- The new Yakuza spin-off takes place between two other Yakuza games and features Kazuma Kiryu as the undercover protagonist.
- The game amps up the action with a combat arena called the Colosseum and introduces new skills and abilities for Kiryu, including explosive weapons and jet-propelled boots.
- Players can explore The Castle, which offers various distractions like a cabaret club, a casino, and a boutique where you can dress up Kiryu in ridiculous outfits.
The Yakuza (now Like a Dragon) series is a special one. Not many games managed to tell such compelling stories while at the same time lettin you partake in nonsensical activities. One minute you’ll be engaged in a Yakuza blood war; the next, you’ll be finding reams and reams of toilet paper for a man stuck in the bog. It’s this juxtaposition that means the games are so revered by almost everybody who plays them.
The series has now entered a new era with the former primary protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, settling for, at best, a joint-lead role with the new starring man Ichiban Kazuga. But RGG Studios loves a spin-off, and the latest of these Yakuza offshoots, the mouthful that is *deep breath* Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, is releasing this November and focuses on Kiryu as he goes undercover between the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. I got to go hands-on at Gamescom, and it's wild.
From the 20 minutes I got with The Man Who Forgot His Name, everything seems to be amped up to 1000.
The demo starts with Agent Kiryu in a helicopter, flying towards an inconspicuous ship named "The Castle". When questioning his flying partner as to why it's called that, he's told to wait and see. Upon touching down, a huge gate lifts, greeting Kiryu with the image below. A neon metropolis, complete with a well-timed firework display, overlooked by a replica of Osaka Castle.
It turns out that you've been flown to The Castle to compete in the Colosseum, a combat arena in which only the world's best fighters can participate. Kiryu, being Kiryu, begrudgingly accepts, before being approached by some Yakuza types and a brawl breaks out.
It felt good to go back to the traditional fighting style of the Like a Dragon series. While I loved the story and characters of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I couldn't get past the new turn-based battle style (and I say that as a person who actually likes turn-based battles!).
With Kiryu now becoming an undercover agent, he has a range of new skills and abilities at his disposal, each as ridiculous as the last. He can use explosives, drones, a spider-web-like contraption and most importantly, jet-propelled boots to help him despatch his enemies. While the other three techniques are great, the boots are really the epitome of the Yakuza series. Upon activation, Kiryu glides around the area at some speed, wiping out any enemy unlucky enough to stand in his way. It's fantastic.
Although the Colosseum was the primary objective of this section of The Man Who Erased His Name, The Castle beckons you to explore it and see what treats it has in store. And boy there were treats aplenty. Onboard the barge was a cabaret club, a casino, a boutique and plenty of other distractions to get stuck into. I headed over to the boutique to see what outfits I could dress up my Yakuza-cum-Spy as, and there was some selection. Ultimately, I ended up dressing Kiryu in an all-in-one leather suit with a masquerade mask, cat facepaint, and bare feet, which made a very visceral slapping sound as I ran around The Castle.
I then moved onto my highlight of the demo, the cabaret club. When I entered, I was greeted with a choice of three hostesses to choose from, each one looking so realistic I began questioning how the devs managed to pull it off - it turns out they weren't animated though, and instead were actual people - FMV clips blended into the 3D game world like a kind of inverse Who Framed Roger Rabbit! I made my choice and was then taken through to my booth and began an absolutely ludicrous and downright hilarious FMV cabaret mini-game in which I had to smooth-talk my new hostess friend. We chatted about sleeping in, maid cafés and karaoke, before I went on my way. She seemed impressed, but then, it was her job to.
I then had a quick jaunt around the casino, before I hastily made my way to the Colosseum, sensing my time with the demo was nearly up. I selected a couple of options and all of a sudden, I was in the ring as Majima, taking on 100 different dudes. I got to experience his unique fighting style before eating dirt on the 100th enemy and then getting cut off.
During the 20 minutes I spent with Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, I had a whopping grin on my face and belly-laughed more than a handful of times. It felt so perfectly stupid and so incredibly 'Yakuza' that I couldn't help get excited, and the game has gone from one on the periphery of my radar to one of my most anticipated games of a chocked second half of 2023.