Kazuma Kiryu has been hitting the cigs fairly onerous.
Don’t get me incorrect. After a protracted day of beating the everloving shit out of individuals, a stiff drink and some drags in all probability go down actual good. And the protagonist of Sega’s long-running crime cleaning soap has by no means been one to draw back from a scrumptious vice, whether or not it’s consuming the complete Smile Burger menu in a single sitting, dropping a pair million yen to make small discuss with a bosomy hostess, or guzzling a complete bottle of whisky for a mid-brawl power enhance.
Smoking has all the time been a part of the feel of Yakuza’s romp by way of Japan’s prison underworld, typically deployed to nice impact in cutscenes and idle animations. However Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Title foregrounds Kiryu’s nicotine behavior to a better extent than any earlier sport within the collection. After the opening sequence, he laments being unable to smoke within the automotive. Elsewhere, “going for a smoke” will often be essential to advance the story. In contrast to in earlier Yakuza video games, cigarettes at the moment are consumable items bought in comfort shops and given as items. If you happen to run out, Kiryu will implore you to get some extra. Discovering a smoking space and lighting up will improve Kiryu’s warmth gauge, which permits him to execute extra highly effective assaults. Did I point out that he additionally will get “fight cigarettes” that act as mini-bombs throughout fights? Anyway, there’s a helluva lot of smoking on this sport.
The factor is, lighting up on a regular basis doesn’t make Kiryu appear edgy or cool anymore. Okay, high-quality. It does typically. However extra typically, his fixed smoking contributes to a broader sense of foreboding and anxious dread that’s all over the place in Gaiden, a compact, thrilling, and transferring sidequel that enables developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios to ascertain sky-high stakes for the subsequent mainline installment of the collection, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
A caged dragon
Gaiden particulars the legendary yakuza’s life within the shadows after faking his personal demise on the finish of 2016’s Yakuza 6. After discovering a decades-long conspiracy linking the federal government to the prison underworld, the Dragon of Dojima is compelled into serving the shadowy Daidoji faction—lest they retaliate by killing his family members on the Morning Glory orphanage in Okinawa.
Employed-muscle work isn’t particularly difficult for a brick shithouse like Kiryu, nevertheless it’s instantly clear that the final three or 4 years have taken quite a bit out of him mentally. He’s like a caged tiger who principally spends his downtime “meditating” in a Buddhist temple—solely his meditation principally consists of reliving the worst moments of his life: when the individuals closest to him have died, or the final time he noticed his adopted daughter Haruka. (Regrets, he’s had a couple of.) Faking your individual demise won’t appear so dangerous on paper, however Kiryu has realized that being remoted from everybody and every little thing you’ve ever cared about would possibly truly be worse than demise.
The earlier Yakuza video games have been fairly approachable from a storytelling perspective—you’ll be able to decide up Yakuza Kiwami 2 or Yakuza 0 chilly and get a deal with of issues simply high-quality. However Gaiden is an exception to this rule. Occasions on this story run parallel to the occasions of 2020’s RPG outing Like A Dragon, whereas additionally calling again on to Yakuza 6. I performed each after they first got here out, however was just a little rusty on the twists and turns of every. If you happen to’re planning to play Gaiden, you could need to brush up on what occurred, as a result of it assumes a reasonably excessive degree of familiarity with the lore.
Gaiden primarily takes place in Osaka’s Sotenbori vice district, with some further hijinks available in a small phase of Yokohama’s Ijincho (of Like A Dragon fame) and the wholly new Citadel space, which is a cargo ship in worldwide waters with a on line casino and a combating colosseum. In Sotenbori, Kiryu falls in with Akame, a sharp-tongued gal who protects the homeless from predatory thugs and runs an underground data community.
