The Yakuza series gained worldwide popularity in 2017 when Yakuza 0 was translated into English and released outside of Japan. Since then, SEGA has been relentlessly churning out games in this series, trying to release them almost immediately all over the world: the sixth part, which completed the story of the protagonist, and the seventh, with new characters, and remakes – Yakuza: Kiwami and Yakuza: Kiwami 2. The fate remained unclear spin-offs, including Yakuza: Ishin!, set in 19th-century Japan. At home, it was released back in 2014 and has not been localized since then, despite numerous requests from fans. Now his remake Like a Dragon: Ishin! available on PC and consoles.
Old faces in new scenery in Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Although from the videos and screenshots it seems that Kazuma Kiryu has become the protagonist again, in fact it is not him. The protagonist is Sakamoto Ryoma, a real-life samurai who takes the pseudonym Saito Hajime (that was the name of another historical figure). In life, they were two different people, but their past is so vague that the developers allowed themselves to combine them into one character. So don’t expect to get from Like a Dragon: Ishin! historically accurate game.
The duration of the action is the Bakumatsu period, which lasted for almost three centuries of the Edo era. The protagonist returns to his native province of Tosa, enters into a skirmish with local samurai and ends up in prison, from which his adoptive father pulls him out. Together with him and his adopted brother Sakamoto, Ryoma plans to capture Kochi Castle – the only way the loyalist party can put an end to the outdated class system of Tosa, which has ruined many destinies. But in the process of preparation, an unknown assassin kills his father and escapes, and the protagonist becomes a suspect and is forced to leave the region and change his name.
He goes to Kyo (now Kyoto) and starts looking for the villain. It is known that he owns the long-forgotten martial art Tennen Rishin-ryu. It is popular among members of the Shinsengumi military-police squad, which Ryoma (or rather, Saito) decides to join. His abilities impress the commanders, so that the hero is immediately appointed to a high position. He, meanwhile, is trying to find out who killed his adoptive father and why.
Despite the entourage of 19th century Japan, Ishin! tells a familiar Yakuza story full of dramatic episodes, brutal murders and men with furrowed brows. The most interesting decision is not to create completely new character models, but to take heroes familiar to fans and give them new roles. All the actors actually existed – Goro Majima, for example, “played the role” of the samurai Okita Soji, who was considered one of the best swordsmen of the Shinsengumi. As soon as a new plot character appears, I want to point my finger at the TV, like Leonardo DiCaprio (Leonardo DiCaprio) in that meme, and remember how this “actor” was called in the licensed parts of Yakuza.
The story Like a Dragon: Ishin! can hardly be called one of the best in the series, but it is still good – you forgive the plot for drawn-out episodes, since the direction and production of videos are traditionally excellent.
The gameplay is a solid “yakuza”, but you need to be prepared for the fact that, even though Like a Dragon: Ishin! and called a remake, it’s more like a remaster. The game of 2014 was transferred to the Unreal Engine 4 engine. The authors significantly improved the graphics, made more realistic lighting, and so on, but the gameplay was practically not affected. And since the original came out a year before the Japanese release of Yakuza 0, the novelty has more in common with the “zero” part than with the sixth or even the seventh.
It’s rather unusual to see Kiryu (or rather, a character with Kiryu’s face) outside of Tokyo’s Kamurocho. Here the environment does not look as rich as in other games in the series – low houses and dusty streets. This region is cozy in its own way, the developers have tried to revive it. Wandering merchants wander back and forth offering goods, guard dogs bark to scare off thieves, someone scatters confetti, someone just walks or sits in a diner. And in the evening, tipsy residents appear on the streets, who hobble around somewhere, barely moving their legs.
And fights and rest in Like a Dragon: Ishin!
At the same time, Kyo, like Kamurocho, is not the safest place – there are also hooligans here. Ronin outcasts, fugitive criminals and other villains either attack the hero, having met him in the alley, or stick to passers-by – here the player himself decides whether he wants to fight again. The main difference from the classic parts of Yakuza is that here the protagonist wields not only his fists – from the very beginning of the game he gets access to four fighting styles that differ from each other more noticeably than in other games in the series.
