Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a compelling title full of engaging combat, welcome distractions, and an intense, emotional story. While a bit short, it’s a must-play for Yakuza fans.
Abundance of activities
Stunning visuals, especially when in the city at night
A bit rushed
Newcomers could feel lost in the wider narrative
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Release date: November 9, 2023
Neon signs wash over the bustling city streets of Osaka, Japan. I’ve just left Club Sega arcade and I’m heading to a bar when some cartoonish thugs confront me. Our brief battle concludes after I unleash punches, kicks, explosions, and an army of drones. I get my drink - Macallan, neat - and I decide it’s time for some karaoke. I am Kazuma Kiryu and this is the action-adventure game Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, from developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.
Set in 2019, Like a Dragon Gaiden takes place three years after 2016’s Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, the game where Kiryu bid his emotional farewell to the series by faking his death to protect his loved ones. Now going by the name of Joryu, our hero is working for the Daidoji Faction, a mysterious organization with fingers in many dubious pies, and it’s clear early on that this isn’t a happy existence.
Kiryu keeps a low profile, working as a bodyguard/heavy for Daidoji, but this simple life in the shadows is soon disrupted when a dodgy deal goes awry, resulting in Kiryu’s handler, Hanawa, being attacked and almost abducted. One thing leads to another and Kiryu is deployed to Sotenbori - the in-universe version of Osaka’s Dōtonbori district - in an effort to uncover who was behind this act.
The rest is heavily into spoiler territory, but I can say that it’s a much shorter experience than we’re used to from the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series. Even digging into the side quests and minigames I still rolled credits within 15 hours, much shorter than the usual Kiryu-led adventure. In other words, this Dragon doesn’t ever drag on (I’m sorry).
A new face to the series is Akame, a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ to use her words, who runs the Akame Network in Sotenbori. Similar to the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man app in Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man games, people can report issues through it, and Akame enlists Kiryu to resolve them.
Ranging from food delivery and tracking down lost items, to, of course, knocking the stuffing out of villains, there’s plenty of busywork to be getting on with in Osaka. However, despite an overwhelming amount of tasks, it’s difficult to resist undertaking them because each completed chore feels rewarding as you earn both money and Akame points, a currency that can be exchanged for items and power-ups, administering sweet hits of dopamine faster than gaming videos on TikTok.
It’s worth noting that Akame Network tasks are integral to progressing the main plot, along with another new feature: The Coliseum. This is a battle arena in which you fight your way through a variety of challenges. There are one-on-one bouts, matches where you fight multiple foes back-to-back, and a group battle mode where you enlist AI allies for mass brawls, which is as chaotic as it is enjoyable. You’ll need to recruit teammates for the latter, with some familiar faces available to enter the ring with Kiryu.
It’s always your turn
Speaking of combat, Like a Dragon Gaiden doesn’t use the turn-based system introduced in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the confusingly named mainline game that’s effectively ‘Yakuza 7,’ taking place canonically after Gaiden. Instead, Kiryu’s latest adventure follows the same formula as the previous core games and delivers unadulterated brawler action.
Generally, it’s simple to perform: on PS5, for example, the Square button is a basic attack that you can mash for a combo, with Triangle offering a strong/finisher move. However, there’s more to it depending on which of the two fighting styles, Yakuza and Agent, you adopt.
Playing as Kiryu again is a dream come true. I’ve missed his brawler combat, wholesome personality, and soothing singing voice.
The former is familiar territory to fans of the series, with heavy blows, wrestling-esque moves, and the ability to wield random items around you, from traffic cones to bicycles. The Agent style is brand new in Like a Dragon Gaiden, allowing Kiryu to administer faster blows and utilize a variety of weapons. Continuing the Spider-Man game parallels, our hero has a tool called the Spider Gadget that he can use to tie up foes from afar and hurl them around.
Kiryu also has rocket-propelled shoes that let him zip around in battle, knocking down any baddie who dares stand in your way. There’s also an explosive cigarette for a James Bond-like explosive attack and you can call in multiple drones to hassle your opponents. All of this combines to make a combat style that not only suits Kiryu’s new cloak-and-dagger lifestyle but delivers a ruthless efficiency to downing enemies that keeps the game’s pace running high.
Living for the city
When not engaged in combat, the game’s world is full of a multitude of captivating pastimes. The Yakuza/Like a Dragon games are well known for their minigames, and Like a Dragon Gaiden is no exception. There’s karaoke, darts, billiards, shogi, poker, blackjack, UFO catchers, classic Sega arcade games like Sonic the Fighters, and more. I honestly lost track of the time I spent with these distractions, but I’ll be damned if I don’t lose more hours to Virtua Fighter and slot car racing.
If you can pull yourself away from these distractions, there are plenty of sights to see around Sotenbori, including quirky signs and gorgeous riverside views. Then there are bars and restaurants to visit that turn Gaiden into a charming life sim, if only for a while. You can also explore a restricted version of Ijincho, the district from Yakuza: Like a Dragon that’s based on Yokohama’s Isezakichō, but you’ll find it less alive and alluring than Osaka.
Tears of a dragon
Like a Dragon Gaiden’s biggest strength is in its sentimentality. While the game egregiously rushes over the events of Yakuza 7, which presents a potential hurdle for newcomers, it’s somewhat understandable as Like a Dragon Gaiden is Kiryu’s story, and he wasn’t present for most of the previous game. Instead, we get a rather barebones summary of Yakuza 7’s main plot beats - but that gives more time to explore the life and times of Joryu, which is to say Kiryu’s story after Yakuza 6.
When Kiryu disappeared at the end of the 2016 game, it was a bittersweet ending at best. Kiryu faked his death so that his adopted daughter Haruka and her family could live in peace, along with the children at the orphanage that Kiryu ran. So when we see Kiryu living an empty existence under Daidoji’s ever-watching eye, longtime fans are immediately sympathetic to the once-legendary former yakuza man.
As the story progresses in Like a Dragon Gaiden, we see Kiryu suffer like never before. This is a guy who has been through trying times, but some scenes in this game really hit home as to how much Kiryu has sacrificed. At one point I was in floods of tears because I finally saw this iconic tough guy break down in a truly masterfully-crafted scene. However, as amazing as the direction and voice actor’s performance were, I hope I never see Kiryu cry again.
Overall, Like a Dragon Gaiden is a relatively short but still satisfying entry in this iconic series. The return of Kiryu as protagonist is an exquisite treat, and effectively sets up his prominent role in the next mainline game, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. While it feels a bit rushed in some parts of the main story, it’s a must-play for fans.
Like a Dragon Gaiden offers three difficulty options - beginner, standard, and professional - and you can change between them at any time. The main difference is how much damage enemies inflict, but beginner also adds a combat assist feature by default, which can be turned off without changing modes.
Within the settings menu, you can remap each button. You can also change the size and color of subtitles, and add a background to them in cutscenes. Lastly, there is color vision assistance for Deuteranopia, Protanopia, and Tritanopia, including a slider for adding/reducing the level of application.
How we reviewed Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
I spent 20 hours with Like a Dragon Gaiden, rolling credits after 15. As well as finishing the main story, I began the Premium Adventure mode, which lets players continue enjoying side content after the main campaign finishes. From here I did Akame Network tasks, sampled the wide range of minigames, and increased my rank in the Coliseum.
If you're looking for other top-tier games and gaming gear this winter, then check out our coverage of the early Black Friday game deals, Black Friday PS5 deals, Black Friday Xbox Series X deals, and Black Friday Xbox Series S deals.