- System: PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
- Publisher: SEGA
- Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
- Release Date: February 21, 2023
- Rating: M for Mature
- Genre: Adventure, Action
- Players: 1
- Official Website: https://ishin.sega.com/
SEGA has been known for creating some of the most successful and longest-lasting franchises—Sonic the Hedgehog for example—but one of their most iconic and most loved mature series goes to the Yakuza series. This action-adventure title set in the mean streets of the red-light district Kamurocho—with the exception of a few Yakuza titles—has players taking on the role of Kazuma Kiryu ex-Yakuza who must beat down former friends and foes for vengeance and survival. The Yakuza series has spawned more than a handful of games but one of the spin-offs never graced our western shores…until now!
Enter Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin or now remade into Like a Dragon: Ishin! Unlike the modern Yakuza series, Like a Dragon: Ishin goes back in time to the end of the Edo period of Japan and has a new main man set on a path of revenge! Does Like a Dragon: Ishin deserve a place in our Yakuza-loving gamer hearts or is this spin-off better left as a rusty sword doomed to collect dust? We find out in our review of Like a Dragon: Ishin for the PS5!
Are you Kazuma Kiryu!? No…I’m Sakamoto…Sakamoto Ryoma
Unlike a greater majority of the Yakuza games, Like a Dragon: Ishin stars not Kazuma Kiryu but a samurai—who looks very much like Kiryu—named Sakamoto Ryoma. Just like our original series protagonist, Ryoma quickly goes from an already hard life to a harder one when he gets involved in a giant plot that we can’t spoil but is pretty similar to most of the Yakuza tales. Now as Ryoma, your job is to get revenge for a fallen friend—again no spoilers—and change the landscape of your new world taking place in Kyo. It sounds comically ridiculous at first but those who have played the long-running Yakuza series know these movie drama stories are the reason why it’s easy to dive into the world and stay with it till the end credits.
While Like a Dragon: Ishin is a bit of a slow burn initially, the story progressively gets deeper and eventually becomes a true tale worthy of samurai legends. There are even some “real” historic themes and characters thrown into Like a Dragon: Ishin but a lot of it is fictionalized so don’t be using what you learn here for any college thesis out there.
I fight With my Hands…and a Sword…and a Gun!
Returning away from the last Yakuza game’s more JRPG format, Like a Dragon: Ishin is a straight-up brawler akin to many of the other Yakuza games. Ryoma is able to lay a beat down with his fists in combat or can utilize his swordplay and even gun-kata in combat. Players can often freely switch between the four styles and you’ll readily need to as each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Brawler style is age-old Yakuza with Ryoma punching, grappling, and kicking his foes. Yet, Brawler style means you need to get up close and personal and when enemies are using guns/swords this is a good way to get damaged pretty easily!
The Swordsman/Gunman style is pretty self-explanatory: one uses a sword and the other a gun—more on the gun in a moment—but the really cool hybrid style is called Wild Dancer and it is a style we think most will lean towards. Even we here at Honey’s Anime often found ourselves forgoing the other styles for Wild Dancer as it lets Ryoma use both sword and gun in a dual stance for some “wild” moves and abilities! Each style is fun to experiment with and you can never rely on one as Like a Dragon: Ishin sometimes puts our “hero” in situations where can only use a particular style for maybe a boss or situation.
A new system with this remade Like a Dragon: Ishin is the Trooper Card system where later in the game you can obtain special trooper cards—some themed after real-world people like Vampybitme—that can be utilized for special attacks and effects! These cards weren’t as utilized in the original game but we really loved their addition as it adds some spice to later combat!
The Good and Ugly of this Dragon
Like a Dragon: Ishin is pretty much like all Yakuza games. You run around various locations, talk with locals, get into random fights, play absurd mini-games—no arcade this time around as that would be bizarre—and progress the story as you go! You can earn XP by helping people and battling to gain special perks/upgrades for your styles and various rewards. Like a Dragon: Ishin is basically a Yakuza game and that is why fans won’t need much explanation as to what they can expect. However, Like a Dragon: Ishin is clearly a remake of an older game and that can be seen in various areas of the title.
Graphically, Like a Dragon: Ishin looks good and still has that amazing facial animation the Yakuza series has nailed but the settings and some of the gameplay feel dated. The gun style in Like a Dragon: Ishin is our biggest gripe though as it feels…cheap. In a series known for having tough battles that test your reflexes and gaming prowess, the gun-focused style in Like a Dragon: Ishin feels like how to best mash a button, dodge, and continue mashing for maximum effect. You can easily fool some bosses with the gun and its unlimited bullets as well as play keep-away with trickier foes. Yeah, seeing Kiryu…we mean Ryoma with a gun is awesome and the Wild Dancer style is amazing but Like a Dragon: Ishin is a pretty easy game compared to the other Yakuza titles.
We Miss The Other Dragon
Oddly enough after playing all the Yakuza games—and we mean even the 3D shooter about zombies Yakuza: Dead Souls—we fell in love with the more recent Yakuza: Like a Dragon which removed the fighting for a turn-based experience. Even though we love the beat-down style of the original Yakuza game series, Like a Dragon: Ishin feels like a step back and in between these amazing titles. The combat is good and the exploration/story is unique but the Yakuza: Like a Dragon had an amazing turn-based system and Yakuza 1/2 Kiwami were just stellar brawler experiences. Like a Dragon: Ishin feels like a forgotten stepbrother of the franchise and while it is a good game…it feels out of place oddly in a franchise known for being different.
Are you buying Like a Dragon: Ishin day one or passing? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! Be sure to keep stuck to our stylish hive here at Honey’s Anime for even more game reviews and all things otaku-related!