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Review | Like a Dragon: Ishin!

"Yakuza with katanas? Sign me up! Ishin is almost everything we’ve been wishing for, especially the team of well-known characters from Yakuza series such as Majima and rest of the crew!"

by Foggy, 20-03-2023, Edited by: No one (yet!)

Like a Dragon: Ishin as a Yakuza spin-off has never been released for market outside of Japan (it was released on February 22, 2014). At first, I never knew it even existed, but apparently it does! And this year the RGG studio wanted to remake/remaster the game so that everyone can properly enjoy it. I, for one, was very stoked as I love the RGG games, plus wielding the katana while drinking sake is always more than cool.

This title is developed in Unreal Engine 4, not the Dragon engine which was the case for their recent titles. Also, it is now available worldwide on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Is it worth it? I would say yes, but I also have a lot of bad things to add.

I fell in love with the beginning of the game. Unfortunatelly, the more I played, the more I was confused with the story and bothered with how clunky some things are.

What’s cool about this game is that it’s based on the real historical events in the 1860s Japan during the Bakumatsu era at the end of the Edo period. Japan is thrown into turmoil after the arrival of Western ships, galvanizing the imperialist ideals of the Shishi, who wish to rebuild the nation around the Emperor by overthrowing the Bakufu and expelling foreigners.

Their idea was to tell that story, but with the cast of Yakuza protagonists and bad guys. It’s a perfect combination if you ask me, but I had so much issue with the story, so let’s get that done. The cast is perfect, Majima (named Okita Soji) is my favourite guy (in this game), followed by Sakamoto (Kiryu).

It’s a typical storyline that consists of multiple twists, but one thing simply ruined the experience for me – the way they tell the story. Every scene is full of names and terms I’m not familiar with, so every few minutes I was totally confused with who is who, what is happening, who the hell is the guy they’re referring to… The good thing is that you can read more about the uncommon terms and names during the conversations (there is an inspect button that will reveal info about many terms during conversations), but that felt like a chore, I wanted more fluent storytelling with decent explanation so I can fully grasp it. This way I was constantly out of focus, and I’m not even sure what happened.

The best parts of the game were story raids and Majima itself. When you look at the characters and their personalities outside of the main storyline, they work really well. But the storytelling is just one, big mess.

There is really not much I can say about the characters in this game. They are badass, they are cool, they are perfect. The issue I had was with the way the story was told (although it's based on the real historical events). Majima, marry me.

This time around we don’t have taxi’s, cell phones, there is no modern technology, instead you will be traveling across Kyo, which is divided into few smaller sections. Instead of a taxi, you can find palanquins, and instead of neon signs and deluxe apartments, you will enjoy the early years and wooden tables on the street. It’s cool, it’s still a location full of details, but not the top of what RGG has to offer. Graphically it’s a PS4 game, with some ups and downs, mostly downs.

I think the biggest issue in this game is the traveling itself. You will often have to run across one part of the town towards another, with no real shortcut in many areas. After 100 hours, that really bothered me. I mean, even in the first 30 or so (how long the story is), it’s still a bit frustrating.

Of course, the NPC models are clunky and ugly, but that is how they do things usually. My bigger issue with the game were technical issues like fps drops during scenes (especially the fire scene later in the game). Also, the whole game feels really clunky, starting from the basic movement, across the fighting and interacting with basically anything. They did fixed a lot of that stuff in patch 1.04, but a lot still remains.

You can’t even skip all scenes (what the hell is with that in modern games?!). Skipping some conversations also feels unnatural as sometimes you need to press the button 3 times, sometimes it just goes through. The whole menu interaction is buggy.

They mention me, so, yay! The side content is again a winner of this party. Such a cool sidestories, the one with the "Semmurai" is the funniest one if you ask me, and simply doing fun side stuff is yet again what makes RGG games great.

Not to only talk about the negatives, let’s do a round of good stuff. The side content. Substories, a bit hit. The quality and the quirkiness of them is simply amazing. I laughed so much on the “Semmurai” substory based on Tom Cruise character model, it was the best substory in near past. The guy who cannot fish and he’s fishing his whole life, hilarious… So many love put into substories, I ended up loving them more than the main story at times.

