Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name Preview – Don’t Call It A Comeback

Spoiler Warning for Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Earlier this year, when I reviewed Like a Dragon: Ishin!, I noted that while a baseline level of franchise quality had been maintained, the feel of the whole game had noticeably been stepped down, likely because of the switch to Unreal Engine 4. With Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio stating their desire to switch entirely to Unreal moving forward, I was a little bit cautious about approaching whatever they did next.

Thankfully, it seems like all it took to right the ship was to step back and reassess. The Dragon Engine is back for The Man Who Erased His Name, and at least from what I’ve played of it, it’s returned to the fast, fluid Yakuza experience I know and love.

The Man Who Erased His Name is a direct sequel to Yakuza 6, following up from the end of that title. Kazuma Kiryu has ditched his former identity to protect his loved ones. Rather than spending the rest of his life on the run from the law, he has decided to put his talents to use as a secret agent, codenamed “Joryu.” The Man Who Erased His Name will chronicle his life from the end of The Song of Life to the upcoming Infinite Wealth, including his appearance in Like a Dragon.

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This demo took place in the new “Castle” hub location, which appears in-game as an opulent amusement park that also includes a casino and underground colosseum. As Gaiden will not include the city of Kamurochō as it appeared in previous titles, the Castle now serves as a central location that collects the majority of the series’ typical minigames, as well as character customization. The Man Who Erased His Name will be the first title in the franchise to allow the player to change the character’s primary costume before fully completing the game.

The level of customization in the demo alone was impressive, with every part of Kiryu’s outfit being interchangeable, as well as his hairstyle. This isn’t by any means the best character customization I’ve ever seen, but it’s a very nice touch to finally let players alter their appearance, and it thematically ties into the story of Kiryu functionally entering the Secret Agent Witness Protection Program.

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The other major highlight of the demo was a spin through the Colosseum to test out the game’s two fighting styles. Kiryu can freely switch between two styles – Yakuza, which will be very familiar to those who played the previous games as his famous “Dragon of Dojima” style, and Agent, which heavily alters his fighting style.

The Agent stance feels a bit like the Rush style from 0 or the Crane style from Judgment, being focused mostly on speed and precision, but the biggest shake-up is from Kiryu’s shiny new special agent equipment. He can summon drones, toss bombs, and even spread wires to draw in and throw enemies around. While we’ve certainly seen Yakuza combat stray from pure hand-to-hand before, this feels like a whole new way of handling fights that puts the player onto the same ground as some of the most infamous bosses across the franchise – now, he can deploy gadgets of his own.

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But, even more importantly than that, I want to talk about what was really making me grin from ear to ear, even as I got my butt handed to me in the hundred-man brawl. Where Ishin! was, either because of the change in the game engine or some desire to recreate the feeling of the original title, stiff to the point of feeling dated, The Man Who Erased His Name is looking like a breath of fresh air in comparison.

Combat is fast, responsive, fluid, and reactive in a way I was simply missing before. This is how modern Yakuza titles ought to feel, and fighting my way through dozens of cronies while tripping them with wires and tossing cigarette bombs made me more excited for a new entry than I’ve ever been.

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Even as the franchise is set to shake off the past, to the point of completely ditching its old name just like its original protagonist, my short time with The Man Who Erased His Name has convinced me that the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are more confident than ever about where they want this series to go next. I can’t wait for the full experience this fall.

Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam on November 9, 2023.

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