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Like A Dragon Gaiden hands-on preview: The game that erased our worries

Kiryu is back and smoother than ever
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Back in the olden days Like A Dragon – or Yakuza as the series was known – spin-offs were seen as lesser games. Die-hard fans of the series could still enjoy games like Dead Souls, but they weren’t the games you would recommend to people who were newbies to the franchise. However, this year’s remake, Like A Dragon: Ishin! showed that modern spin-off games could be of equal quality to the mainline series, and can contain all the goofy combat and engaging side stories that fans of the series want. Ishin’s popularity raised the fanbase’s spirits, and hype for the impossibly named Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is at an all-time high.

At Gamescom we only got a tiny 15-minute chance to play Like A Dragon Gaiden, and aside from the time constraint, we were also limited to a tiny area that only featured a boutique to change Kiryu’s – sorry I mean Joryu’s – look, and a colosseum. This area is the Castle and will have a lot more when the full game is released. We could see a casino, karaoke, etc. but our access to these minigames was blocked. It should also be noted that the beef of the game will be set in the sprawling metropolises of Osaka and Yokohama, but we didn’t get to see these.

Like a Dragon Gaiden preview screenshot

We were thrown straight into combat, and I want to tentatively say it’s the best the series has ever been. While we don’t have the bear or tiger captains from Ishin, there are plenty of goofy additions we can enjoy. In Gaiden Joryu is a secret agent, and this plays into the combat. There are four new gadgets that Joryu can use, and these can be used in conjunction with other combat combos. Spider allows you to lasso enemies and throw them similar to Spider-Man, Hornet sets flying drones on your opponents, Firefly releases a timed bomb into the fray, and my favorite Serpent gives you rocket skate-like shoes with damaging sparks like Metal Sonic, or Bayonetta’s chainsaw shoes.

Entering the boutique reassured us that the costume options are as wild as ever. Onomichi-kun’s head is back, and you can dress completely like a catboy or Majima if you so desire. Gaiden will certainly keep the series’ goofy charm that we love it for. This is another part of the secret agent persona you play in the game. Kiryu can disguise himself as part of the gameplay, and these other outfits while hilarious will help you get around undetected.

Like a Dragon Gaiden preview screenshot

The Colosseum is pretty much as you’d expect, there are rounds with smaller waves of enemies or the well-known one vs. 100 matches with bosses featured at certain landmarks. It feels like they have upped the difficulty given the new combat options, though it could have been that I hadn’t had enough time with the new playstyle to complete it on my first try. The combat also features styles like in various games, and while we only saw the strong and agile styles, there could be more in the final product.

We only got a tiny slice of Like A Dragon Gaiden, but the core of the game is as solid as ever. From a technical standpoint, it looked and ran incredibly smooth, and the combat is more free-flowing than ever before. The story will be the point on which Like A Dragon Gaiden, and we can’t give any opinions on that yet, but if it holds up, it could be the best Like A Dragon to date.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is set to release on November 9, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.