The Like a Dragon series, formerly known as Yakuza in the West, is a masterwork in contradiction. On the one hand, each game tells a gripping, if sometimes slightly disorganized, story that delves into the shadowy underbelly of Japanese organized crime. On the other hand, you can help a dominatrix to be more assertive by coaching her through an S&M session, deliver pizza around town, and lose yourself in running a Fortune 500 company.
The latest game in the series, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, out on Nov. 9, sees the return of longtime protagonist Kazuma Kiryu after he stepped out of the spotlight in 2016’s Yakuza 6—and thanks to a massive trailer that recently debuted, we can break down a few tantalizing details about Kiryu’s next big adventure.
Kiryu returns: This time, it’s personal
After faking his death and going into hiding at the end of Yakuza 6, Kiryu has been putting his decades of yakuza experience to work by taking on odd jobs for the Daidoji Faction. If you played Yakuza 6, you’ll remember them as the criminal organization headed by Minoru Daidoji that was responsible for helping Kiryu with his disappearance.
In order to pay back his debt to Daidoji, Kiryu has been doing his typical tough guy thing under a new name, but as is tradition for him, one of these jobs goes wrong, and he’s pulled into yet another conflict with the Omi Alliance, the series’ long-running Yakuza antagonists.
With the Omi looming on one side and the Daidoji Faction blackmailing him to keep him under control on the other, this seems to be a uniquely personal story for Kiryu. He’s even shown displaying an emotion besides his usual stone-faced glower! As with past games, expect this to turn into a huge conspiracy inexplicably involving the government.
The Agent fighting style: The man from Kamurocho
The real meat of the LaD games is the street brawling, and Gaiden seems to be no exception. Although previous games have boasted up to eight distinct fighting styles (24 if you count the weird PSP spinoff), Kiryu only has access to two styles this time around. First up is the Yakuza style, which is an evolution of the aggressive, improvisational style Kiryu has been using since the very first game, focusing on power, brutality, and hitting people really hard with bicycles.
The brand-new Agent style, on the other hand, looks far more interesting by comparison. In essence, it turns Kiryu into James Bond, letting him take advantage of a full arsenal of Daidoji-issued gadgets from combat drones to exploding cigarettes. This one is described as being all about speed and precision, which is a far cry from Kiryu’s usual ‘punch things until they stop moving’ strategy.
New name, new look
This change is so significant that it gets its own heading. For the first time ever—as in, the series’ entire 18-year run—Gaiden is featuring character customization. In past games, you’ve been saddled with whatever Kiryu or the other protagonists decide to wear, typically his iconic gray disco suit, but Kazuma Kiryu can’t be seen wearing his Kazuma Kiryu outfit when he’s meant to be dead.
As shown in gameplay footage, you’ll be able to freely select suits, shoes, hats, accessories like pocket squares and earrings, and even makeup. Kiryu has been wearing that gray suit since 1989, so he’s long overdue for a wardrobe refresh.
A LaD game is only as good as its side content, and Gaiden certainly seems like it’s no slouch in that area. The game’s primary setting of Osaka, Japan, which returns from Yakuza 2, 0, and 5, is evidently jam-packed with things to keep your mind off Kiryu’s depressing new life.
Most interesting is the new take on the battle arena: While having underground death matches is a series staple, this iteration will allow you to team up with iconic characters from the series in huge group battles and even play as them. Some important characters from the series, like Daigo Dojima, even seem to be making their playable debut in this mode.
Beyond that, the usual suspects are all here, from mahjong to pool to karaoke. The faintly-creepy cabaret club minigame, in which you try and often fail to flirt with hostesses, is also back, this time with live-action footage so you can feel even more ashamed of yourself when you strike out. We’d also be remiss not to mention slot car racing, which is back in triumphant form after a ten-year absence from the series and has absolutely no right to be as fun or engaging as it is.
Finite wealth: A small taste of the future
Finally, perhaps the biggest reveal of all: Gaiden is coming packed in with a demo of the upcoming Like a Dragon 8: Infinite Wealth, which sees Kiryu and peppy co-protagonist Ichiban Kasuga head off to America for the first time in series history. Details are still thin on the ground for this one, but there’s no way hardcore fans are going to pass up getting a glimpse at the series’ future. With a couple of months left before release, there’s no better time to brush up on the series and make sure you’re heading into Gaiden prepared.
All told, Gaiden looks to be hitting the high points of the series while introducing enough new elements to keep things fresh—and maybe, just maybe, letting Kiryu catch a break once all is said and done.