In this day and age, sometimes it is hard to let go of the past. In the world of video games, this is even harder, sometimes not wanting an iconic character to see their sunset. For the Like A Dragon series, formerly known as Yakuza, this was the Dragon of Dojima himself, Kazuma Kiryu. However, his sendoff with Like A Dragon 6: Song of Life was supposed to be his sunset moment. Now he’s back in action in this tale set between 6 and his mysterious reappearance in 7. Here in my Like a Dragon Gaiden review, I’ll talk about how this all connects with the upcoming Infinite Wealth as well.
As a long-time fan of this series always getting to jump back into the suit of the legendary dragon himself is exciting. Even if he is nearly pushing 60. If you never played Like a Dragon 7, go read my review.
Spoiler Warning: There are many major plot points from the previous games, most notably 6 & 7. So do read ahead with your caution.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The man who erased his name follows directly after the events of Like a Dragon 6: Song of Life. Towards the end of the game, Kiryu confronts a politician who is trying to kill Haruka and her son. During the showdown, Kiryu is shot and taken to a hospital. Here he is given the choice to “die” to protect Haruka and the orphanage. Knowing that his Daidoji will continue to hound them, he offers to die. His name, his legend, his existence gone, as long as they stay safe.
Afterwards, we get a skip of three years. The man known as Kiryu is gone replaced with an agent by the codename of Joryu. Working for the Daidoji he has accepted the terms of disappearing. During a simple protection job to assist with a foreign revolutionary. However, this was all a ploy to attack the team to kidnap the manager, Hanawa. After repelling the attack. Joryu follows them to find information. Noting that they are from the Omi Alliance, the large Yakuza organization in Osaka. After failing to protect Hanawa, he learns it was all a plan by Matoru Watase, the Patriarch of the Watase Family.
He has been hunting to find Kazuma Kiryu, knowing he wouldn’t have died easily three years before. A month before his release, he worked with Daigo Dojima, the 6th Chairman of the Tojo Clan, and Kiryu’s former family. They know Kiryu has been in hiding under the Daidoji faking his death. They’ve been searching for him as they need his help with their plan to dissolve the Organizations.
With the underworld in a mess after the government’s 3K plan, the days of family crests and the yakuza are over. Now is the time to dissolve to truly be free. Daigo and his family patriarchs went into hiding to help this. However, due to the fallout, they don’t think it would be possible without the legendary dragon himself. But, if Joryu chooses to be Kiryu again, he threatens the lives of all the kids at the orphanage.
When I played LAD 7 I was in awe of Ichiban and his crew running up against Majima and Saejima, but when Kiryu showed up himself. It was like going up against yourself in a legendary fight. Think in Pokemon gold/silver when you find red at the end of the game. While it was truly awesome I wondered how he got there, and why now showing up after being dead for almost 3 years. Seeing that side story play out while running parallel with the last mainline entry. Throughout the game, there are direct references to Ichiban and the others as Kiryu travels between Yokohama and Sotenbori. Heck, we even see direct ties to the Judgment side, as we see the ultimate team-up of Kiryu, Katio, and Higashi!
It’s always hard to make a story after you supposedly send off your icons into the sunset peacefully but honestly, the Team at Ryu Ga Gotuku pulled it off flawlessly. While this man has earned his time off, diving back into his shoes once more is always a blast.
The visuals in Like a Dragon Gaiden are exactly what you’d expect from this series. With its ever-evolving growth and impressive visuals. From the glitzy lights of Kamurocho to the sheer never-ending nights of Sotenbori, the neon never ends. While still utilizing the rather dated Dragon Engine at this point, the team continues to deliver amazing visuals.
If there is one thing that you can count on when it comes to a RGG project, is they know consistency better than anyone. The city’s continuous evolution yet familiar vibrant feel continues to persist. Not to mention the fact that in each installment, during the cutscenes the characters get ever more and more breathtakingly well detailed. While there are moments where you can tell that there are slightly off details. Generally, the game continues to look great. This includes the visual effects.
