Review of English Release and Remaster of Like a Dragon: Ishin!

About nine years following the launch in Japan (under the name of Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin!), Like a Dragon: Ishin! finally has an English release, and on top of that, a remaster! We just tested whether it was a worthy successor to the legendary video game or not.

Realization of Dreams

Who’d have imagined that Like a Dragon: Ishin! would receive a remaster and complete translation in the year 2023? The first indication of this was possibly some recent remarks made by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the creator of the television series and former CEO of RGG Studio, regarding the popularity of Ghost of Tsushima by Sucker Punch Productions. And what better game than the one that did it back in 2014 to fill the console generational divide until the following major mainstream entry, right?

Dragon: Ishin Remaster

We completed Like a Dragon: Ishin! in Japanese immediately after its release, so it was good to play it again and this time actually comprehend the full plot. So we feel like we should make a disclaimer right now. Unlike the Yakuza Kiwami series, Like a Dragon: Ishin! isn’t a complete remake. It’s still the 2014 game, however, it’s more of a port that switched to a new engine and included a few features; simply more attractive, with more content, and localized in English. So, you may give it a name like Like a Dragon: Ishin! Remastered +.

We remark that to apportion blame a little because Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Like a Dragon: The New Judgement don’t work on the same standard of fluid smoothness. Does that imply that it’s poor? In no way. One of the series’ best games has always been Like a Dragon: Ishin! – a collection of highly regarded games.

Source of the Legend

Like A Dragon Ishin! is a superb remaster. Unlike the other two Kiwami games, this one mostly had a visual makeover with some minor combat and system adjustments. To be entirely honest, we’re still not sure whether we should suggest Like a Dragon: Ishin! to anyone who’s unfamiliar with the series or not. Or if you enjoy the more recent releases or not. Even though some of the characters will be recognizable to you, the game is nonetheless rife with classic Yakuza jank. Nowadays, we personally value it, especially since all of the games are so well-made.

The nostalgia Ishin relies on is another significant aspect that probably won’t make many people feel good. It’s a nice touch to see all these familiar faces in a fresh plot that’s full of nods to the best moments of the series, especially Yakuza 1–5, as well as modern takes on some timeless tunes. It also has a slightly different tone from recent games. The Like a Dragon series evolved to be a little less outrageous and crazy, believe it or not. Nonetheless, Ishin and Yakuza 5 also marked the shift in that tone.

But we also need to deal with the big issue. Is the series as excellent as Yakuza 0 is the question novice aficionados asked. And we recognize your first love’s prejudice. We, therefore, feel the need to clarify how to determine a Like a Dragon/Yakuza game’s “worthiness” in advance. Initially, you notice that these games’ narratives frequently adhere to a formula. You’ll comprehend when you’ve already played a couple of them. As a result, we evaluate a Yakuza/Like a Dragon game based on how much content it contains and how good it is. And in a moment, we’ll discuss what that material is and how effective it is, but for now, allow us to state – it’s exquisite.

For the Sake of Faith

However, we should discuss the broader story. Like a Dragon: Ishin! differs from the majority of games and its own series because of it and the environment. The historical character Sakamoto Ryōma is the focal point of the Ishin tale, which is set in 1860s Japan. He’s a samurai who was involved in the Meiji Restoration, which ultimately resulted in the restoration of the emperor to power and the opening of Japan’s borders to the rest of the world.

The Meiji Restoration and the events that preceded it are sort of the subject of the story. Although the overall themes are heavily influenced by actual occurrences, it’s not actually based on them. The old capital of Japan, Kyo, which is now Kyōto, is extensively featured in the game as well. Also, there’s the infamous Shinsengumi, a group of well-known samurai who serve as police. The fact that this seems overwhelming at first is one of the reasons the game has never been localized in the first place, and it’s also a lot of work.

Ghost of Tsushima is simple to comprehend, as one can easily support Mongolians going berserk and killing everyone, but how can Japanese feudalism evolve into more of an oligarchy with several moving pieces and complex politics infused with cultural expectations? Eh. Fortunately, the story’s broad strokes are simple to comprehend, but parts of it may be confusing if you are unfamiliar with Japanese culture and history, which adds to the appeal. Although it’s helpful to have a glossary option, it doesn’t truly clarify a few of the more unusual components of the plot.

