It's finally here! It's been almost a decade since Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin! released exclusively in Japan on PS3 and PS4, with Western fans begging for a localisation effort all the while. But back then, the Yak--, er, Like a Dragon series was nowhere near as popular as it is now, and so here we are with SEGA greenlighting a worldwide launch for Like a Dragon: Ishin!.
This PS5 and PS4 re-release has been officially billed as a remake, but that descriptor is a bit of a stretch. In reality, this is more of an Unreal Engine reskin. The 2014 bones of the original Ishin are still here and they're virtually unchanged; all of the gameplay structure is more or less identical, while cutscenes are beat-for-beat. But it does look better than ever thanks to the visual overhaul, with some enhanced lighting in particular adding welcome depth to the capital city of Kyo.
And yes, before we move on, we'd better explain that Ishin takes place in 1800s Japan, a time when the British Empire was raising an eyebrow at the island nation, and firearms were well on their way to replacing traditional Japanese weaponry. Calling it a volatile period in Japan's history is perhaps an understatement, as both political and societal unrest threatened to erupt in bloody civil war — something that would have the Western world rubbing its hands together.
With all of this potential turmoil at the heart of Ishin's overarching plot, you step into the sandals of Ryoma Sakamoto, the adopted son of an influential lord, a low-ranking samurai, and a skilled swordsman. In real-world history, Sakamoto was a hugely influential figure in bringing about the 'Meiji Restoration' of Japan — essentially a reworking of the country's political direction. Sakamoto's historical trials form the basis of Ishin's story, although the game's narrative is, unsurprisingly, heavily romanticised.
The plot is peppered with familiar faces from throughout what we know as the Yakuza franchise. Ryoma himself has the face and voice of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, while prominent supporting characters such as Soji Okita and Shinpachi Nagakura borrow the looks and vocal cords of Goro Majima and Taiga Saejima, respectively. The list goes on and on, which makes Ishin something of an all-star spinoff. If you know the adventures of Kiryu and co., you'll absolutely love the fan service that's on offer here, as Yakuza heroes and villains alike pop up as historical figures.
In fact, this remake has more familiar faces than ever before. Because of how many Yakuza titles released between the original Ishin and this revival, developer RGG Studio saw fit to add in a whole bunch of new brackets from more recent games — redubbing entire characters in the process. Again, it's a truly all-star cast.
It probably goes without saying that Ishin's story is really, really good. It's got all of your usual Like a Dragon themes — honour, betrayal, brotherhood — but it's bolstered by samurai cinema sensibilities. There are loads of life-or-death swordfights, and the tension is so well worked. Indeed, the game's opening hours see Ryoma join the infamous Shinsengumi — a violent group of supposed peacekeepers. He's there looking for revenge, and, unable to share his true identity at the risk of his plans being exposed, he's forced to play along with his new allies and their campaign of bloodshed across the city.
It's gripping stuff at its best, and in true Yakuza fashion, the storytelling hits some dizzying highs towards the end. It also helps that the localisation is fantastic across the board — something that we've come to expect of the series at this point. Be it during intense standoffs or comedic side quests, the writing is superb — and that's especially important when there's no English dub.
In between chunks of cinematic story, you're free to wander around Kyo, getting into scraps with ruffians, seeking side activities, and generally just soaking up the 1800s atmosphere. By today's standards, Kyo is a fairly small and rather bland sandbox, but its compact design provides the illusion of it being a densely populated place. It's not a bad setting, but it is a bit basic in how it's stitched together, and without the glitz and glam of modern day Tokyo to keep things visually interesting, you might soon grow tired of traversing the same sandy streets for hours on end.
Naturally, the city is home to all kinds of distractions, like a bar where you can get up on stage and sing, underground chicken racing, and, of course, a robust gambling den. It's safe to say that Ishin isn't lacking in stuff to do; it can be a massive time sink if you're looking to master every activity, and overall, it's up there with some of the most content-rich Yakuza titles.
Having said that, a large chunk of what's on offer can easily be considered filler. For example, you can form bonds with NPCs dotted around the map by interacting with them whenever you happen to be passing by. But outside of some potentially humorous dialogue, these interactions are vapid — just the pure busy work of delivering certain items over and over again. Not every optional quest can have its own storyline and combat encounters — we get that — but filing these tasks under 'substories' is disingenuous.
