Like a Dragon Ishin! Review

Developed by RYU ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega, Like a Dragon Ishin! Is an action-adventure RPG that is a spin-off of the Yakuza (Like a Dragon) series that has been remade from the 2014 Japan-only release and finally brought to a western audience. Have you ever wanted to play a Yakuza game but not as a gangster but rather as a samurai from the Edo period? Well now is your chance. Being a fan of the Yakuza, Like a Dragon and Judgement series I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this. As I was late to the party I didn’t know that this game was a remake at first but bells started to ring straight away as you see Yakuza regular Kiryu as the main protagonist in this game looking still fresh-faced. There are many other familiar faces from the other games making an appearance too so a lot of recycling has been done which has its pros and cons.

                So you play the part of Kiryu – I mean Sakamoto Ryoma – who is an orphan that was adopted by a man in power, which may sound familiar to another plot but there is a familiarity in this game. He -along with his sworn brother, a fellow orphan – try to help their pops bring down a crippling social class regime which is bringing misery to Japan and more closely his home in Tosa. His adopted father is then killed by an assassin in front of them which Ryoma gets the blame for, and so he escapes Tosa under a new identity with a vow to find the assassin responsible and one day return home to Tosa.

                Those familiar with Yakuza games will be right at home here. There is a large area to explore, are plenty of stores to peruse, a lot of baddies looking for a fight and as always there are tons of side quests and activities to derail you from just sticking to the main plot. The combat in the game is in a similar vein to the earlier Yakuza games in that it is real-time fighting and not turn-based like the recent Like a Dragon. You can pick from 4 different fighting styles but these have a different flavour. You have unarmed brawler style, swordplay, gunplay or sword dancer which is a sword and gun combo. That’s right in a game set in the Edo era you have more access to guns than in the modern Japanese era. I am not going to lie, it feels odd and cheap to stand at a distance and let loose a gun shooting some sword-wielding thugs who were foolish to pick a fight. The tougher enemies will be harder to cheese that way but these combat styles do feel fresh, especially the sword dancer style.

                It’s hard to get away from that familiar feeling, and I’m not just saying the Yakuza framework, as this series packs in so much content to keep you occupied and this game is no exception. But the storyline and characters that have been reused make you feel like you are playing the original Yakuza but with a Samurai overlay. Ryoma is the same naïve badass who is freakishly strong but gets roped into random acts. He joins the Shinsengumi, a group of elite swordsmen who actually existed in historic Japan that has an alignment very similar to the Yakuza family. He becomes a captain of a division and the other captains are familiar faces from the other Yakuza games and even some from the Judgement series.

The activities in the game also have a similar feeling where karaoke still exists and instead of the usual baseball you have canon slicing where you have to slice cannon balls in half as they are shot towards you. There is also a fun minigame included where you set up your troops to give you fighting bonuses as you take on dungeons to win materials or money. There is some work to be done in organising your troops but there is some joy to be had in this minigame. There is also a mini farming and cooking activity to engage in but that didn’t have anywhere near the same appeal.

                The game has girth as well as length which is common in this series. There are subquests around every corner and activities, minigames and even crafting to keep you occupied. As this game is a remake of a game released in 2014 you can see why some things don’t feel as fresh. The character models still look alright but not at the same level as Lost Judgement. Some of the terrains look very basic and bland so you don’t get the same breathtaking scenery as what you get in the recent games but they have done plenty to make it feel like a modern game. I didn’t get to finish the game before writing this as these games are just too big to finish in a short space of time but the story still doesn’t feel very fresh. I am hoping that the latter half of the game has an interesting twist to redeem the story as so far it feels like a retelling of Yakuza but in the Edo era.   

Conclusion

I am a big fan of the Yakuza series and Like a Dragon Ishin! has all the qualities that you would expect from a game in this series. It looks and feels like a modern game but certain aspects do remind you that you are playing a remake of an older game. For those new to the series this is a great one to jump into as it’s disconnected story-wise from the Yakuza thread. There is so much content to enjoy and the different combat styles keep things fresh even if the story doesn’t feel too fresh.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • The graphical upgrade looks decent
  • The combat style variety is fun to experiment with
  • There is so much content to tuck into
Bad
  • Some of the landscapes are pretty bland
  • The story feels very familiar to the early Yakuza games
8.5
Great
Written by
Gaming, or, games in general, are in my blood. Just shy of an addiction but still an obsession. From opening my mind on the Commodore 64 I have kept up with the generations of gaming, currently residing on the Xbox One. Gamertag: Grahamreaper

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