With the release of 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Yakuza 7), the series seems to be at a crossroads. The acclaimed RPG, which brings an overhauled combat system to the franchise, introduces a new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga (Ichi). Critics and fans alike quickly warmed to the changes, but it marked the first major upheaval for a series that has remained relatively unchanged for over a decade.
2016’s Yakuza 6: Like a Dragon seemed to be the main series protagonist Kiryu’s swansong. The game received glowing reviews for serving as a fitting coda to the enduring hero, but it seems we haven’t seen the last of him. With the announcement of two upcoming Yakuza titles, the series seems set for a dual-protagonist setup, at least for the time being.
The Man Who Erased His Name
The first of these games, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (it seems they’re dropping the Yakuza title in favour of the Japanese name), is set to launch on November 8, 2023. The game sees players once again playing as Kiryu in events set after Yakuza 6. It promises a continuation of his seemingly finished narrative, following his faked death and escape from ‘the life’, and a temporary return to the series’ brawler combat.
However, this upcoming title is only a stop-gap towards the next major game in the Yakuza series. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, set to launch January 26 2024, sees players returning as both Ichi and Kiryu, continuing on from both The Man Who Erased His Name and Yakuza 7. If you’re having a little trouble following this, you’re not the only one.
The recent announcements of these games highlighted an ambitious future for the beloved franchise, but it also raised a lot of questions. Are we going to see more of Kiryu? Will Ichi become the series’ primary protagonist? Will the combat remain turn-based, or return to its action roots? Of course, time will only tell, but it seems Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio is currently paying homage to both the old and the new. Yakuza 7’s new protagonist and overhauled combat system undoubtedly introduced new players to the series, but will they hold the interest of long-time fans?
One thing’s for certain: we’ve not seen the last of this series. If anything, the series has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. With the critical hype of recent tiles and the remakes and remasters of earlier titles that have been steadily dropping, it seems there’s never been a better time to follow the long-running series.
The studio has also been branching out in recent years. After developing Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise in 2018, they debuted Judgement and its sequel Lost Judgment, set in the Yakuza universe. Although Judgment seems to be adjacent to Yakuza, we may eventually see the two series cross paths in some way. Whatever the case, it seems the future is bright for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s unique brand of adventure.
What do you think? Are you on board with the series’ future? Are you a fan of the turn-based combat? Let us know in the comments!