Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Feels Like Home

Games Features Like a Dragon
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Feels Like Home

I was so grateful to be dropped into the middle of Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name‘s absurdity because it felt like an honest-to-god welcome home. Beginning as Kiryu, who is now undercover as the totally-innocuous “Joryu,” boards a ship that (obviously) contains a miniature Las Vegas where bloodsport and gambling run hand in hand, I was just kind of let loose in a playground for half an hour. In that time, I fought many, many men, played dress up, and hilariously visited a cabaret club with a live-action hostess. Which is to say, the formula’s working about as well as it ever has.

I know next to nothing about the Like A Dragon series, formerly known as  Yakuza, other than that Kiryu and Majima are, respectively, that world’s greatest himbo and hedonist. Having played most of Yakuza: Like A Dragon—a confusingly titled game if there ever was one—and Judgement, though, I do at least have a familiarity with either’s combat to note the obvious differences. Dropping into the aforementioned bloodsport first, where you can brawl as a team made up of characters from across the series and even as some of them instead of Kiryu, I put Like A Dragon Gaiden‘s new agent fighting style through its paces to brilliantly stupid effect. Going back to the series’ brawler roots, the new fighting style makes Kiryu cartoonishly efficient at taking out large groups of people. Holding down any of the face buttons quickly enables the use of these tools, like holding the X button to activate rocket boots that allow me to half-glide/half-skate across arenas while bowling dudes over. A fantastic opening move, it lays the foundation for you to then hold the Square button and throw a grenade into the mix. At one point, I lobbed one that bounced off a guy’s head and walked away as they exploded behind me, making my own cool-guy-walking-away-from-an-explosion moment. Holding Triangle prompts a drone turret to fly down and momentarily help out, but my favorite is this kind of laser lasso that can rope up several targets at once. Whipping the analog stick in any direction causes Kiryu to flick his wrist and send them flying, which is its own satisfaction. However, I accidentally got a taste of a combo where I whipped a guy towards me, only for my fist to connect with him mid-air and allow me to juggle the guy until he was done for. I reckon moments like that are going to be the ones that folks who get really into these combat systems are going to relish.

Fight styles or stances in these games have always felt or looked like frivolous things that just come down to personal preference—and this seems no different—but at least the Agent style made for a very fun departure from the basics. If I had to pick between a slow but powerful style and a weaker but fast one in another game, my eyes would’ve rolled to the back of my head. Seeing Kiryu essentially murder people with everything shy of a gun is also just a hoot and felt like a perfect marriage of the outrageous humor and elements of the series melded with its ever-present and hard-hitting melees. 

In other spots of Castle, the aforementioned Vegas of the seas, I dressed Kiryu up as a clown gimp because I could, which is a first for the series. It seems unfathomable for something with this kind of legacy to have never boasted character customization, but Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is genuinely the first title in the series to hold such an honor. And it’s a nice bit of fun too, even if it is pedestrian and limited compared to just about everyone of its contemporaries. It’s one of those cases where it’s a little ridiculous that it took this long, but I’m ultimately glad it’s here and look forward to the multitude of ways players are going to make Kiryu look embarrassing when the game comes out. 

After playing dress up and putting Kiryu in a scarlet leather bodysuit that was far too tight, I naturally took him over to the cabaret club where I made small talk with a hostess as one does in situations like this. Though I’m familiar with these mini-games from past titles, I don’t think I was quite prepared for what I ended up with seeing as how this game has a live-action cabaret club, where real women are addressing your character as you try to charm them. It would’ve been one thing if Kiryu had sat down with an in-game model of a hostess as I made dialogue choices to endear myself to her. It was another—and frankly more embarrassing—thing to have this busty hostess staring me down rather than Kiryu while people around me undoubtedly watched me physically cringe into my chair, avert her uncomfortable gaze, and laugh to myself about the whole thing.

All things told, my 30 minutes with Like A Dragon Gaiden pretty much went exactly as expected. I came, I beat dudes up, exploded several things, was wildly embarrassed, and played my part in a bizarre take on the Japanese criminal underworld. And by the end of my time, I could tell why this has worked for as long as it has. For longtime fans, this is an obvious get, continuing the story of Kiryu since the end of Yakuza 6 and seemingly bridging the gap between his tale and Ichiban’s in the latest installments. But I think there’s also plenty here to love whether this is your first or tenth rodeo. As long as it sticks to that core that has so thoroughly defined Like A Dragon before it, and it doesn’t seem shaken from what I’ve seen, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios has another surefire hit on its hands.

Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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