Remember Yakuza, back when they were called Yakuza, 2, 3, 4, etc. Then they added Kiwami, then some added bit like 6: The Song of Life. Simpler times. Now we have the ‘rolls of the tongue’ Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. You can’t even get a good acronym out of it.
That’s literally the only negative thing I have to say about Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, because just like every other title in the series, it is a fantastic video game. You could pick titles you personally may not be a fan of, but the quality of the series from day one has been up there with the best and this is no exception.
Having just come off Like A Dragon: Ishin and it’s wonderfully realised Edo period Japan, I was looking forward to returning to a more modern day approach. Namely as I did miss things that I’ll come to soon. Also it was nice for me to be welcomed back by the series’ most recognisable character Kazuma Kiryu. Well, sort of anyway… I mean, Kiryu is dead, who knows who this Joryu is?
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name has from the very start a comforting familiar feel, going back to the more action based combat of earlier titles, after Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon skipped that in favour of turn-based combat.
It’s amazing that by doing what is old, is new again, new life is breathed into the series. It shows how the developers of the games know how to keep things fresh. As essentially all thje games follow the same structure. Follow a story, do a main throughline quest, mess about a bit on the map and have a ton of fights. Yet I’ve never played a Yakuza or LAD game that has felt stale.
On the flip side, I was bored of Shenmue (which is the prelude to this type of game) and that felt stale by the second game. I actually looked back through my personal history of gaming and cannot find a series that has kept me engaged as much as this for as long as this. Aside from Tetris of course.
That comes from numerous factors. First up the story is interesting and the characters, whilst being caricatures somewhat are so well fleshed out, that you care about them. You won’t like them all, but you are invested. There is a well balanced mix of betrayal, intrigue, mystery, drama and comedy that I think may games fail to get right. Even during the longer cut-scenes I was still engaged in what was happening. Which for me is a triumph.
You then add that well crafted but often bonkers story-telling to an open world that just feels alive. As a series Yakuza/LAD has shown time and time again, you don’t need to go bigger to make an impressive open world to explore. In comparison to maps in GTA, The Witcher, Assassins Creed, etc the map for Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is tiny. But there feels like there is someone’s life being led, someone’s story being told on every street in the game.
The world created works so well, because it is also seamless. Walking in and out of buildings with zero (or very fractional) load times helps keep the immersion alive. It also means you get encouraged to try out many of the side bits within the world, because it can be instant.
At one point I was on my way to a a mission and decided to stop and pop into a small arcade to play a claw machine and a little bit of Sonic The Fighters. There are tons of these, from a cabaret, slot racing and tradition tile games too. Not to mention the retro video games you can play in the arcade… ready for this list?
Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Alien Syndrome, Enduro Racer, Fantasy Zone, Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa, Galaxy Force, Global Defense, Maze Hunter 3-D, Quartet and Secret Command, Flicky, Virtua Fighter 2, Sonic the Fighters, Daytona USA 2 and Fighting Vipers 2.
All there for you to pop in and play whenever you damn well please. The Yakuza/LAD games are often better retro compilations than actual compilations. It’s ridiculous how much is included here.
The main pull of the game though is still the adventure of Kiryu himself and the many, many, many battles you will have with him along the way. Which once again shows how a well crafted experience can win out over everything else. Combat is simple, yet challenging as you switch between styles to take on groups of ‘baddies’. It flows so well and makes you feel like a a top Yakuza tyoe with the skills built up over years of service. Not the bumbling idiot other games make you come across as.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a shining example of how making a game that is a joy to play is still the right thing to do when you are a major publisher. It could have been easy for SEGA to lock the added extras behind a paywall, or premium currency, instead it is all just part of one of the finest single player experiences you can have.
I’d hate to rank the Yakuza/LAD games, but this so far is one of my favourites, it is just so well made, it left me with a ton of emotions, from sadness to grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I love being in the world of Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and you will too.
Oh as a bonus Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth’s demo is included… remember when games would do stuff like that on the disc for upcoming games.