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Like a Dragon: Ishin! game review (12)(age rating 18+)

Hi everyone! 

I can’t believe this is my first review of 2023! How have you guys been?! This year has been hectic in a good way, which is why I’ve only managed to post a review now! And it couldn’t have been for a better game! Like a Dragon: Ishin!

I’ve actually been up to a few things whilst away: I’ve been working on my second book in my UMBRA TALES fantasy series that’s due to come out later this year, and I also participated in GameBlast23 as part of Team SEGA to raise money for Special Effects! We ended up raising so much more and awareness to this amazing charity and it was an honour to be a part of Team SEGA!

It was a lot of fun, and I actually played Like a Dragon: Ishin, thanks to Nataly from SEGA!

Now, on to the review! Let’s gooooo!

*all images used are screenshots taken via my PS5.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! is developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by SEGA. It is a spin-off standalone game in the ‘Like a Dragon‘ series (formally known as the Yakuza series), and is a remake of the 2014 game: Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! which I believed was previously only available to those who lived in Japan.

When this game was first announced along with Like a Dragon: 8 I literally screamed, I was so excited! So, it’s an honour to be able to do a review for such an amazing game in one of my favourite franchises of all time! 

I’m telling you, they have to make this into a live action at some point, it would be EPIC!

So, what is the game about? 

Like a Dragon: Ishin! takes us from the bright modern day city of Kamurocho to 1800s Japan in a tale about a ‘disgraced’ ronin called Sakamoto Ryoma, who seeks justice for the murder of his father.

With 14 chapters full of heart, laughs, tension and intense fighting, similar to past Yakuza games, Like a Dragon: Ishin! holds the same fun, goofy humour that the franchise is known for whilst presenting a strong main story. 

Plus, a few familiar faces. 👀

Kazuma Kiryu in 1800s Japan?!?! 

Haha yep! Fun fact about Like a Dragon: Ishin! is that many of the characters from the main franchise are in this game too, but as other characters. Haha! It kinda reminded me of actors in a play! It was definitely nice seeing my boy Kazuma Kiryu in a haori too. 👀

It’s definitely a nice touch re-using the characters that players have grown to know and love over the years and I certainly appreciated it. Half of the time I was pointing at the screen like the Leonardo Dicaprio meme!

Still, this historic twist on the Like a Dragon/Yakuza games is something refreshing and it’s what immediately drew me into the game in the first place!

Plus, you can also get a DLC costume of Kazuma’s signature suit, which was a cute little extra.

Sword, gun, both or barefist! You decide!

One of the major pluses in Like a Dragon: Ishin! is the variety of different play styles in the game, which makes the game personal to each gamer.  

There are four styles:

Brawler: Ryoma’s fists and kicks. There’s also some sick grab moves as well! However, I feel the further you get into the story the less powerful this style gets, but if you keep on top of your upgrades, I’m sure you’ll still make it through with just this style.

Swordsman: Pretty much speaks for itself, giving you a beloved samurai experience with a katana that can break an enemies guard in mere seconds. I personally think this is one of the strongest styles in the game.

Gunman: Another style that speaks for itself. If you’re the type of gamer who prefers long distance attacks and action, this is for you. With an endless amount of bullets, you’ll shoot through all of your enemies. I believe it’s one of the best styles for crowds of enemies, and you can also purchase special bullets too.

Wild Dancer: MY GO-TO style!!! Pure, beautiful, chaos! With a gun and a sword, you get the ultimate fighting experience from a hurricane spin of shots against multiple enemies, to slashing anyone who stands in your way. I really enjoyed this style a lot. The mix of long range and close range fighting easily makes this my favourite style to play.

Still, there’s also a lot of satisfaction in just pummelling guys with your bare fists too. There’s also different dojos which can help you improve on your desired style as well.

Overall, I certainly recommend giving each playstyle a go to see which one you settle into best as by the time you get to about chapter 5 / 6 you would’ve probably settled into one and focused on levelling it up.

There’s also plenty of time to practise the different styles as you can bump into random enemies as you run around the streets.

Slight con

Whilst on the topic of combat, there was one pet peeve I had when playing the game. Often when you’re fighting a boss, you’ll be hit by a special attack and Ryoma does a slow motion drop when the attack hits. Maybe it’s just my impatience, but it takes SO LONG for him to get back up haha. 

I’m legit always button mashing whenever he does that slow motion fall, trying to get him back up again.

Also the camera motion can take a little getting used to when you first play as it was a little jerky in movement for me in “auto camera mode”. Often when I was fighting or running around the map, it felt a little clunky and sharp in movement, and reminded me of playing older games from back in the day, however, if you take off the auto camera it shouldn’t be too bad. So, that’s a little side note.  