Fortunately, the title actually does a great job of giving you other gameplay goals — or more specifically, you'll be pushed to try and master its surprisingly nuanced combat system. Ishin's full-action battles aren't quite as immediately satisfying as Yakuza's weighty brawls, but they are more tactical. Swapping between four distinct fighting styles — much like Kiryu and Majima can in Yakuza 0 — it's all about picking the right tools for the job.
Ryoma comes equipped with his trusty blade and a revolver, meaning that he can be deadly from any range — and this is a blessing when you're constantly being harassed by thugs, bandits, and other warriors who just want to prove their worth. Each fighting style has its own level and skill board, allowing you to develop Ryoma's abilities to suit your needs. It's an addictive process, and it's only made more enticing through the game's RPG elements, like steadily collecting the materials for new swords and armour.
It gets to a point where you'll be forging some borderline broken equipment — but that's all part of the fun. Ishin's combat system encourages you to bend things in your favour, providing plenty of opportunities to boost Ryoma's capabilities to near superhuman levels — and that's fair game when your enemies can be so stubborn. Indeed, with boss battles in particular, Ishin promotes patience; watching your opponent's movements and striking when there's an advantage to be pressed. Finally seeing through a foe's attacks feels great, and then unleashing hell feels even better.
Some over-the-top sword acrobatics aside, Ishin's skirmishes are somewhat grounded — but any sense of realism gets blown aside with the introduction of Trooper Cards. Ryoma's position in the Shinsengumi means he's free to recruit a division of capable fighters... In the form of cards. These collectables boost Ryoma's stats and act as cooldown-based super moves in combat. They wouldn't feel out of place in the absurd turn-based battles of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but here, in a mostly grounded 19th Century Japan, they're a jarring addition.
The cards are fun to use, though, and collecting them is an addictive pastime in itself. But if you think they're a step too far, you don't have to equip your Troopers. Based on our experience, it's perfectly possible to progress without ever touching them; they're best thought of as a kind of madcap extension to an already layered system. That said, some bosses do have ridiculous super moves of their own — although they're used so infrequently that it never feels like you need to directly compete on that front.
The wait has been worth it: Like a Dragon: Ishin! is another great instalment in RGG Studio's series. An often gripping story is made even better by the game's historical leanings, while a rewardingly intricate combat system gives the gameplay an addictive hook. Add all of those typically barmy Yakuza side activities into the mix, along with some delightful references to past games, and you've got the makings of a fan favourite.
If anyone's got any questions about the game or the review, let me know and I'll try to answer them.
Got absolutely lost in Ishin while reviewing it. Spent 65 hours with it overall, did loads of endgame side stuff, and got a lightning sword that completely breaks combat.
Excellent fun, would play again.
N.i.c.e. yakuza games are excellent.so its cool that like a dragon ishin got a 8.so many games to play.and octopath traveler 2 and wild hearts both are getting good scores also.now its your turn atomic heart.my backlog of games are getting bigger.word up son
@ShogunRok Would you say that, if you only focused on the main story, would you be at a good point level/skill wise, or with the grinding, you have to constantly be doing side quests?
I have never played a Yakuza game but was thinking of giving them a shot as they look great. Can anyone recommend where I should start out of the ones available on PS+ Extra? I was thinking Yakuza 0?
Nice review, can't wait for it to be the 21st already.
Small question, since I didn't happen to see it in the minigame trailer: is there still mahjong in this version of the game? I've made it a tradition in these games to go gamble as soon as I'm let free in the sandbox, haha.
@TheTSTGuy I think if you just mainlined the story you'd probably be okay for much of it. But having said that, Ishin is definitely a bit more grindy than your usual Yakuza game (except Like a Dragon, being a turn-based RPG).
You might run into some especially tough boss fights if you're not properly levelled and have good gear equipped. The game definitely wants you to power Ryoma up as you progress.
You can always lower the difficulty as well, which might help if you don't want to grind at all.
So happy this is turned out great. I keep seeing about the grind for 100 percent. Is it comparable to the older yakuza games? I remember 6 and lost Judgements grinds werent as bad
@Ooccoo_Jr Great games to start with are:
@Danloaded Yeah, Ishin is more reminiscent of Yakuza 0's design. It's very rich in content but a lot of it is a serious grind. Fun if you're into that, of course!
