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

Like a Dragon Gaiden Review

Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s newest game in their critically acclaimed Like a Dragon franchise, Like a Dragon Gaiden, is an odd game. As the title Gaiden implies, this isn’t a full-length Like a Dragon game. Instead, Sega has delivered us a short (25-hour) side game to hold fans over until the release of Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth in January. As a huge fan of the Like a Dragon franchise, I’m the prime audience for this type of title. So, does this action-brawler help create hype or has the short development time made this a title not worth picking up? Let’s dissect the game piece by piece so you can make that decision for yourself in this Like a Dragon Gaiden review.

Gameplay – 7/10

Like a Dragon Gaiden sees the return of Kazuma Kiryu and his classic brawler gameplay, however, it is not a complete return to form for him. Kiryu no longer has access to his classic fighting style, instead opting for two new styles known as Agent style and Yakuza style.

While these styles in this game are fun in their own right, I couldn’t help but wish Kiryu had his classic style for this final hurrah. It doesn’t help that I only got use out of two of the Agent Styles gadgets.

Using the spider gadget and exploding cigarettes to pull in enemies and trap them in explosions is great fun. Standing around trying to use the drone gadget and rocket boots is less so.

Despite my issues with Agent Style, exploring the city of Sotenbori to fight enemies and solve problems in the game’s various sidequests is still as fun as ever. The sidequests in this game are on the weaker side of the franchise but still offer a lot of fun and humorous situations.

In addition to this, for the first time in the series, you customize Kiryu’s appearance! Walking around town in various stylish suits and painted nails truly compliments the Dragon of Dojims experience.

One aspect of the game that deserves all the praise it can get is the Colosseum in the Castle. This returning game mode, which has been absent for the past four games, has been greatly expanded. Instead of only letting you play as Kiryu, you can play as any Colosseum fighter.

This mode truly feels like a swan song for the franchise’s brawler gameplay before we permanently move on to turn-based combat in Infinite Wealth. Everything that you have wanted to do with the classic gameplay can be done in this mode.

Minigames – 7/10

Like a Dragon Gaiden Review
Screenshot by Raider King

Of course, you can’t talk about the gameplay of Like a Dragon or make a Like a Dragon Gaiden review without talking about the franchise’s various minigames. They’re often the first thing people think about with the franchise, after all.

Unfortunately, Gaiden’s position as a side game to hold us over for the real game in a few months rears its head the most here. There are no new minigames introduced in Gaiden, just returning classics.

Thankfully, nearly all of these returning minigames are good and have had small UI changes that make them more enjoyable than ever. Minigames include mainstays like Karaoke, Sega arcade games, and golf. We also see returning minigames that sat out a few entries like Pool, and Pocket Circuit.

Pocket Circuit’s return is a welcome surprise, especially as it’s been refined so that all the car parts can be bought from the area where the minigame is. No longer will you have to run around the whole city trying to find new parts to trial and error your way to victory.

The Hostess Club minigame is probably the worst that it’s ever been. I have never been a fan of this minigame and have always felt talking to the hostess women felt weird. Not to mention, considering his character, it feels strange for Kiryu to be doing this.

That weirdness has changed into a consistent uncomfortable feeling as the women are now FMVs instead of in-game models. Leading to a weird parasocial feeling about the minigame that makes me never want to touch it again.

Aside from the Hostess Club, the minigames are all good. I just wish we had at least one with extra pizazz instead of only the simple ones this time around.

Story – 7/10

One of the most important parts of a Like a Dragon game is the story and emotional core it brings to the characters. Gaiden’s plot opts to tell a much smaller scale story than what the franchise is used to. Because of this, it’s hard to really speak of it in a Like a Dragon Gaiden review.

The fact that Gaiden was originally supposed to be a simple thirty-minute cutscene in the previous game is very obvious from the plot of the game’s first two chapters. Every mystery proposed by this game was already solved and the audience is merely waiting for Kiryu to know what we know.

