Only Japan got to experience the magic of Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! as it was released on PlayStation 3 and 4 in 2014. However, the popularity of the series known as Yakuza resulted in the remake Like a Dragon: Ishin! arriving for next-gen consoles. As a spinoff that takes place in the Edo period of Japan, the setting is different from the modern Yakuza video games, but the themes about doing what’s right in the face of adversity still remains here.
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What is Like a Dragon: Ishin! about?
Sakamoto Ryōma returns to his home of Tosa, but finds himself in a bit of trouble after exchanging fists with jōshi. His adoptive father, Yoshida Tōyō, saves him before he is executed. Afterwards, Ryōma meets with his adoptive brother, Takechi Hanpeita, and joins the Tosa Loyalist Party. Ryōma and his brother meet with Tōyō, where they discuss a plan to storm the castle and demand an audience with the government. However, a mysterious man appears and slaughters Tōyō. Blamed for Tōyō’s death, Ryōma retreats and vows to find the murderer. There’s a twist in the tale, though, and Ryōma has to choose between doing the right thing or preserving himself.
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A rich world that shows its previous-gen age
Make no mistake about it, some of the scenery in Like a Dragon: Ishin! is impressive and transports the player into this bygone era. It’s easy for Ryōma to wander around town and sample the sake and chop wood, as the people chatter and go about their business. It’s the little things and attention to detail that truly make this world come to life – not just the missions. However, it’s clear this game was designed with previous gen’s limitations in mind. While Like a Dragon: Ishin! might look open world, it isn’t, and there are hard stops in place as a player can only stare at the scenery in the distance and wonder what it’s like to experience it.
Similarly, the character designs show their age. While the cutscenes do look like they received serious TLC, it’s clear that the bulk of the work was put into upgrading the modern characters for next-gen. As a consequence, the supporting characters look extremely flat and unimpressive in their design, which does feel like a missed opportunity to further enhance the game.
A glorious combat system
Anyone who has played the Yakuza games will be familiar with the action RPG element and how the combat system is intuitive and fun. Like a Dragon: Ishin! doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel here, either; there’s a whole lot of punching, kicking, shooting, and slashing on offer. Expectedly, there is a skill tree to develop, and as a player progresses throughout the game, new abilities and moves can be unlocked – and this can also be accelerated by completing side quests.
Ryōma has four fighting styles on offer: Swordsman, Gunman, Brawler, and Wild Dancer. The first three are largely self-explanatory, but it is the fourth one that stands out, as Ryōma utilises both the katana and pistol to set off maximum carnage. It’s also the safest option to use in gameplay – when it’s on offer – as the gun can give Ryōma some breathing room and help put some distance between him and the enemies when he is overwhelmed. Whichever style the player chooses, they will need to master the art of blocking and dodging, as these two skills are absolutely pivotal to survival in a game where the odds are almost always stacked against Ryōma.
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Like a Dragon: Ishin! is all about the gameplay and absorbing storyline. A player will want to spend as much time as possible with Ryōma and others here. The writing tugs at the heartstrings and there is a serious emotional undertone to everything happening here. However, the graphics do show this video game was built for PlayStation 3 and 4. While some effort has gone into the remake, it’s more like a fresh coat of paint rather than an overhaul. That said, that shouldn’t detract anyone from diving deep into this game if they haven’t before.
Like a Dragon: Ishin!
- Outstanding storyline
- Fantastic combat system
- Captivating world
- The designs vary in quality
- Limited world to explore
Sound and Music