Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review – A Faithful Tale Reborn

Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! finally comes to the west.

Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review
Overall
3.5
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

Like A Dragon: Ishin! may not be the best this series has ever been, but it is still an incredibly entertaining experience nonetheless.

Pros

  • Thrilling And Branching Narrative
  • Sublime Action Combat
  • Addictive Gameplay Features And Exploration
  • Delightful Characters And Protagonist

Cons

  • Overly Drawn-Out Tutorials
  • Awkward Pacing At Times

I was chosen to write our Like A Dragon: Ishin! review because this entire franchise is very near and dear to my heart. And having played almost every single entry, including the criminally underrated Judgment titles, I greatly understand its themes and systems.

Key Takeaways
  • Developers: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
  • Publishers: Sega
  • Release Date: February 21, 2023
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Game Length: 23.5 Hours
  • Time Played: 30+ Hours
  • Editor’s Note: We thoroughly tested Like A Dragon: Ishin! on PC, putting just over 30 hours into its completion.

Ever since the dark days of 2015, the series has come a long way, to the point where a significant portion of the gaming community is aware of what the Yakuza games are. Its popularity has skyrocketed so much that gone are those days when we sometimes had to wait years for an entry to be localized. These days, we get new titles translated into English on day one.

Story And Setting

Story. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

The story takes place during the end of the Edo Period in Japan in the late 1800s, during a time when several interchanging royal families ruled the entire country. Our main protagonist is a wandering Ronin, Sakamoto Ryoma, whom many Yakuza series fans might instantly recognize as Kiryu Kazuma from the mainline games.

One cataclysmic night, Ryoma happens to stumble upon the murder of his mentor and ends up being framed for the crime. So his journey now takes him on a path where he must atone for his past crimes and uncover the mystery behind the murder of his mentor. And on his quest, he joins a new Samurai clan called the Shinsengumi, where he also goes by a new name, Saito Hajime.

But overall, RGG has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of the original game while introducing changes that otherwise may not seem any different unless you played the original.

Throughout your time with the game, you will end up meeting several new officers of the clan, most of which are based on the characters of the Yakuza franchise, such as the Mad Dog of Shimano, Goro Majima as Unit Officer Okita Soji, and many more. The story is filled with twists and turns, which I found didn’t lose any steam for the most part, aside from a few occasions where the pacing felt odd.

Nagura Shinpachi. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

But overall, RGG has done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of the original game while introducing changes that otherwise may not seem any different unless you played the original.

For example, veterans might notice that the character models this time around are brand new and not ports from Yakuza 3 and 5 like the original release had. Tiny changes like these make the game feel more modern and help the experience maintain its own unique identity.

Gameplay

Like A Dragon Ishin Review
Gameplay. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

The gameplay format of Like A Dragon: Ishin! might feel familiar to almost anyone who’s played any Yakuza game in their lifetime. Still, even for new players, it isn’t something too complicated to understand. This fictional rendition of ancient Kyoto features boroughs based on their real-life counterparts but with slight differences in their geometry to make them more suitable for the game.

First, the combat of the game takes center stage here and is by far one of the most important gameplay elements that needs to be discussed in my review. Like Yakuza 0 and Lost Judgment, the game was made before the series’ transition towards turn-based combat, as it involves real-time action beat-em-up gameplay.

There are four different fighting stances that Ryoma can use: Gunman, Swordsman, Brawler, and lastly Wild Dancer, which combines both the Gunman and swordsman Styles. The Brawler stance might seem familiar to most older fans as it is based on the same fighting style of Kazuma Kiryu in the Yakuza games.

Combat. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

But only using that doesn’t do you any favors in the long run. The game incentivizes you to use all of these fighting styles together, especially Wild Dancer, to easily take down hordes of enemies or bosses.

As you progress through the game, these styles can be further enhanced, and use soul points to upgrade them with new combos and abilities. These styles may seem rough around the edges in the beginning hours, but as you slowly unlock more upgrades for them, especially from wandering NPCs such as Komaki, who teach you exclusive moves, they become much more fun.