@Gaia093 Yeah, mahjong is in here as well as just about every gambling minigame, including cards.
Awesome review! I can’t wait to play this. The Yakuza franchise is one of my favorites, with Yakuza 0 being one of my favorite games of all time. I still need to get around to playing 6 at some point. I’ve always said that the creators for the side quests in Yakuza should have written and designed the side quests for PlayStation’s Spider-Man because it would blend so well with their sense of humor.
I played the combat demo last night and it felt really good. Definitely getting this eventually along with Atomic Heart once I platinum Hogwarts
The only correct score for a Yakuza game is 10/10
R.I.P to all my other games when Ishin and RE4 releases
Thanks for the review Robert. Looks like I will have a lot of fun with it based on your review. Time to spend over 100 hours in a Yakuza game again
RGG just doesn't miss. Looking forward to it!
My order just got processed. Very excited 😊
Just cant get into these games, not just RGG games but its the overall cheesy b movie esque style games along with the persona stuff that i find to be ultimate garbage.
I want desperately to get into these, but I dont know if there are any iterations that may change my mind. I WANT to crack that barrier and see what all the fuss is about.
I'm not sure if this 10 year old reskin is the one to do it. I worry the aged foundation will sour this even more.
Any suggestions? (Judgement i really disliked)
Its awsome but they released way to much games in such a short time span I'll get it later I know it's awsome but it's to much.
@ShogunRok Aside from the gushing love for the series....
can the objective examination of the fact that this is as you stated merely a reskin of a significantly dated game make one notice that age in the gameplay and design to the extent that someone who hasn't developed that gushing love for the series, that can sometimes serve as beer-goggles so to speak, will notice the age enough to put one off of the title.
I ask in such a way because most reviews out there that do set aside those goggles, seem to suggest a compelling story hampered by clunky half-baked gameplay/combat, and a very underwhelming level of the term remake making everything feel dated.
Brilliant, it sound like it has everything I want from a Like A Dragon game. Not sure when I'll get around to this though, as I'm currently in the middle of Yakuza 2 Kiwami.
@KundaliniRising333 Yeah as a remake this isn't very impressive on a technical level. It's essentially a decade-old game with a new skin, and that also means the mechanics can feel quite old, especially compared to the newer RGG Studio games.
I do think it's a bit unfair to criticise the gameplay that heavily, though. There's a definite nuance to the combat and it takes time to properly understand its ins and outs. But if you're not a fan of Yakuza's gameplay style that probably won't help.
As for getting into the series, I think if you really disliked Judgment, you might be out of luck. Judgment is pretty much the most modern, fluid take on Yakuza-style gameplay. If that doesn't sell it, I'm not sure what will, unfortunately.
And another one on my list that turned out good. Thanks for the review (again)
Games, games and more games... it is a flood - love it! I just need a lot more time.
Super hyped for this. I still can't believe we're finally getting Ishin.
@ShogunRok No worries. Thanks for being frank about it.
have a great weekend
@KundaliniRising333 What is it about the series that makes you want to like it, and what is it about the series that makes you NOT like it when you try it?
I think the series just isn't going to be for you, but it would help to know what isn't actually working for you and what you wish you could get from it. Basically the overall design of the whole series is reminiscent of older Bioware titles structure. I think Nogomi had said that the original Crackdown also inspired it. So that gives you a bit of a template for what the game intends to do.
You mentioned spending 65 hours with the game, but how would you compare the overall length to other RGG games? I tend to do varying amounts of side content in the games, so knowing what the closest game in terms of length would be helpful. It seems to me that Yakuza 0 is the best comparison, is that accurate?
@Suur Yeah, I'd say Yakuza 0 seems like a fair comparison overall. Although the storytelling in Ishin is more... linear (for lack of a better word) since you only play as one character.
Generally speaking, it's pretty much on par with most Yakuza games. 0, Kiwami 2, 3, 4 are around the same kind of size and length, I would say.
And because it's technically an older game, Ishin does feel like it comes from the 3, 4, 5, 0 era of Yakuza games in terms of structure and design.
