Like A Dragon Gaiden Review – A Bridging Tale with Mixed Reception
Like A Dragon Gaiden presents a curious case within its series. As a spin-off, it stands apart from the main storyline, but unlike previous entries in the series, it seems to fall short in some aspects. The game offers less content compared to what fans have come to expect from Like A Dragon games, especially when contrasted with titles like Ishin. It appears more as an interlude, a brief respite before the anticipated release of Like A Dragon 8.
If you’re not familiar with the Like A Dragon series (previously known as “Yakuza”), it’s one of the best Japanese action gaming franchises of the last decade. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has managed to release numerous titles in quick succession without compromising on quality, making each game innovative and engaging. They have demonstrated their dedication and effort in crafting each installment of the series, which has consistently set a high standard of quality. However, the latest game, Gaiden, seems to be slightly different from the previous ones. While it maintains the legacy of the series, some of the elements that typically define the games’ excellence are less pronounced in this latest installment. This results in the game feeling somewhat incomplete when compared to its predecessors.
Fans of the Like A Dragon series hold a special place in their hearts for Kazuma Kiryu, who was the central protagonist in nearly all the series’ installments up to Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. This game provided a fulfilling conclusion to Kiryu’s narrative arc, yet it wasn’t the definitive end of his story. With the introduction of a new protagonist in Like A Dragon 7 (previously known as “Yakuza 7”), along with a rebranded series name, the developers have now ambitiously embarked on a dual-protagonist narrative for the upcoming sequel. Like A Dragon Gaiden serves as a bridge, filling the narrative gap by depicting Kazuma Kiryu’s journey following the events of his last game.
For those new to the series, Like A Dragon Gaiden is replete with significant spoilers, as it picks up directly from the conclusion of the previous games. The storyline is set after the events of both Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like A Dragon. It explores the aftermath of Kiryu faking his death and choosing a life of self-imposed exile to safeguard his loved ones. In this installment, Kiryu adopts the role of a covert agent within the Daidoji faction. True to the series’ signature style, the narrative takes an unexpected turn when a critical mission goes awry. The unfolding events act as a prelude to the story in the upcoming game, intriguingly included as a playable demo within Gaiden.
In Like A Dragon Gaiden, the series goes back to its roots by reintroducing the beloved brawler-based action that fans have always enjoyed. This spin-off game differs from the mainline series, which shifted to turn-based role-playing gameplay. In this game, Kiryu has access to a variety of gadgets that add new dynamics to enemy encounters. For example, he can use a cord to quickly grab enemies, opening up opportunities for combo attacks.
Kiryu’s combat capabilities are divided into two main styles: Yakuza and Agent. The Yakuza style is similar to the combat in previous games of the series, featuring a set of powerful combos and cinematic finishes that provide a satisfying fighting experience. However, some players may find it repetitive since it feels like a rehash of old mechanics.
On the other hand, the Agent style brings a fresh perspective to the combat system by utilizing Kiryu’s high-tech gadgets. This style offers a new approach to battles, especially for defensive maneuvers against formidable opponents. While the Yakuza style is better suited for dealing with large groups of enemies, the Agent style has its unique tactical value. For instance, Kiryu can summon a swarm of drones, which may not inflict significant damage, but adds complexity and requires more thoughtful engagement in battles.
The plot of Like A Dragon Gaiden is shorter compared to its predecessors, but the game makes up for it with engaging cutscenes that feature some truly unforgettable moments. However, while the main narrative is captivating, the side content in this installment seems to lack depth and often feels repetitive. Unlike the previous games, where new substories were discovered by exploring the world map, in Gaiden, they are instead accessed through a new side character. This shift in the approach to side content is noticeable, and it may disappoint some players.
A significant absence in Gaiden is the lack of new and exciting minigames, which have always been a hallmark of the series. Each game in the Like A Dragon franchise has traditionally introduced innovative gameplay elements, with side content that is often as engaging as the main narrative. Unfortunately, Gaiden doesn’t quite live up to this legacy, marking a departure from the series’ usual standard of rich and varied experiences.
On a positive note, the game’s performance on PC is commendable. Like A Dragon Gaiden not only plays smoothly on traditional PC setups but also performs exceptionally well on the Steam Deck, running seamlessly out of the box with minimal need for adjustments. The game maintains a frame rate of 60 FPS on the Steam Deck, though minor dips do occur. For those looking to optimize performance, options like FSR 2 are available. Furthermore, the game supports various major upscaling methods, including Nvidia DLSS, Intel XeSS, and FSR 2, enhancing its visual quality. On a PC, the game is capable of supporting over 120 FPS, and due to its excellent optimization, achieving this high frame rate is feasible even on moderately decent hardware setups.
Like A Dragon Gaiden Game Information
- Price: $49.99
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
- Platform: PS5 & PC (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher