The new Yakuza is a perfect entry point, for better and worse

Like a Dragon Gaiden, the new entry within the Sega sequence previously often known as Yakuza, has no chill.

Within the first brawl, longtime hero Kazuma Kiryu good points Spider-Man web-slinging powers that hurl goons throughout the crowded streets of Osaka. Inside hours, he has the ability to name in drone swarms and toss explosive cigarettes which have the oomph of IEDs. Earlier than the primary act wraps, Kiryu can have joined an underground community of felony informants, visited a floating pleasure-palace-slash-coliseum, and tried to attraction a minimum of one hostess — skilled by the participant in first individual through full-motion video starring a actual actress.

The zaniness (and mild perviness) of this online game received’t sound uncommon to Yakuza followers, however that tempo will. 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon took at minimal 45 hours to finish, and for completionists, that quantity may double and even triple. Followers usually pitch Yakuza 0, broadly considered probably the most welcoming entry within the sequence, with a caveat: You will want to get by way of hours of cutscenes and tutorials earlier than the sport will get good.

And so, paradoxically, regardless of feeling like the top of an period (the sequence’ motion fight has been changed by turn-based encounters in new mainline entries), Like a Dragon Gaiden stands out as the new “best starting point” for one in every of gaming’s longest, densest, and most underappreciated franchises.

However what about all of the backstory, you may ask? Gaiden bridges the hole between years of Kiryu-focused video games and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, which is at the moment slated for a January 2024 launch date. However to benefit from the story, you’ll want, at most, a fast YouTube recap. The premise of the sport is that Kiryu has faked his demise, and now is doing proper by the locals of Sotenbori whereas unspooling one more bureaucratic thriller involving swole dudes with glorious tattoos.

As a result of Kiryu now goes by Joryu (the sport’s official title is Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Title), you’ll usually be partaking with individuals who know nothing about his bloodspattered backstory. And when a character does know Kiryu’s drama, our man prefers to speak together with his fists.

Picture: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio/Sega

Mainline Yakuza video games have an abundance of cutscenes and absolutely voiced aspect missions; Gaiden has far much less, its world as an alternative crammed with novelties, distractions, and fetch quests. Now, if you happen to’re a Yakuza fan, take a few deep breaths — that final sentence may trigger hyperventilation. However actually, I’ve loved this “Ubisoft open world” strategy to Yakuza. Gaiden is the equal of consuming your baby’s total bucket of Halloween sweet since you received a little too stoned watching Charlie Brown. It isn’t good for you, not to mention nourishing, and it is, at instances, deeply embarrassing. However now and then, it feels nice to gorge on junk meals.

Like a Dragon Gaiden is magnificent online game junk meals. Hell, a beneficiant critic may even learn the creation of Gaiden as a parody of Western sport growth. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio director Masayoshi Yokoyama lately claimed the sport started as DLC and took solely six months to develop. The crew repurposed the majority of its world from earlier entries and trimmed down the story and all of the costly stuff that will in any other case include it (contemporary voice appearing, cinematic cutscenes, and so forth.). Once you open the map in Gaiden, it’s crammed with busywork, numerous little exclamation factors and collectible objects. However in contrast to so many present open-world AAA video games, this world is refreshingly small and the to-do record is truly enjoyable. Plus, Kiryu himself has turned into a cross between a sure British tremendous agent, a tremendous soldier, and a Marvel hero.

A yakuza wearing sunglasses holds his finger to hear something in an earpiece in Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Picture: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio/Sega

The Yakuza sequence has lengthy had a nice humorousness; may this be its most interesting joke? A sport that, in its very creation, is commentary on the present state of sport growth? Nah, I received’t go that far. Although I wouldn’t label this a cash-in both.

Gaiden displays (slightly than responds to) our new online game actuality, during which builders shall be sensible to take advantage of their extraordinarily costly investments in mainline entries. With Gaiden, I can see a future during which every new core entry of Like a Dragon will get an action-heavy spinoff, set in the identical world and with the identical characters, made for a fraction of the worth however no much less interesting to followers — in some methods, maybe, interesting much more to these with out time for a bottomless RPG.

If it’s not apparent: I’m describing myself. After a 12 months of a number of the greatest (and most demanding) video games of my lifetime, it felt good to lose a week of sleep to a sport that hooked me like a pulpy paperback. Any second I might have spent craving for the richer Yakuza video games was spent serving to Osakans fend off debt collectors, getting underwear out of timber, and delivering bathroom paper to a public restroom person in dire want.

For followers, Gaiden could really feel like a speedrun of the complete sequence, the journey of Kiryu condensed into one decadent hurrah — now with drones and superpowers. However for newcomers, I think about Gaiden shall be akin to listening to an iconic band for the primary time by opening Spotify and choosing Best Hits.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Title shall be accessible Nov. 8 on PlayStation 5, Home windows PC, and Xbox Collection X. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a pre-release obtain code offered by Sega. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. You’ll find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.

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