@NEStalgia It's a good question. When i really step back and am honest about it I think its FOMO/bandwagon thinking on my part. Overall I have been deeply saddened by the trajectory of JRPGS and similar style games. I guess part of all of it is how much I loved JRPGS similar to octopath growing up (suikoden, wild arms, chrono series, FF, etc), coupled with the hype for these games now, and I want to be pumped about them and jrpgs as well. I know those aren't necessarily RGG games in any way really. If anything, I want to get into the 3rd person brawler style combat, compelling narratives, and in terms of bioware like... I loved old bioware.
However, when I really think about it, I find so much of the game designs of these titles to be off putting that I don't think there is an entry point for me. Part of that comes from being put off by some of the more juvenile aspects, but it also stems from a larger culture led trajectory from games coming from overseas that I find to be just bad. Particularly the cheesy childlike narratives and side content, misogyny, and frankly disturbing hyper sexualization of childlike female character portrayals.
The other shift likely came from my own personal evolution over time in which tastes evolved as well.
Thanks for the thought provocation!
@ShogunRok is there a way to turn off the COMBO and crazy added fluff graphics that pop up in these games? Because stylistically it looks like my kind of thing, especially this one with a more historical setting (historical fiction really adds some mega bonus points to games, for me) but the combat looks like the kind of thing that'd just give me a massive headache, especially if it flashes things up on screen like "mega bonus points" 😁😁
@Ravix Nah, unfortunately not. Unequipping the Trooper Cards means that the big card icons in the bottom left are removed, but that's about it.
The only visual stuff you can change is the amount of blood (high, normal, off).
For what it's worth, I didn't find the pop-up stuff to be all that distracting (and I honestly though it might be, before I played). The combat is usually involved enough to where you probably won't notice it. But that's just my personal experience!
@Ravix Oh, and you can turn off the damage numbers as well, which might help.
@ShogunRok cheers for the response. Yeah, I've had a quick look at a gameplay video of combat, and maybe it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be, the cards are a bit big but the pop up text wasn't as flashy and bright as I thought it'd be.
Only issue is, watching the combat gameplay it all looked a little boring and repetitive, and sectioned off into levels behind gates, like an old school fighting game, which isn't really for me :/
Is there a balance of more fluid, unexpected, situational combat as well, or is it all very staged and gated throughout? Maybe it's because it's an older game, or because of a more Japanese gameplay style, I'm not sure. But on its own, the combat looked like I'd just get bored of it, if it's mostly just waves of generic baddies in sectioned off arenas, and then a bullet sponge boss to finish.
@KundaliniRising333 Wow we agree on something. I’m really hoping that FFXVI proves to be different in this regard. Lately these games have been way too influenced by the popularity of anime imo. Another reason I stopped watching that for the reasons you mentioned
@KaijuKaiser Yes! that's really it, the anime influence is really a huge part of it and anime has some pretty gross aspects that I simply cant be ok with, nor want to.
Such a bummer because JRPGS were not always this.
Love RGG games but
Sounds like your typical cons of their games. All the same we finally have an Isshin release hooray
Imma skip this. I like Like a dragon, but not judgement or yakuza 1-6, plus it's not dubbed and atomic heart might be better.
@Ravix It's honestly just a lot like combat in other Yakuza games, but with weapons. It can definitely look quite one-note when you're just watching videos, but there's a nuance to it in-game and it's deceptively hard to master. Ishin in particular does a good job of making you feel more and more powerful because of all the upgrades you can get.
Bosses can have a lot of health, though, for sure, and it is a bit old school brawler at its core. I would definitely recommend checking out Ishin's demo, because it sounds like you might need to try it for yourself to come to a full decision.
Can't wait! Yakuza never misses.
@KundaliniRising333 Yeah, this series is much more like old Bioware + Crackdown in design than it is like classic JPRGs. Except the newest (Like a Dragon and it's sequel) which go to a turn based format, and openly in-game compare itself to Dragon Quest. And the third person brawler aspect could definitely be for you, but, if you don't like the themes, it'll never really work out.