Despite this though, the character moments in the game are fantastic. Kiryu in this game is the most emotionally vulnerable we have ever seen him and scenes where he is seconds from breaking down in tears tug at the player’s heartstrings to great effect.

We were told upfront by the game’s name alone that the story of Gaiden wouldn’t have a large effect on the franchise, so it’s hard to judge it there. Instead, focusing on how it makes fans of the franchise feel should be prioritized.

The plot of this game pays great respects to those who have been playing the franchise since the very first game. Kiryu’s relationships with older characters like Haruka and Yumi are put front and center to great effect.

The climax of the game especially works. Seeing scenes from Yakuza: Like a Dragon from Kiryu’s perspective and seeing all the work he put into ending the Yakuza is much more engaging than you would expect from a simple side game.

Overall, this story excels at what it wants to do and is a great treat for fans of the series and Kazuma Kiryu.

Graphics – 10/10

Like a Dragon Gaiden Review
Screenshot by Raider King

For nearly a decade now Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios has been trying to perfect the Dragon Engine that all the modern Like a Dragon games run on. It is with great joy that I can say that they finally did it.

Every aspect of this game looks stunning. From the details on character models to the sun shining down on the Sotenbori River. The city of Sotenbori has never looked so breathtaking and makes Gaiden feel like a perfect send-off to this iconic franchise location.

The game has several moments almost built to show off the graphics and what RGG Studios can achieve now. Scenes in the Castle area in particular are filled with dynamic lighting and water effects.

All of the praise I give Dragon Engine in this Like a Dragon Gaiden review, of course, also extends to the performance.

Performance – 9/10

It’s no secret that while the Dragon Engine can look stunning, that has always come at the cost of performance. Previous Dragon Engine games such as Judgment and Yakuza 6 suffered greatly from intense frame drops during combat. Judgment in particular could become a slideshow during fights with explosion effects.

Shockingly though, Like a Dragon Gaiden doesn’t suffer from any of these issues! Through a combination of modern console hardware and the developers now being veterans with the engine, the game runs smooth as silk at all times. I cannot think of a single frame drop I experienced in my entire playthrough.

Seeing NPCs walk around at a consistent 60 FPS can almost feel surreal at times when you remember how choppy previous entries can get. Whatever RGG Studios did when making this game, it’s working like magic.

With the Dragon Engine having finally hit its peak graphically and performance-wise, I cannot wait until January rolls around and we get to see how Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth runs on it.

Enjoyment – 8/10

While Like a Dragon Gaiden can fumble with its plot at times and I didn’t have as much fun with the Agent Style as I should have, the overall enjoyment of the game cannot be understated as a Like a Dragon mega fan.

This is a game made specifically for already existing fans of the franchise. It has been seven long years since we last played as Kiryu. Since then, both the franchise and the engine it runs on have changed dramatically.

Like a Dragon Gaiden is a game that exists as fanservice to people who missed Kiryu. Considering the upcoming Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth is advertising itself with the concept of Kiryu having cancer, this may also be the last time we get to play as him.

From that perspective, it’s hard not to enjoy Gaiden for what it is. One final victory lap for the franchise’s first protagonist. It may not be an extremely important game, but it’s the calm before the upcoming storm.

If you take anything away from this Like a Dragon Gaiden review, it’s that even when it stumbles, it’s still paving the way for what is expected to be one of the greatest games ever.

I greatly enjoyed my time with Like a Dragon Gaiden and fully anticipate myself playing Infinite Wealth on day one. This final swan song for the franchise’s classic gameplay is one that fans should not skip.

8.0 TOTAL SCORE

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

Like a Dragon Gaiden Official Website
Like a Dragon Gaiden Product Review

Like a Dragon Gaiden is a perfect game for fans, despite some plot and gameplay shortcomings


Gameplay 7
Minigames 7
Story 7
Graphics 10
Performance 9
Enjoyment 8

Based in Pennsylvania, USA, Skeith has been a gamer for over two decades now and has decided to take pen to paper about it. Capable of playing games at incredible speeds, you can rely on them to write about them in record time.
Skeith Ruch
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