Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Joystick Who Reviewed The Game

Release Date
November 9, 2023
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Gearing up for the 2024 release of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, RGG Studio has been hard at work spoiling the whole story of the game before release. As part of the lead-up for that release however, we have received a smaller side-story from the studio, focusing on the fan favorite Kazuma Kiryu.

Best Dragon Engine visuals to date.

This is usually where I’d give a small plot summary of the game, but Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is in a curious position of being in a long-running series where basically the whole premise is a massive spoiler for the previous games (and that even includes the really long title) so what you need to know if you’re “uninitiated” is that Kiryu is a secret agent now and that you should probably not start with this one – you could try the earlier games including the Yakuza Remastered Collection, which we loved despite its issues.

There will be spoilers below. You have been warned.

So past the spoiler warning for Yakuza 6 – this really is your last chance – Kazuma Kiryu after the ending of that game has been forced to erase any trace of his existence, being presumed to be dead. Working with a mysterious Daidoji faction the game asks a simple question of how far is he willing to go to protect the people he cares about?

Going into Gaiden I didn’t know what exactly to expect from the story. On one hand, short stories like this have worked shockingly well in the past (Yakuza 5’s Shinada story comes to mind) but I just didn’t know how much of this game was going to be an exposition dump of info necessary to enjoy Infinite Wealth.

The Yakuza 11.

I’m happy to answer – none! In fact, I’d say it holds up strongly against the series’ history, and the relative brevity helps it breathe, just like in the aforementioned Shinada story. Kiryu himself has seen a big change, very surprisingly becoming a lot more proactive as a protagonist, and he is much more interesting for it. A lot of people see Kiryu as a very one note character, but Gaiden is yet more proof that he is anything but. While we’re at it, the other characters also come up very strong and RGG quickly gives us the classic clash of motivations and interests between the (admittedly small) main cast. They’re all very memorable, which is especially impressive, given that you won’t really see much of Goro Majima or other fan favorites here.

It’s him.

You know who else is very strong? This segue into talking about the combat system. RGG Studio has done a bit of a shake-up in this department, too. Kiryu now comes equipped with several gadgets and two fighting styles.
The first one of these is the Yakuza style, which will be familiar to players of Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2. It’s the Dragon of Dojima style from those games, but heavily refined and more satisfying. My favorite addition to it is the Triple Finishing Blow, letting Kiryu strike some of his famous poses at the end of a combo. It’s clear that RGG has a lot more experience with the Dragon Engine now than compared to those earlier titles, but I’m still not a fan of the base moveset itself.

There will be explosions.

As for the Agent style, however, I have to admit something. I’m not proficient enough with words to describe to you the joy I felt upon starting the tutorial and getting the prompt to throw enemies around. It never gets old, either.
Agent style is interesting as it simultaneously is much better at fighting single targets and excellent for crowd control with the variety of gadgets – a first time addition to the series, and a very welcome one. The combat was not quite as insanely satisfying as Lost Judgment, but the gadgets helped it get closer to that goal.

ChatGPT was ready in 2019, apparently.

I’ve been really singing the praises of this game so far, and it really deserves it – but being a smaller title you can see some parts where the budget was cut. Most importantly, a lot of the side content feels designed to stretch out your playtime or to give an excuse to use very mundane features over and over again. Dressing up as a clown for a side quest is a fun idea until the game forces you to do it 7 different times and no amount of funny dialogue can help prevent that. Doesn’t help that it’s filled with these kinds of activities, and they all outstay their welcome on your road through the side content, more so than a lot of the previous games. Sometimes going through the side content in Gaiden reminded me of the tedium of grinding out hostesses in Yakuza 3 and 4, and that’s a comparison I wish I didn’t have to make.

I hate it here.
Driving on the same road are the Pocket Circuit cars in the returning Pocket Circuit minigame, another fan-favorite. Listen. I know that the proof for the existence of Stockholm Syndrome is dubious at best, but hear me out. I feel like by analyzing the players suffering through Pocket Circuit, including myself, scientists could cover a lot of ground in studying the syndrome. It just feels like you’re going crazy. You’re stuck in a nightmare and the only way to get out is to get more grip, more acceleration, a higher top speed, all at the same time. But you can never have them all. You have to fight it. You cannot stop just because your car fell out of the track 15 times in a row. Are the physics at fault? Is your car at fault? What if you lock the framerate?

It’s never enough. You can never escape...


What I’ve really noticed in Gaiden, which is unusual for RGG Studio games, is the lack of polish. The enemy AI can get stuck in a lot of weird spots, like struggling to turn a corner while patrolling on Shofukucho South. It’s also surprisingly common to come across all sorts of mistakes in the various dialogues, like typos and misspellings. There’s a couple of notable omissions too, like the lack of a Legend difficulty and New Game+, as well as the lack of the English dub track on launch, promised to come in a future update.

Typos like these are commonplace in Gaiden.

For better or worse, the PC port is at least on par with the other RGG Studio releases. There is no shader compilation stutter here – which is a relief seeing how much it has plagued PC gaming for the past years. Other than that though the port is pretty barebones. FSR2, XeSS and DLSS support is in, like Lost Judgment (unlike LJ, Gaiden has DLSS on launch), the settings are still barebones and offer basically no difference, and the Dragon Engine still performs fine, I guess. 

The performance is fine, but look at that typo.

I don’t think this is PC specific, but I’m happy for the return of the option to hide the skip button during certain story sequences from the PC port of Yakuza 6. These supposedly simpler sequences display a distracting prompt to skip dialogue, but in a lot of cases thanks to the camera and animation work they’re nearly indistinguishable from the fully animated cinematic cutscenes, and this option helps their presentation tremendously.

Can you believe that this is just a simple cutscene?

Gaiden is a fine addition to the Like a Dragon series and to the RGG Studio catalog overall. While clearly smaller, it retains most of the charm of the series, and surprisingly enough delivers one of the stronger stories in the series, really taking a look at Kazuma Kiryu as a character and what he stands for. If you’re an RGG fan, don’t ignore this one just because it’s a smaller title. If you’re not… Yakuza 0 is a very cheap game. Join us.

We were provided a review copy by SEGA. Thanks! That did not impact our review, we had preordered this anyways.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Gaiden takes all improvements from recent RGG titles and packs them in a small and digestable package that's sure to make fans of this studio happy. It's not without its issues, but it's way better than we were expecting.
Fun combat
Great visuals
Gripping story
Pocket Circuit.
Unpolished by RGG standards
Filler side-content