That having been said, one thing to keep in mind if you really want to try it, is not to go into it with a biased mindset or predisposition of "I hate Japanese culture." This series surely isn't anime, it's more like a Japanese drama/soap opera, but with the side quests often being comedy/silly while the drama is cheesy/dramatic. Could it have some "misogynistic" aspects? Yes, but some of that comes from the overall theming, some comes from the time periods involved (Y0 is set in the mid 80's, the rest of the series the early '00's, in a red light/bar district of a mob-run town with mob characters, so it's going to be a bit like that. And yeah, that'll be a preference thing.
However, while the game absolutely hypersexualizes some characters, it's also notable that they're not "child-like" characters, it's a bar town filled with sex-workers, so everyone's adults (and kids are handled as kids), and the most sexualized aspects, the cabaret girls etc, are mostly voiced/face-modeled by actual adult entertainers IRL, so it's many leagues separated from what you're talking about with the anime stuff.
Might not change your mind, but I figured taking a different perspective if you're running up against a bias you're applying to it might help if that's really a big part of the hangup.
That having been said, I would also say that I think a lot in the west in general grossly misunderstand the "childlike"/"moe" aspects in anime and wrongly interpret through a hyper-literal western lens, all as some pedobear festival which is not really what it's meant to be in context, but I know that's a thing, and some people get stuck on it, and that's ok.
@NEStalgia I hear ya. I do think you are glossing over it though. I don't have a bias against Japanese culture, for I don't think things like anime and its disturbing trends are indicative or a defining feature of Japanese culture rather than a manifestation of a more widespread pop culture female depictions that occur in many, many countries including my own with variations. One of which in terms of anime and now its infection of jrpgs is not just the childlike nature that you mentioned, but the sexualization that you did not mention in combination with that childlike nature.
Even taking away the child like aspect. When you look at the overarching way in which female characters are portrayed in anime and MOST jrpgs today: its miniskirts with underwear showing, unrealistic body types focused on cleavage and cheek showing, bikinis, bra tops, the works. Now I'm not naive enough to think this is something unique to anime, nor some games rooted in the jrpg style . As degrading depictions of women occur all over the place. However, I do think how it is used in these two mediums is overtly gross. Its kind of like the gaming and comic version of clickbaiting or thirst trapping but even more cringe via the art syle.
let's just generalize here. You have a jrpg with a story about vanquishing evil, or fighting oppression in a miserable world that needs saving. Your hero a female, a chosen one meant to be that savior, has arrived...... wearing a mini skirt or maid like outfit with her jugs bouncing around in the bra top she wears complete with Realtime physics. Do you see how ridiculous that is, and honestly degrading and such a shallow message to young women everywhere.
Now back to RGG games. I agree that its different and more cheese soap opera than the above-mentioned nonsense. However when you have a side mission where one of the options to suggest an aspiring writer in a slump to write about is simple one word, .."cleavage." you see where the lines cross into that above mentioned nonsense.
It feels like there is a maturity level or mindset being targeted here that for some of us it just doesn't click with. Like the "I love boobies, (I've never seen real boobies), but cartoon boobies are hot..." type of crowd.
It's just not my thing man, and its a hard thing to try and defend via culture or some other bit of commentary. As there is no meaningful reason aside from a certain depiction of women and perhaps even lack of respect for women that think that's a good idea to throw into a game or animation, especially when you see the converse in terms of how the male protagonists are depicted in these same mediums. In terms of that sexualization, there just isn't a perspective that I personally can take. I'm just beyond that.
@ShogunRok what I've decided to do instead is download Judgement tonight, and give that a whirl some time to get a feel for their games 😄 and my backlog just sighed very loudly at this
This looks very weird😂
Are all yakuza games like this?(weird I mean)
And what is the best game to get into the series with?
RGG Studio delivers once again. Can't wait to pick this up.
Yes, I've been waiting for this, none of the other Yakuza games really grabbed me but I wanted to play this, thankfully it's finally here
"Nothing's lowlier than swine!" lol, I'm dying.
But the game does look interesting, I played Y0 and 6 but nothing in between but may give this one a try.
Very good review! I'll grab this during a future sale, still need to play thru the older games.
