To an extent, writing this Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name review feels unnecessary.
The game feels less like a fully-fledged Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios title and more like a premium demo for the next game with some story content attached. In fact, the developer has mentioned they put together this title in about six months.
However, with all of those qualifications in mind, The Man Who Erased His Name manages to be a focused and passionate love letter to longtime fans of the franchise, albeit one with some scope and budget restrictions.
The Man Who Made A Deal
After faking his own death and making a deal with the clandestine Daidoji organization, Kiryu is tasked with an assignment. Said assignment goes horribly wrong, courtesy of a new generation of yakuza captains. If Kiryu wishes to maintain his life off the grid and protect the people he cares about, he will have to work with the Daidoji against an organization he once treated as his own family, putting newfound relationships to the test along the way.
If you enjoy Ryu Ga Gotoku studios' main stories when they are gritty crime stories packed with masculine melodrama, then The Man Who Erased His Name has that in spades.
In terms of pacing, this may be one of the fastest Yakuza titles to date. The story explosively kicks off about ten minutes in and quickly turns into a story of double-crosses, betrayals, and tenuous alliances. At the same time, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a celebration of Kiryu's history and legacy.
The story focuses on how the criminal underworld has mythologized Kiryu's actions throughout the series and uses that as a way to both look back at his deeds and engage with them. These references to previous titles aren't just in story or theme, but also in gameplay.
There's a set piece early on where Kiryu ends up fighting a character that is almost a direct copy from one of the earlier games; tiger punching included. It is framed as equal parts nostalgic for older fans and instructive to newer fans. Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is the equivalent of a Greatest Hits album that new and old fans can enjoy.
Newer fans of the Like A Dragon series will be excited to see Kiryu brush shoulders not just with characters from Yakuza 7, but even characters from sister series, Judgment.
Yes, it's fan service, but it is fan service with a purpose.
The only problem with Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name's story is its length. While it is a more succinct experience compared to the main entries, I managed to hit the credits in about fifteen hours. On average, this means the main story is about half as long as others in the series.
The Man Who Fought Like Hell
With Kiryu back as the protagonist, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name returns to its third-person action roots. In the broadest strokes, it is the same reliable brawler combat that's been around since the 2000s. Light attacks, heavy attacks, grapples, using nearby bicycles and street signs as improvised bludgeons, etc..
The biggest change is in Kiryu's fighting styles. His Yakuza fighting style is his more familiar style with powerful single strikes, super armor, and powerful grapples. Contrasting this is his new Agent fighting style. This style is based more on sweeping kicks and open-palm strikes. Essentially, it's best for crowd control.
What makes this style stand out are the introduction of gadgets.
In addition to punches and kicks, Kiryu can summon drones to distract and buffet enemies, activate a pair of rocket shoes for powerful dash attacks, throw explosive cigarettes, and even tie up and throw enemies around with a spider thread gadget.
These gadgets are the game at its most audacious, and they lead to some of the most hype battles in the series.
Blowing up a gang of enemies with cigarettes or knocking them into walls like a legally distinct, morally dubious Spider-Man is quite entertaining.
ike A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is so confident in this combat, there's an entire battle arena mini-game dedicated to it. You can recruit characters throughout the game, which range from original characters to a few named favorites, and have them join you in massive enemy brawls.
It's an entertaining distraction and helps bring a lot of combat variety to the experience.
The Man Who Has Been There, Done That
If the main story and the combat aren't major draws for you, then Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name doesn't have much else. While the core experience is a great distillation of the style and tone of the entire Yakuza series and Kiryu as a protagonist, the side content is mostly reheated leftovers.
There are some welcome additions, but they're few and far between. The map is still packed with entertaining minigames, golf, mahjong, poker, etc., but aside from a few new arcade video games, there isn't much that is new. As for side missions, they are relegated to quest-giving NPC Akame. Worse still, most of these are forgettable fetch quests and combat challenges.
One of the quests that does capture Like a Dragons quirkiness and charm is one involving a naive teen and an AI program that had me curled up on the floor laughing. This kind of unique quest was a breath of fresh air, but you can count those kinds of side-quests on one hand.
The Man Who Has Moved On
But the main story isn't the only reason to check out Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Upon finishing the main story, you will unlock a special trial version of the next main entry, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
All in all, it's a solid vertical slice of the newest game. It is broken up into two parts. One is narrative-focused on Kiryu and Ichiban Kasuga, while the other allows you to explore a small chunk of the game's new map, try out the new combat, and check out various side missions.
The only real complaint I have with this demo is that there is no way to save progress in the adventure mode. This may also mean progress will not translate to the full version.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Review | Final Thoughts
If you have never gotten into the Yakuza/ Like A Dragon series before but are interested in the new title, then Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a great place to start.
If you're a longtime fan who wants one last trip down memory lane with Kazuma Kiryu and are okay with not much new material, then this side story is worth a look.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 18 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were given by the developer for the process of review.
- Succinct, Exciting Crime Thriller Story
- Entertaining Combat Arena Minigame
- Decent Sneak Peek At Next Game
- Short Story Campaign
- Lacking In Replay Value