Seeing the heat actions and particle effects still looks like a blast after all this time. From making your Kiwami heat mode look terrifying to the over-dramatic effects of Kiryu’s charge-up techniques. To mention the effects of his new secret agent gadgets. Overall while the game still looks pretty as always, it can always be better. Hopefully, if the team decides to fully jump into unreal we may see a leap in visual quality. Or if they decide to overhaul and make a new version of the dragon engine.
With Like a Dragon Gaiden, the team at RGG Studios continues their proven track record of having the hypest soundtracks possible. If there is one thing the team at SEGA knows it’s how to make amazing soundtracks. That hasn’t changed with the newest entry in the series. It starts with one amazing banger of an intro song, a mix of a low-fi and rap song. This continues to show the shifting evolution of music, showing a diversification of genres and eras.
This is on top of the always stellar vocal performance of the cast. Many amazing voices return to play their iconic roles while introducing many new faces. As always when it comes to the LAD franchise, there is such a strong emphasis on the dramatics. With such a keen focus on the story it allows for a truly great sound design.
Combat in the game is as it sounds as always, heavy, impactful, and absolutely a blast. There is no better sound than a charged-up fist to the face sending a man flying across the street and the screams of terror of other enemies. The game’s combat continues to sound solidly fun.
Now as always gameplay will always be a huge part, and in Like a Dragon Gaiden, there is so much content. Truly the game always has it in spades with its side activities, but Gaiden feels like a plethora of the greatest hits of minigames. However, we will jump to that in a bit.
First-up combat, and safe to say that if you’ve played any recent RGG game, this will be pretty much second nature to you. Combat feels exactly as you would expect with a few changes to come to upgrade trees. Most notably though is the return of alternate fighting stances. Mainly with the addition of the new agent stance. Giving Kiryu access to several unique gadgets to use in combat giving him a more technical style of combat. However, if you want his classic beastly brawler street style, he still has access to his Dragon Yakuza style.
However, in Gaiden upgrades work significantly differently than before. Instead of just money upgrades, it also relies on the Akame Network points. Akame, a new character, is a local info broker and handywoman. Helping the homeless and assisting with odd jobs. Her network plays a major part of both the story, as well as the need for upgrades. As all the activities are done in the game, give points and increase your network rank. This then ties into many side activities mainly around the “Castle.” The more you level up the network, the more access you get both in the collosiem and around.
This allows for major money and upgrade points. All the Akame points earned are needed to increase stats and skills. These are tied to helping with both the substories, and random help missions around Sotenbori.
Many of those activities are returning highlights and minigames from past entries. Of course, we have the ever-returning Karaoke, with everyone’s favorite meme turned iconic song, Baka Mitai. Yet, the minigame that caught me off guard was the return of Billiards, which was missing since Kiwami 1. We have darts as always making its bar appearances. We have gambling games, from poker to blackjack, Oichi-kabo to koi-koi. No sign of Baccarat making its return nor roulette.
However, the BIGGEST shocker was the return of Pocket Circuit racing! These tiny model electric cars were my addiction in Like a Dragon 0 and Kiwami 1. When I tell you I put too many hours into perfecting my race cars, I’m serious about it. There is no better mini-game than pocket circuit racing.
We have the return of the arcades as always, with Virtua Fighter, Fighting Vipers, Sonic Fighters, and the crane claw. We also have the return of Golf bingo and close to the hole. After almost 2 decades, the Like a Dragon series has so many mini-games that it feels as if you always have so much to do. They could easily make their mini-party games.
For such a slightly smaller entry title, it still feels like there is so much to offer gameplay-wise. I don’t know how the team at RGG Studios continues to do it, but they know how to make it all work.
Overall my time with my Like a Dragon Gaiden review was an absolute blast. Every time a new entry or spin-off always gets me hyped up. This entry was no different, with another truly outstanding story, and continuous solid gameplay. There’s no reason to not check it out. If there is one team that knows consistency, it’s the team at RGG Studios.
I hope you all enjoyed my Like a Dragon Gaiden review, let us know what you think down below.
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