With so many games in the series, The Man Who Erased His Name would have to do something special in order to stand out among all the great games in the Yakuza/Like a Dragon franchise. Since Sega already released a great spinoff title earlier this year, the pressure was doubled for this game. The result is a game that ends well but struggles on the way to the finish line.
This game takes place parallel to the events of Yakuza 7 and once again follows the life of Kiryu Kazuma. After barely surviving the events of the sixth game, Kiryu has chosen to fake his death to protect his loved ones, and now works as an agent for the shadow organisation that runs Japanese politics, the Daidoji Faction.
After a surprise attack and attempted kidnapping, Kiryu is once again thrown into a mess of national politics clashing with organised crime. Since this is a sidestory, the plot struggles to remain intriguing, since experienced players already know where things end up.
The biggest thing this game has going against it is that it struggles to live up to the series standards in a few departments. The story is poorly paced, and even though the conclusion is great, there's a lot of meandering on the way there. The other thing is that even though the series is known for having great villains, the main antagonist here is a lot more one-dimensional and cartoony by comparison.
The game space is also limited. Kiryu is mostly confined to the Sotenbori map that's been seen in past games, and it's one of the smallest maps in the series, if not the smallest.
Aside from that, players can also visit a place called "The Castle", a floating amusement park meant to entertain the richest and most depraved bigwigs in Japan. The main attraction there is the coliseum, which lets players partake in a series of challenges to earn money and raise their rank. It's a very impressive location from a visual standpoint, and it encapsulates the sheer flashiness that the series is now known for.
The downside is that the fight in the coliseum starts feeling repetitive quickly. Aside from gimmick matches, there's not much going on to break up the monotony of it, and there aren't any meaningful stories tied to the coliseum until the last handful of fights. What's worse is that there are points in the story where the game forces you to grind your rank up to progress, which just feels like needless padding.
The saving grace of all this is the game's combat and sensational presentation. Kiryu's new job gives him access to a series of James Bond-like gadgets that add a fun layer to the melee combat. Using wires to throw groups of enemies, zipping around with rocket boots and throwing cigarette bombs is a ton of fun. On top of that, as fans would expect, the sidequests in the game are full of sharp writing humor.
While this is far from the best game in the series, playing through the events in the beginning and end feels essential to the ongoing story. The inconsistency of the plot and general gameplay loop is salvaged by the combat and compelling finale. Aside from winning the award for the longest title, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name earns three-and-a-half stars out of five. – Chico Enterprise-Record/Tribune News Service