Posted on 16 Jan 2024 by L Coulsen

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

The Defence

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Role Playing
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 08 Nov 2023

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3470 3.2 GHz
AMD Ryzen 3 1200 3.1 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 960
AMD Radeon RX 460
Intel Arc A380
HDD: 98 GB
DirectX: 12
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 4790 3.6 GHz
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 3.2 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
AMD Radeon RX 5700
Intel Arc A750
RAM: 16 GB
HDD: 98 GB
DirectX: 12
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

The Like a Dragon (nee Yakuza) series has been around for close to decades, by this point. With as many games, factoring in all of the spin-offs and remakes. More, even. And we have even more due in the immediate future. But today, we’re here to look at the most recent, to date. Supposedly the final chapter in the life of mainstay Kiryu Kazuma. Fitting in between the 6th and 7th mainline entries, it fills out some extra details about how, precisely, he went about staying dead. For, like, the fifth time. But definitely, really dead, this time. Despite still being alive, again. Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, so let’s dig and see how it all pans out.

The Trial

To bring everyone up to speed, for those who don’t know. Kiryu-chan faked his death at the end of Yakuza 6, due to a whole laundry list of laundry lists of reasons. But the short version, he didn’t want his colourful past as a member of the Yakuza’s Tojo Clan to have a negative impact on his adopted daughter, Haruka, and her child. As well as the children at the orphanage he set up in Okinawa. Other things, too, but that’s the most pertinent part of it all. The Man Who Erased His Name specifically deals with the immediate aftermath, and his efforts to ensure that all the loose ends are tied up.

Though, I have to ask. Is there anyone who doesn’t know that he’s still alive? This one gives me real Yakuza 2 vibes. Because in that Japanese game, set in Japan, about Japanese people (spoilers) frikkin’ everyone is Korean. Like, seriously, if you don’t know, or have forgotten, literally every new character in the game is actually Korean. With some of them not even knowing until later in the game. This is the same thing. All of about three people don’t know who Kiryu-chan really is. But anyway.

Clocking in at only four chapters, compared to the usual 12-15 or so, this is a tiny game. At least by Like a Dragon/Yakuza standards. Featuring a mere 55-60 hours of content. I have a theory about that, actually, but more on that in a moment. It’s also the only game that doesn’t take place in Kamurocho (outside of spin-offs) at all. Starting off in Yokohama, with the majority of the game taking place in Sotenbori. Which in itself is a pretty big deal.

Ooh, that has to hurt.

To offset this, somewhat, each of the four chapters is more densely packed than usual, and there’s a whole heap of side content to sink your teeth into. All of the usual suspects, golf and karaoke for example, as well as a robust fight arena. But also a dizzying number of smaller, mostly one-shot, side stories. So calling this a small, or short, game would be a gross oversimplification. Even if you mostly just stick to the main story, you still have a good 15 or so hours to play around with.

Kiryu-chan has also expanded his repertoire of skills. Featuring two fighting styles, each with its own skillset, as compared to his usual Dragon style. Not as much as 0 and Kiwami 1, perhaps, but still more than the norm. His newest fighting style also has a few little gimmicks that make it stand out. Including a watch that he can use like Spider-man’s webs, conveniently called the Spider Gadget. And frikkin’ drones that he can launch at his enemies in combat. A whole swarm of them, that buzz around, distract and do small amounts of damage.

Personally, I was quite lukewarm towards it, because of the length of many of the animations. Most steps in the Agent style combo being multi-hit attacks. It’s a fast, very agile fighting style, but it is most certainly geared around the idea of picking your moment and committing to your decisions. Which can lead to some cheap hits if you’re not paying enough attention. Though it’s never really been a series that lends itself to button-mashing, this just seemed to be more insistent about it than I’m used to.

Falcon, uhm, slide?

In isolation, this isn’t a huge deal. You can always switch to Kiryu-chan’s signature Dragon fighting style, as I did. But there are other elements that have been tweaked which greatly impact the way the game feels. The above-mentioned timing issue remains consistent throughout. Even within the narrative, there are comments about how his time in isolation have given him a focus on a more technical style of fighting. Expressed in gameplay by the new push towards picking the most optimal moment to strike. As well as the parry mechanic which was initially introduced in the Judgment spin-off games.

Thankfully, it’s not as frustrating as it was in the first Judgment, with no mortal wounds to contend with. But it’s far more deadly than it was in Lost Judgment. If you take a hit from a charged up opponent it does massive amounts of damage. With some being powerful enough to almost one-shot you, unless your health has been increased to end game sorts of levels. Worse still, the actual parry timing seemed inconsistent. Essentially, all you have to do is dodge whilst the enemy is attacking, and you can then parry the attack and do massive damage of your own. However, there were a notable number of occasions where the game flat out ignored my inputs.

Or worse still, I’d actually see Kiryu-chan begin the dodge animation, and then just take the hit anyway. Maybe he’s just so hardcore he thinks it’s a good idea to block fists with his face, or something. On top of that, the Agony mechanic is also present. This causing the old Dojima Ryu to stand around like a plum for several seconds in a stunned state. He can also be knocked to the ground for so long that he’ll be hit again, and knocked back down, before being able to stand up. It wastes the player’s time for 4-5 seconds per hit, with each successive blow resetting the timer. It just all comes together to, well, I have to be honest, I hate the gameplay. This is genuinely the most conflicted I have ever been about a Like a Dragon game. But, whilst we’re on the subject of Judgement

Fancy meeting you, here.

You may have heard, or even have noticed for yourself, that one of the tutorial screens is taken directly from Lost Judgment. As in, the exact same one. Mentioning things and places that don’t exist in this game. Which seems odd, since there are multiple other games they could have pulled from, if this was just a placeholder. Which leaves me convinced, given the relative brevity, the release being so close to the next game, and even that the English dub (which is as naff as you’ve heard) was added as a post-launch update. This game began life as the third Judgment game. And was, likely, even quite far into development before being course-corrected. Even the side missions offered by new character, Akame, feel more at home as investigations.

Kaito (as seen above) even mentions that there were plans for a Yagami Detective Agency branch in Sotenbori. Which is where this game takes place. No Kamurocho, at all. Which actually isn’t that surprising, when you think about it. Kiryu-chan is supposed to be dead, and that’s where he’s most known. So it’s not a place he’s likely to rush back to. There’s too much chance of him being recognised by some rando on the street. Well, everyone seems to know who he is anyway, but what the who.

Having said all of that. The game’s narrative is far and away its strongest point. In fact, it could well be the highest point in the entire franchise. Following Kiryu’s efforts to ensure he stays ‘dead’ leads to some of the most emotionally engaging scenes to date. Especially right near the end, when he has a chance to have a brief glimpse into what’s happening at the Sunshine/Morning Glory Orphanage. It hit me, as the kids say, right in the feels.

There's no escape, for you.

This is precisely why I’m so conflicted. On the one hand, the gameplay just rubs me the wrong way. But the actual events of the story, Kiryu-chan’s escapades with the Daidoji Faction, had me engaged in a way that I hadn’t really felt since Yakuza 3. Ironically, another game that has poorer gameplay with one of the strongest narratives. There are actually a lot of parallels between that and this. Both of them deal with similar themes of parenthood and stepping aside to allow your children to grow into their own.

Lastly, running on the Dragon Engine, it’s another great-looking game. Whilst not the most technically advanced on the market, both the physics and lighting are as impressive as ever. There really are no complaints to be made here. Honestly, it’s genuinely impressive just how well it’s been holding up over the years. Especially considering it was originally built with the PlayStation 3 in mind.

Ultimately, especially for those already invested in the series, the blade has to come down on the more positive side of things. It would be a weird point to jump in to as a first timer, but still worth the investment. And for veterans, it is an absolutely essential game. It wraps up a great many plot threads and answers a number of burning, if not essential, questions. Like the only thing we all really care about. And yes, Majima absolutely knows Kiryu is still alive. Of course he does. Well, we already knew that from Like a Dragon, but we’re given a more expanded version of those moments, here. It’s still a good game, if not great.

The Verdict

Essentially, it will depend entirely on your patience with the above-mentioned gameplay features. In isolation, none of them are a deal breaker, and even as a collective for that matter. The particulars will doubtless be less of an issue for some than for others. I’m just, personally, not at all fond of mechanics that waste my time as a player. Spending a full thirty seconds of a fight tits up on the floor is far from engaging. So it’s a good thing that the story makes up for it in spades.

Case Review

  • Story: Despite being short, the four chapters (and Prologue) spin an extremely compelling, emotional yarn that should not be missed.

  • Length: On the one hand, there’s a lot less here than long-time players will be used to. But that also makes it a much less daunting game to fully explore.

  • Side Content: There’s a lot to sink your teeth into. But it also makes up an overwhelming majority of the end product. Becoming the meat of the game, rather than extra content.

  • Combat: Rather frustrating, at times. Though not a deal breaker, it can lead to some moments of extreme irritation.

3.5 Score: 3.5/5
A solid story, hampered, but not ruined, by frustrating gameplay elements


  • Controls: Like all of Ryu Ga Gotoku's games, this is clearly built with a controller in mind. But it offers robust customisation for both controller and Mouse and Keyboard, allowing players to tweak things exactly to their liking.
  • Game Options: There are a lot of settings to pick from, including multiple FSR solutions. A really neat feature is the option to change text colours for both dialogue and speaker name, allowing onscreen text to really pop.

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