Like a Dragon: Ishin! was released a few days ago on all platforms. We here at Sakura Index had the privilege to test it out a week or two before the official release. Like A Dragon: Ishin! is a remake of Ryu Ga Gotoku: Ishin! which was released in February 2014. The game is the English version of the Japanese-exclusive released game of 9 years ago. I just have 3 disclaimers before we start the review.
1.) I, the reviewer, have NOT played any games of the “Like A Dragon”/“Yakuza” series in my life until “Like A Dragon: Ishin!”
This was the FIRST game I’ve played in the “Like A Dragon”/”Yakuza” series. I felt like I missed out on a very interesting and great video game series. Outside of the memes (Friday Night) or DLC costumes they put out in other SEGA games like Persona, I have little to no knowledge of this game series before playing ‘Ishin!’.
2.) The review was done using a keyboard and a mouse
They say a real samurai uses a gamepad, but I’m no real samurai nor can I afford to have a gamepad. I’ve heard my friends have a better, if not easier, experiences playing in “Yakuza” games as opposed to a keyboard. Maybe it’s high time for me to use a gamepad.
3.) There will be minor spoilers to the story of Like A Dragon: Ishin! in this review
Just felt I needed to give you a fair warning on this before we move on. If you don’t want to be spoiled, turn away now.
The game, set in 1860s Japan, has its story revolve around Sakomoto Ryoma and his quest to avenge the death of his father figure/mentor who died at the hands of a masked man. He sets his sights at Kyo and uses the fake name of ‘Saito Hajime’ to join the Shinsengumi in order to find the masked man. The game’s main storyline reminds me of an older game by SEGA, ‘Shenmue’ in which does revolve around Ryo seeking revenge on his father’s killer. The difference here is, Sakamoto Ryoma is a far more capable warrior in comparison to the younger Ryo at the start of these two games. The similarities are, I do have a soft spot for both main characters.
The cast of Like A Dragon: Ishin! are a varied and swell bunch. My personal favorites would be Okita and Ito of the Shinsengumi. While it is the former that has more interactions with ‘Hajime-chan’, Ito has that grounded feel to him that I enjoy a lot. It also helps that he is the exact opposite of the First Division Captain (Okita).
The characters of the side/sub-stories are also entertaining in their own right. There will be a kid that will ask for vegetables from Ryoma since his mom does not cook veggies for him. There is this friendly foreigner that would love to sit down with you and discuss certain stories you will pick up along the way within the city. And finally, there will be this young girl that you would need to help out with debt and would unlock one of the most addicting side quests in Like A Dragon: Ishin! ever.
Customize your look and feel
You can customize how your game looks in Like A Dragon: Ishin! to your liking. The options range from showing the damage numbers you take or your enemy takes to even a ‘cinematic mode’. As displayed above, there are stark differences in the visual presentation department between normal mode and cinematic mode. Cinematic mode gives a very old-school feel to the game with shades of blue. While it is visually appealing in the cutscenes, that’s pretty much it for my tastes. However, I do feel some players would love to have this on as it does add a nice touch while playing Like A Dragon: Ishin! on their PC or console of choice.
Fight in Four Ways
Like A Dragon: Ishin gives you the freedom to fight in FOUR STYLES. As highlighted in our earlier article, the game has four battle systems to choose from. Early on I was a big fan of the Wild Dancer system that uses the sword and the gun. I would eventually realize that no matter how amazing the ‘dodge’ of Wild Dancer is, it’s safer to use the swordsman style as to prevent myself from being skewered every other fight by spear-wielding baddies. The gun style works too….if only I had a stronger gun.
Like A Dragon: Ishin! – On Sidequests and Ee Ja Nai Ka! All Day
Like A Dragon: Ishin has more to offer than its main storyline. It has a lot of content that will have you stuck playing it for weeks if not months. The substories are something of a whole game to itself. You will encounter characters who you need to save or individuals who need certain items like a lady who’s looking for a (literal) cucumber, a man who asks you for ‘junk’, and veggie-loving boy!
There will be quests you wish didn’t exist like some person talking for so damn long that they would even quiz you on their very long story. But if you ask me it would be the substories featuring the “Ee ja nai ka” dance that caught my eye. Initially, I was weirded out but once I realized what the dance was for, it made perfect sense, especially in the backdrop of what was happening in Japan during that time.
Outside the side stories, there are other features of the game that will really want you to sidetrack from the main story as what we’ve alluded to earlier.
Another Life is quite addicting
Another Life is a side quest for the game that starts around Chapter Three where Ryoma needs to help a young orphaned girl pay her debts to a landlord. It ends with the main character taking charge of the land and would need to pay the big debt of 100 Ryo in total. Thankfully the landlord gives the players a more ‘forgiving’ rate of 20 ryo for 5 installments. Still, earning 20 ryo early game ain’t easy! The best part here is you’re not really required to pay the 20 Ryo installments at a strict time. You may pay it at your own pace. You may earn extra money if you do the side quests here such as selling your farm-grown produce or items you picked up.
The best part of Another Life in Like A Dragon: Ishin! for me would be the fact we get a cooking game out of it. It may look, and is, mundane but I like cutting up the veggies at the tapping of my keyboard. You may also unlock pets here such as the dogs and cats you meet on the substories after maxing out their relationship bar. Also, playing Another Life will net us more virtue. Wait. I forgot to mention about virtue, didn’t I?
The Virtue System
One of the best parts of the game would be its virtue system. You can rack up ‘virtue’ by doing good deeds. Make good deeds, get virtue, cash them in for some perks in-game. The virtue points can be used to add more space for your inventory to maximizing the crop space for your farmhouse and everything in between. How does one get virtue? By…praying. Of course.
Also doing stuff like finishing substories, farming, cooking, etc. You can only gain so much virtue by prayer alone. Sometimes acts of kindness count better in the game as in real life.
– The game is a nice way of introducing a first timer to the “Like A Dragon”/”Yakuza” series. As a first-timer, it got me hooked and I’m looking forward to playing the other games.
– The voice acting was top-notch. The cast, who I found out voiced the mainline Yakuza games of their counterparts, did a great job in the voice acting department. I could really feel the character come out with their voice and dialogue throughout the game.
– The sidequests/Another Life portions were very addicting. While it can sidetrack you A LOT, it’s fun to go back to the farm and harvest or even play with your dog/cat. It’s a nice ‘break’ here and there from the main storyline.
– Virtue gathering pays off. From giving you more storage to improving your farmhouse, the virtue system is something I like about this game.
- The controls for the keyboard + mouse combo are a bit ‘clunky’ and not responsive. Maybe it’s better if you do play it with a gamepad like a real samurai. I clearly am not one 🙁
As of this writing, there are some glitches in the STEAM version with people walking/running into street posts and being stuck there. I feel like these may be addressed in a future patch or two for the game
Do not expect historical accuracy. It’s set in the late 1800s, but there will be some non-historical Easter eggs such as a Don Quijote shop available in-game when said shop was established in the 20th century.
OVERALL: 4.5 of 5 Stars
“Like A Dragon: Ishin!” has got to be one of the games you may be able to introduce your friend to the “Like A Dragon”/”Yakuza” series. I’m writing this since that’s how it felt. I played going in with no idea or expectations and finished it feeling like I want to play Yakuza 0 (purchased thanks to the SEGA Steam Sale Last year) so I can get to know more about the series. I’m not a hard man to please and this game pleased me a lot. Now excuse me as I try to play this once more. Donations for a gamepad are welcomed as well.
Sakura Index thanks SEGA Asia for the STEAM review code for the use of writing this review.