Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review

Richard Walker

You can't keep a good hero down, it seems, and while we thought we'd waved a tearful goodbye to Kazuma Kiryu in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, here he is once more, stalking familiar labyrinthine streets and old haunts. And, within the space of the first five minutes of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, Kazuma Kiryu finds himself strolling straight into a scuffle on the streets of Tokyo. You can take the man out of the yakuza, but you can't take the Yakuza out of the man. “Turn around now and I'll let you go home in one piece,” he warns, now operating under the pseudonym of 'Joryu', having faked his own death. Thugs everywhere would do well to take heed – Kiryu/Joryu can still bust heads with the best of 'em. So too can RGG Studio's prolific series.

Rocking a Clark Kent disguise (tinted spectacles and a new suit), Kiryu is taken aback when gangsters start crawling out of the woodwork, recognising the legendary Dragon of Dojima in and around the back-alleys of Sotenbori. Seriously, what did he expect? Nonetheless, he has a new identity now, and a new job as an agent for the Daidoji faction, in exchange for keeping his continued existence on the down-low. With his work putting him right into the line of fire, however, Kiryu's cover as Joryu is a tenuous thing. Thank goodness for the suite of gadgets the Daidoji has furnished him with, then, like the standard-issue Spider gadget, which enables Joryu to tie up and throw enemies with neon, gossamer-like threads. Or grab otherwise out-of-reach collectibles.

Later, Joryu gets his mitts on Hornet drones he can summon to swarm enemies, exploding Firefly cigarettes he can casually flick into crowds, and, most absurd of all, a pair of rocket-propelled leather shoes (dubbed 'Serpent', for some reason) he can use to boost out of trouble. You'll find all of this under Joryu's 'Agent' fighting style – a fast and fluid way of beating foes down, not a million miles away from his old 'Rush' style, or the martial arts moves flexed by Judgment's Takayuki Yagami. If you'd prefer something more traditional, then you can always hark back to Kiryu's Dragon of Dojima past with the 'Yakuza' fighting style, all brutal and hard-hitting. In the years since Yakuza 6's denouement, Kiryu has learned a few new tricks, too, like the Ultimate Counter.

Those old enemy heat moves that used to be impossible to block, can now be parried with a well-timed sidestep and subsequent follow-up attack, while you can use the Spider gadget to snatch weapons. Despite Joryu having only two fighting styles, there's still a great deal of flexibility to Like a Dragon Gaiden's combat, and an array of upgrades to acquire with cold hard cash and Akame Points (you'll need plenty of both). The substories that Yakuza/Like a Dragon is known for now fall under the aegis of the Akame Network, a benevolent underground operation run by headstrong red-haired firebrand Akame. At her behest, you'll take on requests, substories, and brief errands (called ‘Stroll ‘n’ Patrol’ quests) scattered all over Sotenbori, all of which accumulate Akame Points.

Meanwhile, Joryu's relationship with Akame deepens, and the narrative eventually leads to the Castle, a huge container ship concealing a gaudy complex built for pure debauchery. At the heart of the Castle is the Coliseum, where Joryu finds himself carving out a reputation as a formidable cage fighter, which, as you'd expect, only raises greater suspicion from spectators that maybe Kazuma Kiryu might actually be alive and well. In the Coliseum, you can assemble the Joryu Clan, a team of fighters to pit against opposing teams in no-holds-barred Hell Rumble showdowns. And it'll take a fair few fights to reach the Platinum tier, granting full access to all of the Castle's amenities, including the full range of clothing options at the boutique, where you can play dress up.

As ever, Like a Dragon Gaiden delivers big on distractions and side activities, with Pocket Circuit racing making a return, alongside the usual raft of gambling games, karaoke, darts, pool, SEGA arcade classics and Master System games, as well as slightly weird live-action Cabaret Clubs. But it's the central narrative that manages to compel, as it always does. It feels good to be back in the thick of it with the Omi Alliance and the Castle's smarmy overseer, Homare Nishitani III. There may be a few too many callbacks, references, and connections to the rest of the series for newcomers, but fans will immediately feel right at home in Kiryu's latest adventure, a wonderfully cinematic yarn that, despite its relative brevity (just five chapters), manages to fit an awful lot in.

It's remarkable that Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name feels fresh after so many series entries, but, again, RGG Studio has done a great job in introducing a lot of new ideas, especially for a game that's a stop gap for the next mainline chapter (the literal translation of Gaiden is 'side-story'). While it might be a little shorter overall (a good 15-20 hours+), Like a Dragon Gaiden is every bit as fun and exciting as any of the other series' highlights, and a perfect aperitif for the impending launch of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth in January. If you've been desperate to check in with Kiryu since Yakuza 6, then this is not only a characteristically enjoyable way to catch up with a character you've no doubt grown to love, but an absolutely cracking game full-stop.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who ...

A relatively short side-story it may be, but Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a blistering chapter in Kiryu's journey, a Yakuza 6 epilogue that brilliantly tees up what's next, while delivering on the unadulterated fun and weirdness the series is celebrated for.

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A lot of familiar ditties and a few new ones, as well as all of those recognisable street sounds across Ijincho and Sotenbori. Excellent voice acting, as ever, too.


RGG Studio's Dragon engine ensures lovely rich visuals, as always, although many of the same little bugs persist. Still, this is a gorgeous-looking game brimming with detail.


The brawler side of the Like a Dragon series still has ample mileage, and RGG introduces enough new mechanics to keep things fresh. Crucially, it's still great fun.


A shorter game, but one that still has an impressive amount of content crammed into it, most of which falls under the Akame Network and its substories. Again: fun.


Not the best achievement list – there are far too many tasks centred upon collecting stuff or grinding out milestones, and not nearly enough creativity.

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