Like Yakuza 0 and Lost Judgment, the game was made before the series’ transition towards turn-based combat, as it involves real-time action beat-em-up gameplay.

While in combat, I must discuss the new addition, the Trooper Cards. These cards essentially function as powerups for Ryoma, and they are so strong that they can turn the tide of battle in a matter of seconds as they provide super abilities and other helpful passive bonuses during battles.

These cards can be found through different means, such as completing sub-stories (basically side quests for those who might not know), as well as rewards for other mini-games and quests in the open world.

like a dragon mini games
Gardening. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

Aside from that, you can also expect a wide range of other activities to immerse yourself in, such as karaoke or even managing your own very own diner. There is never a dull moment when you’re out and about, just casually enjoying the freedom of what the game has to offer you in order to sidetrack you from the ongoing main story. 

One might even call it a tradition to check out every bit of the side content that the Yakuza games offer you. RGG has put its creativity and passion into every part of this game, and while the developers have done an excellent job of maintaining the charm of the gameplay from the original with the remaster, how does it fair against it in terms of Visuals and performance?

Visuals And Performance

Like A Dragon Ishin Review
Visuals. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

When it comes to the overall visuals of the game, they are a major step up from the original from 2014. As someone who’s played the games that took advantage of the original Ishin’s Dragon Engine, the new transition to Unreal Engine 4 definitely added a fresh coat of paint to not just the world around Ryoma but even to himself.

The crisp new graphical fidelity is a sight to behold as cinematic cutscenes look jaw-dropping at certain intervals, especially during the nighttime when the city’s street lamps and corner-lit shops dominate the scenery.

As someone who’s played the games that took advantage of the original Ishin’s Dragon Engine, the new transition to Unreal Engine 4 definitely added a fresh coat of paint to not just the world around Ryoma but even to himself.

Now, in terms of performance, while I played the game on my PS5, we were also able to test it out on a GTX 1060 and an RTX 3080. Both GPUs gave great performances, with the older 1060 still maintaining a solid framerate and graphical fidelity. In terms of actual performance, you can expect a few annoyances, such as stuttering and the camera behaving awkwardly. But aside from that, the game had no major issues.

Verdict

like a dragon ishin review
The Verdict. (Screenshot taken by eXputer)

The reveal of Like A Dragon: Ishin! At the State of Play just a few months ago, I was surprised, and one that had many Yakuza fans such as myself excited. Previously, the entire community and player base had been looking to either import the original copy from Japan to play it or just give up altogether solely because the game would seemingly never receive a release due to it not being too appealing to the Western audience.

Thankfully, as someone who can’t seem to put it down since booting it up, the game is impressive to every degree, aside from a few hiccups here and there. While the combat certainly doesn’t hold the same candle to the likes of Lost Judgment (A game I consider RGG’s Magnum opus), it’s still really engaging.

The improvements made the game feel like a breath of fresh air; plus, with the trooper cards, everything feels so fun and lively that this game joins the ranks of being ridiculously enjoyable to play.

This has been our Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

This is box title
Get This Game
If you’re looking forward to a fantastic spin-off of the Yakuza series.
Dont Get This Game
If you don’t enjoy open-world titles or titles that tend to focus on the Samurai Era.
Do I Need To Get This Game
Yes, Like A Dragon: Ishin! packs a solid punch in most departments – gameplay, story, vibe, and that classic Yakuza humor that everyone will enjoy.
Alternative Samurai Games
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Usama Mehmood is a Games Specialist, and writer on eXputer who's either hunting for the richest loot in Destiny 2 or endlessly playing his favorite games such as Yakuza or Final Fantasy. Usama has been gaming for 15+ years during which he has accumulated 4000+ hours on Destiny 1 & 2. His constant adoration for video games has allowed him to pursue eXputer as a platform to showcase his striving talents in writing helpful articles. Get familiar with Usama's extensive gaming library on his Steam, PSN, and Xbox profiles.

Experience: 2+ Years || Mainly Covers Reviews And Guides || Education: Bachelors in Physiotherapy.

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