The Yakuza series has delivered countless stories that border on emotional drama and ridiculousness fueled by its notable cast of characters, action systems, and mini-games. In recent years, the series has found a much more significant fanbase outside of Japan, with the naming convention taking on “Like a Dragon” for future releases. Today we’re talking about Like a Dragon: Ishin, an entry of the series you’ve only heard of from hardcore fans because it never came west, well, until now.
Instead of utilizing the Dragon Engine, which can be found in the recent Yakuza titles, Like a Dragon: Ishin has been developed using Unreal Engine 4. After playing 2 hours of English build, I didn’t care what engine this game was developed on or what year it was initially released; all I knew was that I was having fun.
My time with Like a Dragon: Ishin was brief, but it was enough to get a feel for the unique battle system this entry boasts. There are four options: Gunman, Wild Dancer, Brawler, and Swordsman. Each has its benefits in combat; while I preferred the fast and fluid actions of the Wild Dancer form, there are benefits to switching it up depending on the enemy. Still, Gunman is kind of the outlier here as the main protagonist Sakamoto Ryoma simply shoots opponents from afar.
It works in execution, and it’s fun to stand in place and shoot, but I need to understand how to incorporate this as a major stance. On the other hand, Wild Dancer basically did that for me by having Ryoma wield a sword and gun. So I could move around the arena, slicing, shooting, and dodging gracefully.
Like other titles in the series, running around from place to place will usually come with encounters with baddies and even sub-events that you can take part in. Aside from the brawls you’ll find yourself in, there are plenty of ways to dump time into needless things. For example, I was acting as a detective at one point to solve the crime of who ate someone else’s mochi; the next, I was chasing a man who stole my clothes. These events are insanely charming, which is a huge 180 compared to the actual narrative.
The story missions I was able to play were highly dramatized. Ryoma is on a path to joining the Shinsengumi after he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit. This leads him to take on the name Saito Hajime as he works his way up the list of captains to uncover the true murderer. There will be plenty of recognizable faces from the series, but the narrative is bleak. Luckily, you can forget all your troubles at the Karaoke bar and sing your problems away.
The remake effort of this release shows improvements were put into the controls, audio design, and graphics. Still, you can likely see the game’s age with reused assets and minimalistic design choices. Regardless, the improvements have been added where it counts, voiceover audio and presentation are brilliant during cutscenes, and the battle system is as addicting as ever.
There’s still a lot of Like a Dragon: Ishin that I have yet to uncover, but from the little I played, I can’t wait to experience more. The battle system is insanely addicting, and the characters are as cool as ever. Series fans have said this is likely the best spin-off in the series, and I’m discovering why that’s true. It’s about time this game came west, and I’m glad it’s getting a complete makeover for its global debut.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam on February 21, 2023.
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