Yet, the drama is why we’re here. And luck is on your side! Like a Dragon: Ishin! ranks right up there with some of the series’ best tales. It’s a good murder mystery that’s overly intricate and packed with political intrigue, treachery, and interesting people – colorful heroes portrayed by the series’ characters! That’s the impression you’ll have, at least. Kazuma Kiryu and Majima Gorō, who have been a staple of the series, also portray the parts of Sakamoto Ryōma and Okita Sōji, respectively.

Shin’s array of characters is its biggest asset compared to any other game in the series; casting characters from all of the series’ games, including the latest ones, in various roles. And the voice acting for this series is something we don’t discuss enough. There’s nothing that compares to the skills in the Like a Dragon series, despite the fact that many games contain a tonne of incredible performances. This, along with the occasionally powerful cinematics the game throws at you, really sets this franchise distinct. Even Ishin, who’s 9 years old, demonstrates this.

We don’t want to disclose anything else anymore. The sidequests are, as usual, fantastic, and the tale has some good unexpected left turns that will keep you on your toes. Either by being utterly absurd and bizarre, touching and charming, or some combination of the two. Thus, if you’ve already played any of these games, you understand what to anticipate. Except that the sidequests regrettably lack voice acting.

Receiving You and Slashing You

Let us make this clear prior to embarking on a long rant about this. The combat in Ishin is the best iteration of the previous Yakuza combat system. The older games from before Yakuza 6 or the more recent ones are typically mentioned when discussing combat in these games.

Ishin shakes things up by showcasing 4 distinct fighting techniques rather than several characters like Yakuza 5. You can choose from four different fighting styles: brawler, which is Kiryu’s signature moveset, swordsman, which uses a katana, gunman, and wild dancer, which allows you to employ both.

Most often used with larger crowds are Brawler and Wild Dancer. Brawler concentrates on using tools and brute force, but Wild Dancer is very mobile and can quickly cut through dense crowds. Swordsman is a relatively simple game in which you must dodge, slash, and parry your way down opponents. It excels in one-on-one combat. The Gunsman Style allows you to use the firearm; a firearm that can be modified to fire specialized ammunition and be used as a covert weapon of mass devastation.

But, if you’ve previously played one of the series’ earlier titles, you’ll feel perfectly at home. The boss battles and other unique encounters, each with their own speed and atmosphere, are the game’s centerpiece. They also stand out significantly from the remainder of the series because of the locale. Even though needing to fistfight two tigers bare-knuckled continues to be the franchise’s high point.

It was also the last attempt by the series to heavily rely on its RPG aspects (which might help one action-adventure game to be finally launched to the eSports scene and cause a betting explosion on specialized online sportsbooks, such as bookies in Pakistan, that always accompanies that) prior to Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Your equipment matters a lot, and you’ll find an entire side game centered around searching dungeons for resources so you can upgrade and customize various kinds of weapons and gear.

Also, the variety of weaponry is excellent because each sword, gun, and other item has special perks in addition to other bonuses that may be unlocked and discovered around the game world. The game’s lack of variety in enemies in the later levels is my main issue. Even though you’ll fight foes with various sword stances and weaponry frequently as you move from point A to point B, it gets old towards the finish. Combat, however, fortunately always pushes you to play around with it, thus fighting for the purpose of fighting is always enjoyable.

Ethical Missionary

The virtue system in Like a Dragon: Ishin! is one of its minor but awesome features. You can buy things with virtue by completing challenges, side quests, objectives, and pretty much everything else in the game. You can trade them in for helpful items, non-combat-related enhancements, and the “Another Life” activity. Also, since you can earn these points for just about everything, it somehow motivates you to roleplay like a good samurai galloping through Kyo.