If you choose the swordsman style, the hero will take up a sword and will be able not only to inflict great damage on them, but also to break through the defense. “Rifleman” allows you to arm yourself with a pistol, and with “Wild Dancer” you can combine a firearm and a katana. Finally, for lovers of the classics, the fist fighter style is available. Although with this style you can use environmental objects, and you get invulnerability when parrying attacks, it still loses to the other three even at full leveling. Including due to the fact that changing the sword and pistol in the inventory affects the attack power, and there are no brass knuckles or something that would increase damage from fists in the game.
Each style is pumped separately, but this is not all of Saito’s abilities in battle. When a hero becomes a member of the Shinsengumi, units are unlocked. The character still fights alone, but gains the skills of the soldiers that he assigned as his comrades – activates passive health regeneration, shoots fireballs, releases electric discharges, blows up opponents or massively stuns them. Abilities are quickly activated, but after use they must be restored.
All fighters are different and offer different bonuses, plus they can be upgraded. The rarer your fighter, the higher its maximum level. You can look for new partners both in the city (defeated hooligans offer their services) and in special “dungeons”, and this mini-game can distract you from the main story for several evenings.
Another entertainment that drew me in is called “Another Life” – the character gets at his disposal a house with a garden, where he grows all kinds of vegetables, and then prepares dishes from them in the kitchen. Over time, you can expand the garden, open access to new crops, fertilize the soil and upgrade the kitchen.
Dishes are allowed to be carried and eaten if you need to restore health, but it is better to open a book with orders and send them to customers, for which they will give money and some bonuses. Who would have thought that even Animal Crossing elements would fit well into the Yakuza series? It’s a pity that getting to the garden is inconvenient: in Kio you need to run to the southern part of the city, there you can contact the boatman, and after the loading screen you will get to a separate location. Already in the remake could add teleportation through the pause menu, for example.
The rest of the mini-games are more familiar to those who played the older parts of the series Like a Dragon: Ishin!. Balls were not beaten with bats then, so here you chop cannonballs with a katana. There was also a local karaoke and dance hall. Gambling, chicken racing, fishing, chopping wood, combat time trials – despite the change of entourage, Ishin! offers about as much variety of entertainment as the rest of Yakuza. There is also a blacksmith here who can make weapons from the materials provided, and the sword upgrade tree makes you remember Monster Hunter – you also need to grind resources for a long time and choose what bonuses you want to get.
Well, everyone’s favorite side quests, of course, have not gone away. I wouldn’t say that I remember at least some of them, but all the same, these are funny (and sometimes tragic) stories that I don’t mind spending time on. It’s a pity that there are very few plots that could take place exclusively in the Edo period – for the most part, these are standard family problems, investigations and scuffles that are easy to imagine on the streets of Kamurocho. However, if you liked these mini-stories in the rest of the series, then here you will find more than fifty interesting new adventures.
Fans have been waiting for Ishin for a long time! outside of Japan and it was worth the wait. It is difficult to attribute it to the best parts of Yakuza, in particular due to the fact that against the backdrop of the last games in the series, it seems archaic. But even the archaic Yakuza is great fun with a colorful storyline, lots of fun twists and a bunch of fun mini-games. One could even say that Ishin! perfect for the first acquaintance with the series, although the best entry point is still Yakuza 0. There is no plot connection with other games at all, but in terms of gameplay it is a classic “yakuza” with all its advantages.
Pros: interesting, albeit sometimes sagging story; many familiar characters, despite the unusual scenery for the series; cozy new region; enough entertainment outside of the main story, including mini-games and dozens of side quests; four fighting styles, very different from each other.
Cons: more of a remaster than a remake – for example, there is not enough quick access to the garden; the mechanics seem a bit archaic compared to the later games in the series.