I’m Excited And Nervous To See Kiryu Back In Yakuza Again

We better not be playing Kiryu in Like A Dragon 12.

Like A Dragon 8
Like A Dragon 8

Heavy spoilers for the end of Yakuza: Like a Dragon follow.

Cultured Vultures spoilers

Yakuza/Like A Dragon fans are eating very, very good right now, as the recent Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Summit conference confirmed three upcoming games in the iconic franchise. We’re getting a ground up remake of Like A Dragon: Ishin! for modern platforms, which also marks the first time that the game will be launched in the West. That on its own is an outstanding announcement, but RGG Studio isn’t done there.

Also announced was Like A Dragon 8, the sequel to the highly acclaimed Yakuza: Like A Dragon, which once again follows the journey of Ichiban Kasuga. However, Ichiban won’t be alone this time, as the game will feature Kazuma Kiryu as a protagonist once again, with the player switching between both throughout the game. If that’s not enough Kiryu for you, he’s also going to be starring in Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, a side story that chronicles Kiryu’s life between Yakuza 6 and the upcoming Like A Dragon 8.

Like I said, we’re eating good.

Like A Dragon 8
Like A Dragon 8

As a Yakuza fan stretching all the way back to the original PS2 release, which I played at an age way too young for me, it’s nice to see Kiryu back in the limelight once again. For a lot of fans, Kiryu is the Yakuza/Like A Dragon series, and while Yakuza 6 was a fitting farewell for the iconic himbo king, the door was definitely left open for more adventures with the former Dragon of Dojima. You better believe I’ll be there day one to experience them.

However, it’s also making me nervous to see Kiryu still getting so much focus, despite the fact that the series was supposed to have moved on after the events of Yakuza 6. We were given a new protagonist and a new group of characters, yet the immediate future of the series seems to involve its past, which is somewhat worrying. Despite giving the series a clean break with Yakuza: Like A Dragon, the series is now seemingly relying heavily on what came before.

It’s nerve-wracking because it feels like RGG Studio might be struggling to move on from the series’ most recognisable era. Again, Yakuza 6 was billed as the end of the Kiryu saga, but the existence of Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name feels like a direct contradiction to that. Clearly, his saga isn’t over, and they’re intent to tell more stories with this character.

Like A Dragon 8
Like A Dragon 8

Obviously, he was always going to play some kind of role in the future of Yakuza/Like A Dragon, given how open his ending was in Yakuza 6, and his appearance in Yakuza: Like A Dragon (these names are confusing at this point) seemed like a good indicator of what’s to come. He rocks up near the end, does some cool Kiryu stuff, then disappears so the protagonists can shine in the finale. Now, that vision doesn’t seem so likely.

Bringing Kiryu back and shoving him into the spotlight in this way gives the impression that the series is struggling to let go. Quite frankly, I don’t want the Yakuza series to be about a 65 year old Kazuma Kiryu smacking goons with a zimmerframe. At a certain point, the series needs to cut the cord on this character, as harsh as that sounds. That doesn’t need to involve him going six feet under, as there’s a little orphanage in Okinawa that could do with a loving Uncle Kaz.

While it’s always nice to experience something new with Kazuma Kiryu, especially as a long-time fan of the series, Yakuza: Like A Dragon offered a fresh and brilliant perspective with Ichiban Kasuga. Ichiban’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and love for his friends made a nice change from Kiryu’s quiet stoicism, giving the series a whole new dynamic. I’d hate for that to be lost just because RGG Studio are wheeling out the greatest hits again.

At least Kiryu has a new haircut this time, if nothing else. Change is as good as a break, I suppose.

READ MORE: Ranking Every Yakuza Game From Worst To Best

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