Even stopping to have tea with an elderly woman is worthwhile. Play with the kids or give a struggling author some words of support. Dining out at the numerous (hopefully historically authentic) restaurants is even your primary method of recovery. And no matter where you go, someone will cross your way who needs your assistance or something associated with you. The pricey “Another Life” is one of Ishin’s standout attractions. It sounds incredibly sweeping and majestic, yet it’s basically just a simple farming sim. You find yourself repaying your adopted charge Haruka’s debts throughout the plot (yes, she’s also in this game).

The majority of the righteousness you acquire should be applied to the small farm you are granted free reign over. In this area, you can plant fruits and vegetables, prepare them in a fun mini-game, and then sell them. You can eventually transform it into a machine that prints money by investing some effort in it. You’ll need that cash to enhance your equipment, and stopping by occasionally is simple.

Samurai in the Izakaya, Shinsengumi in the Streets

Depending on how you look at things, this game’s mini-game collection is either terribly disappointing or really refreshing. Theoretically, every single mini-game in Yakuza 5 has been taken directly from that game and given a fresh coat of paint. You have mainstays of the series like Shogi, Mahjong, Gambling, and Karaoke. Other strange mini-games include preparing noodles, wagering on chicken races, and traditional Japanese dancing.

If you’ve enjoyed these games before, you know what to anticipate because they naturally include the standard number of obstacles and mini-games. The most noteworthy aspect of Ishin is that, as the plot develops, you’ll be in charge of running your own Shinsengumi division. Nevertheless, it’s simpler than it seems; you may add new members to your teams and give them combat-useful unique talents. They also influence some of your numbers and your health.

The biggest attraction is a collection of dungeons, which are essentially glorified battle tunnels with a variety of objectives and fresh foes. Avoid attempting to do them all at once; you’ll eventually go insane. But it’s not like they aren’t worthwhile because they are a wonderful source of both crafting supplies and money. And there are plenty more minor tasks and difficulties to keep you occupied.

Completionists have long loved the Like a Dragon/Yakuza games. In terms of content, Like a Dragon: Ishin! is almost on par with Yakuza 0 if we judge it by the volume of material it contains. We can only anticipate that Like a Dragon 8 is going to be a similarly massive game as Yakuza 5.

8.5/10: So It Works

This series simply seems to work for some reason. You may point out small details that are entertaining on their own, but they always combine to produce some of the best games available right now.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a 2014 game that has been updated for 2023. It may be a touch out of date by today’s standards in some areas, and the aesthetics don’t quite reflect the presentation’s more clumsy elements. Yet we’re not at all bothered by that. And now that we’ve arrived at this point, we’re already missing the previous games and would happily pay top dollar for a recreation of Yakuza 5.

Ishin, however, stands out for its presentation and setting. It only goes to show how brilliant RGG Studios’ concept is that even a video game dated 9 years ago that has been given some polish still can feel new and innovative despite being a piece of a legacy brand. Like a Dragon is situated in a historic context, yet it still pulls it off with remarkable confidence. So you receive precisely what’s described on the box when you play Like a Dragon: Ishin! – a Like a Dragon/Yakuza game set in old-school Japan.

If you’re an established fan, you already know what to anticipate, and it’s a nice game to play while we await for the series’ upcoming two installments. We aren’t sure if Ishin will leave the greatest first impression if you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, though. Its tale is entertaining on its own, with endearing characters and outstanding performances. Just what portion of this will make sense to someone who’s unfamiliar with these individuals and key events is something we can’t really predict.

Yet since its plot has no connection to the remainder of the franchise, if you’ve always been interested in trying one of these games, this is definitely also a simple one to check out. We’re just not entirely clear about the references. Yet, we believe that in general these periods will still be felt because of Ishin’s excellent presentation.

We’d like to put pressure on RGG Studios to create a full-fledged Kiwami remake of Like a Dragon: Kenzan! now that it has finally succeeded. As a kind of tech demo to demonstrate what the company could accomplish on the PlayStation 3, they created that other fantastic samurai game back in 2008. Make it a reality! We beg you! Although it’s a really wonderful game, it regrettably didn’t age as well as Ishin.

On February 21, Like a Dragon: Ishin! will be accessible on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

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