The Akame Community missions are in all probability the beefiest non-obligatory content material within the sport, and are divvied up as lengthier Requests and transient Assist missions. The latter are extra pedestrian fare—convey a man a bento field, assist a mother or father discover a lacking child, give an unfortunate dude in a public rest room some tissues to wipe with. Requests are much more rewarding, with loads of deep-cut throwbacks to iconic weirdos from Yakuza video games previous, and even an prolonged crossover with the Judgement collection.
The Citadel’s colosseum is a button-mashing adrenaline rush, although not notably new for longtime collection followers. There are each particular person and group battles, and you may recruit different fighters to affix you for larger brawls. You may also purchase some fairly outlandish costumes for Kiryu to put on within the enviornment—Majima and Ono Michio, anybody?—although I discovered myself saving cash for talent upgrades in my preliminary playthrough.
Fists of fury
Kiryu’s story takes place over 5 chapters, in comparison with 12-15 within the collection’ mainline choices. Which means it’ll take you about 10 hours to beat, accounting for some reasonable dabbling in sidequests. Plan to double that should you’re seeking to end all of the side-stories and non-obligatory content material.
The minigames on supply in Gaiden are acquainted fare: golf, poker, mahjongg, darts, karaoke, and arcade video games. The hostess membership returns, although this time with live-action actors, which makes the interactions much more goofy. The women all have distinctive personalities and appears, and it’s onerous to not really feel just a little flutter in your chest after they bat their eyelashes at you and giggle oh-so saucily.
With no sleep-stealing time-sink like Yakuza 0’s actual property empire or Like A Dragon’s enterprise sim, combating is much and away the most important ingredient of Gaiden’s gameplay—and fortunately, it’s terrific. Boss battles are dramatic and flashy in each doable approach, and RGG hurls larger hordes of goons at Kiryu than ever earlier than. Transitions between combating and exploration are additionally noticeably shorter than earlier video games, which makes stepping into fast road tussles extra interesting than it has been previously.
Every installment of the Yakuza collection has dealt with the Dragon of Dojima’s talent set just a little in a different way, and Gaiden isn’t any exception, streamlining Kiryu’s combating talents into two types. Yakuza is his acquainted gradual and highly effective fight stance, with an emphasis on relentless combos and charged assaults. Agent model is a brand new addition that provides him a quartet of spy devices to play with, together with cigarette bombs, assault drones, and rocket sneakers. The most effective of all is the Spider, which works like Peter Parker’s webs and binds up baddies for a short while, permitting Kiryu to fling them away or into different goons.
The talent tree is fairly complicated and weirdly organized, nevertheless it’s not a dealbreaker. (Why does each Yakuza sport have a singular, but annoying talent tree?) Throughout my playthrough, I plowed most of my cash into abilities and had little left over for aspect content material. On reflection, many are overpriced and never particularly helpful—I in all probability would have gotten extra enjoyment out of utilizing that cash elsewhere.
Whereas I initially inclined towards the normal Yakuza moveset—crushing dweebs within the face with a bicycle or an armchair actually by no means will get outdated—I discovered myself favoring Agent model because the problem ratcheted up. It gives nice crowd management for the various large mobs you’ll encounter, and the power to zip out and in of the fray for fast combos makes it interesting for one-on-one showdowns with gradual, blade-wielding heavies.
Gaiden performs the acquainted hits in a compact bundle that’s a pleasant solution to wile away a wet weekend. If you happen to’ve left earlier video games within the collection unfinished as a result of hefty time funding required, it is a nice solution to get again into the swing of issues, even when all of the lore-dumping would possibly go away you feeling such as you’ve taken one too many bicycles to the pinnacle.
It’s not wanting too good for ol’ Kiryu by the top of Gaiden, however I’ve acquired my fingers crossed he will get the pleased ending he deserves in his sundown years. Perhaps even a romantic associate in spite of everything these years of taking part in the lone wolf? Both approach, I can’t wait to see what’s subsequent in Infinite Wealth. Let’s hope he cools it with the rattling smoking by then.