Now I did it. I actually just wanted to take a quick look at Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (missing an underscore or why does the name seem so short to me?) – it’s been many hours. How did this happen? Well, because the series with its slightly different open world still exudes a fascination that I can’t resist.
The fact that it is now called Like a Dragon and no longer Yakuza doesn’t matter, because the principle is always the same: in manageable but amusingly densely populated urban neighborhoods, you fight organized crime thugs, experience strange tales and spend the at the same time, numerous mini-games, including slots with some well-known classics, as well as golf, mah-jongg, billiards and many others. You get a much greater sense of being in a really small world than in Grand Theft Auto, for example. That’s what’s so attractive.
Not to mention that the settings mostly capture the nightlife of the city’s iconic neighborhoods in dazzling color – even though this time you’re just in Sotenbori, a fictional variant of the real Dótonbori in Osaka. Just compare the real snapshots with the in-game screenshots. A game can hardly be closer!
Although… and this is one of the things that Like a Dragon Gaiden really drives me crazy about: Unfortunately, Sotenbori is basically the only place you’ll go this time. And if you ask me, this is also the least interesting place the series has ever gone. Plus the fact that the current version of District is far beyond the technical capabilities of the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series or even PC and basically still looks like the eight and a half year old Yakuza 0.
Exactly: you’ve been there a few times – at least five times since 2006. Okay, three times if you leave out the Yakuza 2 remake and the second PSP spinoff that (mistakenly) never came out. At some point you just got tired of it. Even the most beautiful view becomes a habit if you pass by it every day.
And for me that’s the main reason why Yakuza or Like a Dragon Gaiden loses a bit of luster with each subsequent infusion. It’s Sega’s FIF… Sorry: EA Sports FC, which gets an update annually but almost never changes enough to be surprised. Yakuza 3 achieved this when it made the jump to the PlayStation 3, Yakuza 6 with its revised engine and the new combat system in Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Sega changed its name with this title) were great.
Other than that, the series presents its same formula with such consistency that this vehemence is somewhat remarkable. Unfortunately, playing the exact same minigames for the umpteenth time, celebrating such dirty humor again, or following an extremely misguided topic doesn’t do much for me in terms of gameplay. This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about this and it probably won’t be the last. But anyone who complained even a little about previous installments of Assassin’s Creed should go through almost 20 years of Ryu Ga Gotoku.
I couldn’t care less, right? Why don’t I try another game that gives me less of a headache? Well, as I said: Because the short play-through always turns into a long adventure that, despite its unyielding persistence, simply has no alternative. Where else can you stroll so peacefully through the pedestrian zone, eat at Smile Burger and then end up at a karaoke bar just a few meters away before going for a whiskey on the same street?
The fact that you occasionally kick, hit, hammer, kick dozens of troublemakers onto the asphalt or beat them up doesn’t detract from the entertainment value – even less so because I really like the combat system here. It’s the old beatdown familiar from the Yakuza and Judgment spin-offs, which this time has some particularly cool moves up its sleeve.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is distributed exclusively digitally and costs just under 50 euros on all platforms. It’s part of the Game Pass offering on Xbox and PC.
- PlayStation Store
- Several optional activities…
- Switch between classic and new fighting styles at any time to control larger groups of enemies
- Constantly improving a group of wrestlers for special Rumble matches
- …which this time, however, are less organically integrated into the world and are widely known
- Plays almost exclusively in a familiar, largely unchanged location
- Lots of boring pickup and delivery services and less interesting tales than usual
- Increased level of difficulty, especially when placing equipment is very easy
The star is the electronic lasso, which you can use to grab multiple enemies and spin them around or pull them towards you. The advantage of this: if you land a few quick hits in time, you can juggle them in the air for a few seconds. At the same time, the often necessary evasive step can no longer be performed while running, but only when slowly catching an attacker. As a result, both of these things mean that you can tackle larger groups better than before without running through them relatively thoughtlessly.
This pays off, at most, in a new pastime where you not only compete alone in special exhibition fights, but also assemble a team of fighters to put up to eleven people in the ring. These fighters can be found on the streets, received as a reward after some missions or acquired from informants, and they all have individual strengths that are developed through victories.
Deep down, this is as mundane as it is shockingly motivating – but I don’t really care, as long as it’s fun! You can even buy them gifts and give them expensive champagne to boost their development.
Well, of course it’s not really new. Anyone who has played Yakuza 6 knows this mix of Pokémon. Except here you fight yourself instead of just tactically moving hired thugs from a bird’s eye view.
In fact, that’s the crux of this particular part of the series: you haven’t just seen it all before. This time it is almost exclusively an exact copy of the previous content. The slot machine race with self-built car models? It already existed in Yakuza 0. An emulated Master System with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Fantasy Zone, Alien Syndrome and a few more? Lost Judgment sends regards.
Of course, some of the emulated games are new. And for the first time in the arcade is available Daytona USA, or as it is called due to the expired license: Sega Racing Classic 2. In return, it irritates me that the small stories outside the main topic are much shorter and generally less fun than usual .
You won’t trip over many of them as you walk. Instead, after certain events, you collect a large portion of it from Akame – a young woman who undermines an aid network in Sotenbori and prevents protagonist Joryu from following his vital mission for days. This doesn’t really make much sense. He still allows this to be done to him. Oh well.
And exactly: Joryu. Of course, you already know that this is former hero Kazuma Kiryu, although he retired in Yakuza 6 with an ending that perfectly lived up to his outsized icon status.
But Sega didn’t let him rest. And so he’s back in the upcoming Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the eighth installment in the main series – which is why Gaiden first needs to clarify why he hasn’t disappeared from the scene for good. I didn’t need that. As much as I enjoyed spending hundreds of hours with Kazuma and still do today, his memory would be much more impressive if his story had truly come to an end. Sometimes it is better for the dead to rest than for their reanimated corpses to walk through life.
I mean… it definitely has its good points. After all, you not only indulge in memories in a playful way, but also in a narrative way, when countless characters, events and various allusions refer to the last years of the series. I at least had to smile when Joryu faced a fake Kazuma Kiryu at some point because previous events were being recreated.
To a certain extent, Like a Dragon Gaiden functions as a kind of bridge between then and what will come in the future. And in any case, it will be the last time Kazuma fights the old style before switching to round-robin tactics in Infinite Wealth – at least until he has to use his fist again.
“Shibaraku ne tero,” says Kazuma after winning many fights, which could be loosely translated as: “Stay still!” If only he himself had stood his ground.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The man who erased his name from the test – conclusion
I’m disappointed – but I still love wandering the streets with Kazuma again. No other game offers this kind of escapism; the opportunity to get to know a city in a way that you can see every corner instead of just driving through it. As much as I’d like new impetus to the minigames, outdated staging, and locations and gameplay mechanics, I’m also not fed up with what Sega remakes year after year.
Unfortunately, Like a Dragon Gaiden embodies this “design” philosophy more strongly than any previous game. There’s almost nothing new here, exploring is even disappointingly boring thanks to a rigid list of uninteresting side quests, and the level of challenge is very low on the highest difficulty level. And I wanted to mention at least briefly that not every fan likes this just because they’re a fan.
Well… you can see what happened with that brief comment several hours later. If you like the series, you might as well spend a lot of time with The Man Who Erased His Name – regardless of the increasingly hard drops.
|Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name|