even hold relevance in the grand scheme of things. It’s great that we get to see Kiryu in action once again, especially that we’ll get to learn how his absence treated him, but once again, the question lingers: will it hold any meaning, or will it just be meaningless filler? We’ll find out soon enough.
Another reason I am worried a little is if this is a budget title, then we don’t know how many corners will be cut, and the only blemishes in any “Yakuza” games that are visible and get annoying are when RGG starts to cut corners either due to time or budgetary restraints. I am okay with two minigames and ten sub-stories over 20 minigames and 100 sub-stories, so long as the quality remains consistent.
Finally, and this is, at best, a personal nitpick, the name I do not like; it sounds stupid, and I am sorry, but I said it. “Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name” is such a mouthful for any entertainment property. Maybe the word Gaiden there is to tell us that this is a spin-off series of sorts, and The Man Who Erased His Name is the first entry in the Gaiden spin-off; even then, the name is stupid. It’d be great if they could workshop the name a bit, but if not, well, it’s okay; we can digest it so long as the game is great.
That pretty much sums up all the things we know about this game as of yet and what I am personally hoping to see here. Of all the three games, this one excites me the most. Sure, I’ll be playing through “Ishin!” and “Like a Dragon 8” is definitely on my radar, but having another Kiryu game with the beat ’em up style of combat all using the Dragon Engine just clicks with me instantly. I can’t wait to learn more about this game and get my hands on it, and 100% it is just like I have done every “Yakuza” game, so yes, I have a bias here. RGG never misses anyway, and there’s a reason why they are one of the best studios in the business, so I am ready for this. I am hoping so are you.