I’ve only played about a dozen hours of a Yakuza/Like a Dragon game because I swore a blood oath that I wouldn’t play another one of those until a friend of mine played the Danganronpa games, but Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, shows a lot has changed since I Yakuza Zero. The main change being that our hero Kiryu is basically a superhero with all his new spy gadgets and gizmos, and it’s made one of my least favorite parts of Zero a blast to play.
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When I played Yakuza Zero, I was enamored with its crime soap opera and over-the-top presentation, but I was largely disinterested in its beat-em-up combat. Sure, I can swing my fists and hit people with objects I find around a room all day, but eventually, the waves of enemies started to blend together. Combat became a utilitarian thing I did to get to the next cutscene, and I feared that would be the case when I sat down to play Gaiden. That was my initial fear, but the latest entry in Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s action series shakes things up by giving Kiryu an “Agent” fighting style where the punches and kicks are swept aside for cool gadgets.
Kiryu’s Agent abilities include calling a drone in for air support and throwing grenades to take out multiple enemies at once, but the most important move is the binding wires that are the closest approximation of Spider-Man’s adhesive webs Like a Dragon can justify. Using them not only restricts a group of enemy’s movement, but you can also swing them around and into all their violent buddies. Let me tell you, that was an instant game-changer, and after I swing these fools around and onto the ground, I activate my rocket boots and run them over. It’s silly, campy, and as someone who finds Yakuza’s combat to be the most boring part about it, it was a rollicking good time. Sure, Kiryu has a Yakuza fighting style that is more evocative of the older games, but I do not perceive it. I will stick to my new toys and swing enemies around my head like a helicopter.
While I would love to spend all day swinging those who wish me harm around like Peter Parker, most of my time with Gaiden was spent at the Castle, an area full of mini-games that pretty much acts as a grand tour of the side content folks know and love from the series. This ranged from standards like Poker and Darts to the return of the Cabaret Club minigames that let you go on a paid date with some of the hostesses. The difference this time around is these women are played by live-action models. I don’t mind the social aspects, but the live-action element made the vibes a lot weirder, to the point where I ended up mostly dissociating until it was over. Your mileage may vary, and I’m aware using live-action models for certain segments is a recent trend in the series, but these segments were not for me. Luckily, they’re optional.
Though my time with Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name was brief, it’s clear that the series people already love is well-intact. But it’s bringing enough secret agent spark to give those who fell off combat pretty quickly in past games something new to latch onto. It’s got all the dramatic theatrics and goofy brawling you’ve come to expect, but there’s just a little bit more depth to it this time around.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name will come to PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on November 9.