And they are not the only thing that works here – the minigames are awesome. It’s finally a game where we don’t have Dead Cells, Cabaret minigame or something of that manner. Karaoke and Dancing are properly good, but Karaoke is messy with the bar which you need to follow and press buttons, it goes from right to left too fast, I couldn’t focus. On the other hand, Chicken Racing is average (although good for exploiting money farming), card games and Mahjong are cool (but nothing special) … I like the Scarecrow challenges and the idea behind the courtesan minigame (hilarious, but atrocious minigames in that club). There is a ton of activities where you can spend your time, and I did.

The farming (Another Life) is the main side activity, where you meet Haruka and you grow crops, cook meals and spend your time in piece. Yeah, and Haruka (being your relative here) can clean your ears and give you a bath. Awkward, but normal for Yakuza games.

But the real main side activity in the game is Smithing! Oh my god… The worst side activity in any Yakuza game. You get such good weapons during the story, that the whole Smithing feels totally useless. The Amon fight is also really easy, and there is no real challenge in the game for which you can justify spending more than 50 hours of your life. Yes, it takes even more to earn enough money, to craft every weapon there is, and to get every Seal you can set into a weapon. It makes no sense, and getting seals is properly broken, making the platinum such a big chore I ended up just quitting on it. If they fix the seals drop mechanics, I will get back to it, but now, no way.

Yes, I usually give my cousin ti unwax my ears, scrub me while I take a bath.... No! I don't! But hey, the weird stuff is only natural in RGG games. Dancing and singing are also top notch, too bad I can't put more pictures for this section! Love it!

What combines with the smithing? Weapons! Fighting! Yay!

Nay. I’m not so impressed with 4 styles that you can use here. Brawler as a close combat one is too weak to be even used, special Brawler weapons like Odachi, Spears and Cannons are cool, but I almost never used any. I prefer Swordmaster (the main and the strongest sword-only style) and Wild Dancer (quickstep fast-paced style where you use your sword and your gun while practically dancing around enemies while they cut air around you).

The issue is that you can finish the whole game by using the 2 combinations of either Swordmaster or Wild Dancer styles. There is not a lot of combo variety, the heat actions are awesome, but you get tired of them easily (plus, by the time you finish the game you will miss more than half skills). I don’t know why they made the game such a big grind, instead of giving more to the user so we can properly enjoy the weapon system in the mini-RPG character development in front of us. This just doesn’t work and makes no sense.

The battles are a hit and miss. I like the cold weapons, I love me some katana, but man, the movesets are limited, and by the time you unlock everything, you are like 50h in after the main story is done. It makes no sense, and the camera never works unless you aim at enemies. Sometimes you will just take out the gun and shoot at everyone.

Yakuza 0, Judgment/Lost Judgment are by far better games when it comes to combat. In here, there is no one that will challenge you in a fun and challenging way, it’s just aiming, do the combo, avoid, heal, and done.

I guess they will patch some bad farming decisions and make the game more stable. What they cannot patch is the whole structure of the game, although for casual players it will be a decent experience. For players looking for a challenge – forget it. For players that wants to complete the 100% of the game – forget it, unless you want to spend 50-70h doing the same thing over and over again, which will not give you any satisfaction and the outcome is nothing. Nothing!

Try to focus in the minigame in the first picture. The other one perfectly sums it all up - a happy bunch, pacifists that saved the day (or did they?)

I loved my time with Ishin, but I experienced far more issues in the end than the enjoyment factor. It makes no sense to dine 200 times in a restaurant, cook 100 times or collect millions of money from the farming when that doesn’t have any outcome on the game whatsoever.

This is not the best Yakuza game, it’s not even in the middle if you ask me. Still, for fans out there and all of you that love Katanas and early Japan, yes, this one will offer what you’re looking for, just be aware of the flaws.

"Kiryu needs to go back to his fists, and for the love of god, don't ever bring back Smithing and Seals in any upcoming game. Grind with no real purpose is only grind."
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