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  • Writer's pictureAbhinav Sharma

Like a Dragon: Ishin!

PLAYED ON: PC via Game Pass

(Non-Spoiler Review)

Like a Dragon: Ishin is one of the newer entries in the Yakuza (now called Like a Dragon) series. It is a remake of a 2014 PlayStation game which many fans of the franchise were eagerly waiting for as the original was a Japanese exclusive title. Ishin delivers a highly accurate remake, bringing back many of the original iconic characters and recasting them in a period drama setting for a whole new experience along with the wacky and hilarious elements the series is famous for.

Taking place in 1860s at the end of the Edo Period, the game lets you explore the city of Kyo, a highly condensed version of the real-life Japanese capital city at that time. The city is divided into different areas each with their own particular charm and characteristics which will never make you run short on places to explore and see. There is hardly a place which one may find dull as the streets are full of townsfolk going about their usual business. This stands in stark contrast to the modern setting of the other Yazuka games and gives the players a chance to revisit the old times. The world of Ishin may seem small in comparison to the other AAA open worlds but the world is full of side-quests and minigames and weird NPCs for Ryoma to interact with.

Speaking of Ryoma, you play as Sakamoto Ryoma, a compassionate and chivalrous samurai based on real-life historical figures. He is portrayed by the series favourite Kazuma Kiryu and other familiar faces from the Yakuza series are also present. The characters may be portraying different characters but they still retain their characteristics and personalities, so even with a completely different setting it still very much feels like a classic Yakuza game.

The story starts with you returning to Tosa where Ryoma meets his adoptive father Yoshida Toyo and adoptive brother Takechi Hanpeita, where the three plan to reform Tosa’s class system but Ryoma soon suffers the loss of his father to a mysterious masked assassin and on top of that is also framed for Toyo’s assassination. From here on out Ryoma goes into hiding while vowing to pursue the killer with his only lead being the peculiar fighting style used by the assassin which leads him to Kyo where he infiltrates an organization known as the Shinsengumi. It feels like a Japanese period drama with themes of revenge, betrayal, and secretly infiltrating the enemy. All the different aspects of the story are held together very tightly as you as Ryoma try to find your father’s killer while at the same time getting entangled in local politics, gangs, criminals and new friends and foes.

The story may feel a little slow at the start as the game introduces some set pieces and characters but it soon picks up its pace. I also felt like the game starts to prolong its story unnecessarily which may annoy some people. It has a lot of drama and twists expected with a Yakuza game and superb Japanese voice acting performances by the cast which I feel most people will enjoy.

This being a spin-off game means it has not much to do with the storyline of the original Yakuza series and thus in my opinion is an excellent starting point for players who want to jump into the Yakuza franchise. The story will please both long-time Yakuza fans as well as new players alike.

Unlike the previous title (Yakuza: Like a Dragon) this game returns to its root of brawler-styled combat. There are four distinct fighting styles in this game - Brawler, Gunman, Swordsman, and Wild Dancer. Brawler is focused on fist fights involving punching, grappling and throwing your enemies. Gunman is something which you would have never thought about when playing a game focused on samurai as Ryoma whips out a revolver in the middle of a fight. Swordsman involves your typical samurai fighting style with you wielding a blade/katana. And finally wild dancer makes you use both the sword and gun simultaneously. The combat may feel a bit stiff in the start but soon becomes really fun and engaging as you unlock new skills and combos by levelling up the skill tree of the 4 different combat styles. The game allows you to freely switch between the four combat styles mid-fight. There is also an Officer card system which unlocks soon after joining the Shinsengumi which allows you to call for summons, buffs, healing or perform some cool finishers.

I enjoyed the classic swordsman style the most as it offered for a more skill-heavy playstyle prioritizing you maintaining the right amount of distance, parrying, evading and being accurate with your swings. But that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the other styles cause mowing down hordes of enemies with the fast and highly manoeuvrable wild dancer was really enjoyable and if you feel that you are getting overwhelmed you can always step back a little and pull out your trusty old revolver in gunman style which for some reason needs no reloading and feels more like a full auto assault rifle as you fill your enemies up with bullets. It always made me chuckle on seeing Ryoma use a revolver like a full-auto machine gun. To sum it up I really enjoyed the combat in this game be it the serious swordsman style or the wacky gunman and wild dancer styles. One thing that I found annoying was random difficulty spikes due to which the combat progression may not seem that well balanced.

Even with an intense story to play through, most of my playtime was poured into the plethora of the side-quests and mini-games Ishin offers. You can’t travel even a single minute in Kyo without finding something that takes your mind off of your main objective. From serving food in a Udon shop to chopping some wood to chasing a guy who stole your clothes while being naked. There is a never-ending selection of side-quests to explore, which at this point is a staple of Yakuza games. Kyo is full of weird and eccentric citizens for you to interact with and a bunch of minigames for you to invest your time into. You are also given a small farmhouse to manage where you can farm vegetables and cook them into meals. I can go on and on about the mini-games and side content present in Ishin but it would be best for you to experience it yourself.

Ishin in my opinion is an excellent remake of a 2014 game but due to being a remake of an old release, it may feel a bit dated. Though Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did an excellent good in remaking the character models of the main characters and same couldn’t be said for the side characters and characters present in side-quests. Most of the side characters don’t have updated models and most side missions also don’t have voice acting. The game runs and looks great but doesn’t have the same amount of polish the latest Yakuza titles have but all this is not that big of a hurdle as the game is fun and looks good where it matters. For some, it may also feel a bit too much because of the amount of side content this game has but it is something which makes a Yakuza game a Yakuza game.

TSHC SCORE: 8.5/10


Like a Dragon: Ishin is a unique and entertaining Yakuza spin-off that takes you back in time to the world of Samurais. The story is gripping, the gameplay is a blast, and the world is so detailed it's like you're really there. With an intriguing main story and lots of side content and mini-games, the game has a ton of content for the player to explore through. It might not be the most visually stunning game out there, but it more than makes up for it with charm, humour, and the classic Yakuza goodness.


Opencritic Rating:


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