@KundaliniRising333 i've completed 2 yakuza games so far (kiwami 1 and 2) and currently i am playing 0. i would say yakuza 0 or kiwami 1 are the best (most obvious) places to start and if they don't work for you, chances are the entire franchise won't either. in my opinion, i find the story and characters to be excellent and the main driving force to continue with the franchise. BUT, the gameplay, while fun, quickly becomes quite repetitive. to make matters worse, the map (kamurocho) is essentially the same in all of the mainline yakuza games, with a few other maps used from time to time as well. the main point i am getting at is, if you have played one yakuaza game, you have sort of played them all, except where the story is concerned. it becomes a question of: is the story good enough to justify playing through 7 mainline yakuza games that all feel like essentially the same experience? i am wrestling with this question right now since it is a massive time investment... ultimately, i think the only way to go through this franchise is by taking your time with it and playing 1 or 2 entries per year so that you don't burn out on it.
@Porco thanks very much for the insights. I may try 0, and see how it goes. Maybe it will spark some interest. You are right though,... They seem to pump these melodrama out a lot though. It would be nice to see them have longer development time for each and perhaps update the engine, models, and mechanics a bit.
I understand partly why they may not however as this is a niche game with a die hard following but from polling I've seen they aren't widespread sellers so perhaps they don't want to invest in it for that amount of time.
@ShogunRok When is the true successor to Like a Dragon expected??
@KundaliniRising333 sorry, forgot to reply to this one yesterday! I think there's a whole conversation on the roots, issues, some incorrect Western interpretation etc, and some truth to all that. Though it depends on what anime really. I posted the new star ocean, loved it, but the costumes are surely way off, and the jiggle physics were out of place.
Otoh, the lingerie attire thing was an actual fashion in Japan, at least Tokyo for a while in the 90s. Some of the comes as a sort of defiance of the otherwise rigid uniformity of everything in the business culture.
Though I'll say as depraved as I find, say, sentence senran kagura, the creepiest thing of all to me is genshin. It's Chinese. They're not tolerant of the whole sex culture thing. They're very censored and prudish. The characters in genshin aren't directly revealing much skin. Yet they're something even creeper and more perverse to the whole thing than all the skin in the dankest Japanese anime. Idk what it is, but it's very off to me.
I will say that none of that has anything to do with RGG games at all. Yes there are scantily clad females in a red light bar town. There's strip clubs. There's prostitutes and madame. Just like real life. There's also hostess clubs which are questionable but are 100% real. And host clubs. Sometimes this stuff is played for comedy (yes there's an in game adult video store in some entries where you can watch T rated video trailers from the real porn stars in the game)... But it also address the serious parts of these issues in places too. 0 features a character that is psychosomatically blind due to events that happened when she was captured and..... Used... By a gang. There's a quest early on about a ring of students selling underwear, and a sort of fatherly resolution by kiryu etc. It plays frivolous with it for laughs at times and plays serious with it others. The cabaret culture may be cringe, but it's real world and is normalized there, etc.
Definitely give it it's own bias. You may still not like it, but it can't be rolled up with anime goings on. I'd say it's at least as or more realistic than GTA for example.
@tselliot currently a vague "2024."
@Ooccoo_Jr I started my first ever Yakuza game a couple of weeks ago. I started with Yakuza 0 and I'm absolutely loving it. It's not realistic that I can go through the whole series so I intend to play Kiwami 2 next ,then Yakuza 6 and if i'm hungry for more ,Like a Dragon then one of the Judgement games. The good thing with starting with 0 is, [other than it being the best place to start story wise], it uses the older engine [although it's still a looker]. So if you play Kiwami 2 or 6 after it, they both run on the new engine.
I am so happy to be discovering a series as rich as this for the first time.
Can't wait to get to this, however once again the trophies are boring and tick boxy. (Look at Yakuza 6 and Like a Dragon for great lists.)
Either way. I'll play it. Eventually.
It's clear that the game was developed between Yakuza 5 and 0,as the game contains the parts that made both games really good... But also the parts that are dragging the games down.
Now I understand why there were several characters that seemed out of place in Yakuza 0 existed
@ShogunRok Does this game run at 60fps on PS5? Because when I play this it makes me feel sick as if it's running at a lower framerate.
@Benlander Yeah, it does run at 60fps on PS5. I never noticed any frame rate issues myself. Just to make sure, are you playing the PS5 version on PS5, or the PS4 version? The PS4 version might be capped at 30, I'm not sure.
Tap here to load 57 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...