Training and Style orbs

This leads us to orbs and your skill tree! Now this is how you level up your individual styles in game.

Each style has a skill tree and the only way to upgrade your style is through two types of orbs: Training and Style.

The training orb can be used to upgrade any of the four styles, while style orbs are orbs received and only used for specific styles. Make sure to use your orbs wisely to gain extra health, and moves.

Save anytime and ALMOST anywhere 

Also, another side note. In Like a Dragon: Ishin! you can manually save on the spot, so long as you aren’t in a cutscene or a battle, and when you come out of the game and go back in, you’ll be in the EXACT spot you saved in. It’s a minor detail that I appreciated in the game.

This was also particularly helpful in testing upgrades of weapons and such, which often consumed a lot of money and orbs.

Mini games and side missions

Despite the seriousness of the main plot, just like with other “Yakuza/Like a Dragon” games, it never fails to make you crack a smile at their random (and sometimes ridiculously funny) side missions and mini games.

From fishing, chicken racing and chopping wood, to the classic return of dancing and karaoke. Like a Dragon: Ishin! is jam-packed with AMAZING minigames, which can be a wonderful break from the main storyline. 

And if minigames aren’t your thing– although I’m sure you’ll find at least one of them fun, there are a whole bunch of side missions you can do as well.

One of my favourite side missions that I came across earlier on in the game involved me picking out a mochi thief from a line of suspects. It’s these lighthearted and funny missions and minigames that always stand out as a highlight in this franchise.

But if this is your first Yakuza/Like a Dragon game then the amount of side missions can potentially be overwhelming. 

For me, when I play Yakuza games, I make it a habit of completing two-three missions between every main mission, so that I could still enjoy the main story, whilst also partaking in some funny side missions and minigames.

Personally, I don’t recommend completing EVERY side mission available between the main storyline missions as it could literally take you hours. Then by the time you get back to the main story you may be burnt out. Definitely do a few at a time between the missions instead. Especially as at the end of the game you’ll get free roam in all the areas anyway and can be post-game fun, but it’s entirely up to you!

It should also be noted that side missions are often triggered and revealed by talking to NPCs, or walking into certain areas. They won’t be marked on your map in advance until then, so it’s important to fully explore each section you’re in and talk to everyone.

Humongous completion list returns and virtue!

Huge completion lists are another staple in the Yakuza series and it returns in Like a Dragon: Ishin! However it becomes available once you unlock Chapter 2 and is known as the Diligence Records. This record displays all the little tasks you can do to build up something called “Virue”.

In Like a Dragon: ishin! building relationships with the citizens and shopkeepers is important as this provides you with “virtue” which is a currency in the game alongside money.

Virtue can be used to buy permanent upgrades for certain abilities, such as making Ryoma sprint for longer in free roam. Whereas money is used for buying health items, eating in restaurants, materials for weapons, etc.

Boss fights!

Now onto another great part of Like a Dragon: Ishin! Boss fights! 

Without spoilers, some of these boss fights are HILARIOUS! When I tell you my mouth dropped at a boss fight that happens quite early in the game. It literally just went from zero to a hundred in the most random place you can think of. All I’m gonna say is that I’m glad there was plenty of steam around. HA!

Another nice touch in the boss fights are the QTEs (Quick Time Events) that appear! Which requires you to quickly tap a button that appears on the screen to successfully attack the enemy. 

The switch between normal combat and QTEs and the little cutscenes that appear made everything much more fast paced and enjoyable. 

Another thing that’s great, not only with boss fights, but the combat in general is the ability to pause the game and heal up with items as and when you need them. So,  make sure to stock up.

And to conclude!

Like a Dragon: Ishin! is the perfect addition to the franchise for players living in the West! I really hope all the other games that were originally exclusive to Japan become available too, as Like a Dragon: Ishin! is proof that they can be potentially successful too. 

The change of setting from modern day Kamurocho to 1800s Japan is a breath of fresh air and keeps the perfect balance of tension and humour that only a Yakuza game can do. 

Ryoma was a character I loved from the start (probably in part due to the fact he resembles Kazuma Kiryu haha), and all the supporting characters helped bring the story together, not to mention the fun combat, minigames and side missions as well.

Overall, this is definitely a must-play if you’re interested in a slightly different approach to the Yakuza games. The variety of play styles means that the game can be customised to the players taste and whilst it may be slightly hard to get into the swing of things in the beginning in terms of combat and camera movement, I believe this game can be enjoyed by gamers of all levels. Especially as the game will even offer you a chance to temporarily lower the difficulty level if you end up being stuck fighting a boss.

Well done Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and SEGA for another amazing game!

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