- Like a Dragon Gaiden delivers a gripping conclusion as Kiryu faces his hardest foe yet.
- The final boss battle, set-up, and motives heavily symbolize previous entries in the series.
- The ending culminates in the dissolution of the two biggest Yakuza factions of the past era.
Back in 2017, a good friend told me about Yakuza 0, and trusting his video game taste with mine, I immediately got it without looking up anything about it whatsoever. That faithful decision would soon kickstart my obsession with the Yakuza series from Ryu Ga Gotaku Studios, with me delving later into the remasters, the Judgment spin-offs, and not to mention the long-awaited western release of Yakzua Ishin.
However, in 2020, the series underwent a slight title change with the announcement of Yakuza 7, naming it Like a Dragon. For those not aware, this was the name used for the franchise in Japan, but to me, this title revamp led me to realize this was the start of a new era for the series.
In Like a Dragon Gaiden, the fans got to see Kazuma Kiryu’s last possible confrontation with the Yakuza, making sure the dissolution of their period truly comes to fruition. Showcasing the series’ best antagonist to date and other returning characters joining the fray to lay down their vows to erase the past once and for all.
Note: The article may contain minor spoilers for Yakuza 0, Kiwami, 5, and Like a Dragon Gaiden.
Tracing Steps Back To The Origins
Before I get to the finale of Gaiden, there’s a quote that struck me vividly from Kiryu during the end where he called the two central antagonists “Old-School Yakuza,” the ones who wanted nothing else out of life but power, fame, and being at the top of the underworld crime’s food chain.
This derogatory term for them reminded me of Kiryu’s explosive showdown against Shibusawa, with the former emerging as the Dragon of Dojima and carrying the weight of that name on his shoulders for years to come. However, these dreams or names resulted in Kiryu losing his face of humanity in front of everyone he cared about, making him confront decisions he didn’t want to do, like fighting against sworn brother Nishkiyama or Goda Ryuji, both of whom he considered his closest or equal in character.
But in the case of Shishido, Gaiden’s main villain, the man embodies the whole meaning of Yakuza, as I mentioned, wanting nothing but raw power at the pawn of his hands. The game makes an excellent case of how Yakuza in this day and age have gone past their prime, and Shishido is an individual who demands its presence be still maintained, despite both the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance being driven to a standstill.
The Parallels Between Shishido And Aizawa
Shishido, as a villain in Like a Dragon Gaiden, pays homage to Yakuza 5’s Masato Aizawa, Kiryu’s main antagonist in that installment who, despite coming off surprisingly having ulterior motives, dreamed of having the power of both the Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan handed to him on a silver platter. But even more so, he wanted to prove himself by defeating Kiryu in the heart of the Tojo Clan’s main headquarters.
In hindsight, Gaiden’s final showdown with Shishido not only mirrors the fight against Aizawa, from the setting to how the fight’s choreography works throughout the entire battle, but also down to the characters. Aizawa’s Black Koi Tattoo, like Nishikiyama’s, represents the identical meaning of ascending the waterfall to attain Dragonhood, but the key difference is how Aizawa’s has a darker appearance, showcasing his ominous goals and lurking in the shadows of Yakuza 5’s events.
Meanwhile, Shishido bears the Tattoo of the Shisa, a mythical creature hybrid of a lion and a dog. Known for their tenacity, pride, and strength, if we look deeper here, the first two Kanji in Shishido’s name, “獅子 (shishi).” directly reference the majestic beauty of the Shisa, their powerful stride yet their alluding vulnerability of having false ambitions, one that of Shishido trying to keep the spirit of the Yakuza alive in the finale.
On the surface, while Aizawa and Shishido may seem vastly similar in character traits, the latter offers a better reflection as someone who desperately struggles to shift the tides of an opposing power to his balance, trying to prove that he can bring forth a new age of Yakuza while having enough power to resist any left standing, even if it’s Kiryu and the former Tojo legends like Goro Majima or Taiga Saejima.
A Deadly Struggle Turned Into A Fleeting Dream
While the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance dissolution finally came to actualization, Shishido appears again, right at the doorstep of the Omi Headquarters after his initial bout with Kiryu, pouring forth his Lionhearted prowess, doing whatever it takes to fulfill his dream to sit atop of the crime underworld. Because for him, there was so much he had to endure, from being sold into slavery at a young age to clawing his way across the ranks to become a Captain for the Watase Family.
If it’s one thing that Gaiden does right for the fans, giving a tragic and downright badass villain, one whose desires and hopes mean actual high stakes for the final showdown instead of being shoe-horned in the last act (No disrespect to Tsuneo Iwami). Along with the most metal final boss soundtracks the series has ever made and a fight that makes you actually push yourself to the limit on the hardest difficulty, more challenging if you go into it without equipping gear or armor.
With the sun setting in the back and glass shattering across the halls, just two men brawling across the entire HQ, fighting for their opposite ideals. One is trying desperately to achieve the dreams that he fought so much for, while the other is trying to end the cycle of misery and further corruption for all future Yakuza after being continuously dragged into its mess for years.
The entire last act, with you fighting alongside legends like Majima, Saejima, and the Patriarch himself, Daigo, really cements the fact that their legacy is a sin of their past, and now they’re the ones who have to put down the flames to this era that they had a part in igniting in the first place.
While I played almost every 2023 release, nothing got me to choke up and bawl like a kid again until Kiryu watched the video of the Orphanage kids during the game’s last minutes. It really hammered down the weight of Kiryu’s journey throughout every Yakuza installment, the amount of suffering he had to endure due to his status as the Dragon of Dojima, and to you, the player who got to witness it every step of the way with him.
Like a Dragon Gaiden was the perfect sendoff for Kiryu; despite the game having minor pacing issues, the last act is a certified masterpiece, one that RGG provided immense fan service for throughout its entirety, along with an end credits song that pours more salt in the wounds on the player than Kiryu, reflecting back on his relationship with Haruka, Haruto and all of the Morning Glory Orphanage Kids.
I’m excited about Kiryu’s involvement in Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth, especially since RGG dropped the bombshell news of his cancer in the early story trailers before Gaiden’s release. Though thankfully, this was the last of Kiryu’s role with the Yakuza, with him passing the Torch to Ichiban Kasuga in Yakuza 7, the hype I have for Infinite Wealth is too much considering Kiryu’s mentor role and a party member for Kasuga in that game.
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