Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: November 9, 2023
Genre: Action/adventure, beat 'em up, role playing
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is a return to form for the Yakuza series. Where Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduced a new cast and turn-based mechanics, this entry brings back protagonist Kiryu Kazuma and real-time combat. Though it features long-running elements of the series, it’s also an excellent jumping-on-point for newcomers.
I got some hands-on time with The Man Who Erased His Name during a recent Sega event in New York City. I tried out various activities that provided a glimpse of the game’s combat and side quests. As a long-time fan of the Yakuza series, I was impressed by what this game has to offer: namely a classic Yakuza experience with Kiryu Kazuma.
Here are my initial thoughts on Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.
The Man Who Erased His Name
Kiryu Kazuma is the Michael Corleone of the Yakuza franchise when it comes to his efforts to leave a life of crime behind. Just when he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in.
After faking his own death at the end of Yakuza 6, Kiryu begins working for the Daidoji Faction and is assigned the codename “Joryu.” During what should have been an easy assignment, a mysterious group shows up and throws everything into disarray. During the chaos, the group gives hints that it recognizes Kiryu. This sets up the adventure that follows.
I didn’t get a chance to experience much of the story during my playthrough but I expect a tale with a million twists and turns like every other Yakuza game. The setup for The Man Who Erased His Name sounds super intriguing.
A life of crime
In the demo I played, Kiryu arrives at a container ship located in Osaka Bay. Here, criminals can engage in their illegal activities without the prying eyes of the law. It’s also a place filled with a slew of sidequests to engage in.
I got to check out three activities in The Man Who Erased His Name. I tried stylish outfits in a clothing boutique, chatted with a hostess at a cabaret club and cracked skulls in a fighting tournament. If that all sounds incongruous, I assure you this is what the Yakuza series is all about.
Changing outfits is new to Yakuza and should be a welcome addition for folks who don’t want to see Kiryu running around in the same duds for the entire game. The shop I visited had a wide range of full outfits and individual pieces of clothing you can mix and match. I gave Kiryu a leather jacket, gloves and aviators to make him look more badass, even though his standard three-piece suit already makes him look plenty intimidating.
After nabbing some new threads, I hit up a cabaret club. You’ve been able to visit hostess clubs in previous games but this is the first time where the girls are portrayed by live-action actresses. That’s all well and good but interacting with a real actress was as awkward as playing FMV titles on the Sega CD. I think having an in-game character modeled after a real person like in previous Yakuza games would’ve been less weird — but that’s just me.
With all that silly stuff out of the way, I then went for the main attraction: a fighting tournament. The demo had two modes, one where I fought solo against waves of enemies and another mode where I fought alongside a group of three others.
If you’ve played the first six Yakuza games or the two Judgement titles, then you’ll be familiar with combat in The Man Who Erased His Name. You can perform basic combos and dodges, but you can also use objects in the environment as weapons. Smashing a bicycle into a bad guy’s face is as satisfying now as ever. Overall, the combat mechanics feel smooth and precise.
As you attack, a meter fills underneath your health bar. When it’s full, you can unleash super moves that can vastly reduce an opponent’s health. Performing these moves is a blast since they’re always accompanied by over-the-top cinematics. It also doesn’t take long for the meter to fill, ensuring you can use super attacks regularly.
One difference this time around is that Kiryu carries weapons he can use at any time. In the demo, he had a rope, small bombs and even an attack drone. These weapons help you mix things up during combat and are a lot of fun to use. They’re also great for dealing with large mobs of baddies.
My favorite part of the tournament was fighting alongside a group of fighters. My team consisted of a guy wearing a tuxedo and rooster mask, an average Japanese salaryman and Goro Majima, who is a fan favorite of the Yakuza series. At least in the demo, there was no real teamwork since I and the other fighters just fought our own battles. Nevertheless, having teammates keeping the hordes of bad guys off my back was appreciated.
If Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased is like other Yakuza games, then what I experienced in the demo was just a small slice of the overall experience. As a Yakuza fan, I’m stoked to play the full game to see what else it has in store.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased releases on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC on November 9. Stay tuned for my full review.