Like a Dragon: Hands on with both new games at EGX 2023

2023-10-14  Gaming

I attended my first post-pandemic EGX this week in London, and while the event itself was certainly subdued compared to previous years, I was very excited to get my hands on two new entries in the Like a Dragon series ahead of their release.

While both are brand new games, The Man Who Erased His Name and Infinite Wealth come from two very different angles that could be said to represent the series’ past and future. Here are my initial thoughts after trying them for myself.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Staking a claim amongst the longest video game titles ever, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name picks up the story of fan favourite protagonist Kazuma Kiryu from where it was left off in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. While it will be released on PlayStation 4, it is probably also the first game in the Yakuza series to be developed with the primary focus on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

My demo gave me 15 minutes to run around a neon-soaked theme park for the wealthy, designed after a Japanese castle. It was unclear how far into the story this segment takes place, but Kiryu was going by his Joryu moniker after faking his death to protect his adopted family. The island was packed with the amusements you’d expect from a Yakuza game, and was a really visually arresting setting.

In classic style, as soon as Kiryu arrives he’s greeted by way of a fight with a group of thugs. Combat gameplay feels very smooth, and Kiryu’s secret agent-style persona gives him some special gadgets to use. I can’t remember the specific names, but these include a dash, drones, a grenade, and a lasso. They fit perfectly with classic Yakuza’s frantic combat and are a lot of fun to deploy in battle.

I spent the rest of my time exploring the island. The boutique has outfits far quirkier than I remember in previous titles, and the arena gave me further opportunity to test my fighting skills against waves of enemies. Overall, I’m very much looking forward to this game’s release in November, and it felt great to slide back into Kiryu’s shoes and return to the original Yakuza formula after Like a Dragon’s turn-based battles.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Infinite Wealth is the next mainline Like a Dragon game starring new lead Ichiban Kasuga and featuring RPG-style party combat. After nearly an hour of queueing I entered the Sega booth to find Ichiban washed up in Hawaii and having formed a squad of four, featuring a noticeably aged Kazuma Kiryu. My 20-minute demo allowed me to explore the beach and a small area of the city.

My main impression is that the game is basically more of the same following 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The available mission didn’t sound too interesting, so I mainly roamed Hawaii to see what I could find, getting into some fights along the way. Combat has been refined a little, with movement allowed within a circle that can trigger contextual moves involving objects or teammates, and Kiryu has a special ability that breaks up the turn-based fights with some real-time brawling.

Unfortunately, the Hawaiian setting exposes more of the series’ shortcomings than previous games. It’s not as exciting or packed as The Man Who Erased His Name’s neon theme park, but more problematic are the the English-speaking locals. Most of them sound like that one weirdo from the last game, but worse is that they reveal just how basic NPC dialogue is. Then again, perhaps this is nothing new for some fans - is this just what it’s like to play a Yakuza game if you speak Japanese?

EGX 2023 - an event in decline

Sega’s Like a Dragon offerings were certainly my personal highlight of this year’s EGX (formerly the Eurogamer Expo, and recently transplanted to Earls Court to the ExCel). I also had a great time hanging out with friends in the arcade and retro areas, which were a lot of fun and had plenty of consoles and machines to try out.

But the main reason I (and probably many others) go to these events is to try out new and upcoming games. Sega brought two Yakuza games, two Persona games, and a Sonic game. Super Mario Bros. Wonder and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 were also present, but there was little else in terms of major studios and series.

In years gone by there would be huge displays from the likes of Microsoft and EA, but with the big players preferring their own tightly-controlled showcases there was no sign of them on the floor here. Unfortunately it seems that EGX as an event may be in decline, with a lower quality offering for the admission fee. I can only hope the Eurogamer team is able to turn it around before it suffers the same fate as E3.

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