Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review | RPGFan (2023)

If you want to win an Oscar, it’s always a good bet to produce a big, flashy historical epic! Casting some beloved big-name actors in a costume-piece extravaganza is like catnip to the academy and is often a guaranteed audience pleaser at the box office.

One can’t help but wonder whether the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio was inspired by this philosophy when they came up with the idea of setting an entry of their epic modern crime-drama series,Yakuza, in ancient Japan. Suddenly, yakuza clans became samurai clans, modern codes of honor were replaced with ancient codes of honor, and fists were supplanted by swords. And rather than come up with an entirely new cast for this departure of setting, RGG Studio had an inspired idea: What if they “cast” the characters in their historical epic as the already established characters in the Yakuza series? The result was two epic games,Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan!andRyū ga Gotoku Ishin!But unfortunately, RGG Studio judged that two games about samurai-era Japan held no western appeal, so they remained unreleased. That is, unreleased until theYakuzaseries finally broke out of its cult status and became a mainstream hit! Finally, after a decade, we are getting a modern remake of 2013’sLike a Dragon: Ishin!And believe me: it was worth the wait.

The shogunate is in crisis! Following the end of Japan’s isolationist policies in the late 19th century, Sakamoto Ryoma and his mentor Toshiba Toyo fight to reform Japan’s rigid class system and restore the Emperor to power. But after Ryoma is framed for Toyo’s murder, he is forced to go into hiding, adopting the new identity of Saitō Hajime to undercover the real killer. Finding himself surrounded by potential enemies in the city of Kyo, Ryoma must uncover the truth to clear his name, bring equality to the people, and change the future of Japan forever!

(Video) Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review

Ishinis a wonderful entry point for newcomers to the series. With no long-established canon weighingitdown, Ishin lets players simply enjoy the gameplay, minigames, and story without having to worry about events that happened two or three games before. But don’t make the mistake that this experience is anything but pureYakuza/Like a Dragon. Everything long-time fans love about the series is still here, just reinterpreted to fit its new setting. The karaoke parlor becomes a singing hall, baseball becomes cannonball/katana training, and mahjong becomes, well… mahjong.Ishinis also jam-packed with Easter eggs designed to make previous players roar with delight. If you are someone who has been following the series for years, you’re in for countless treats that will likely go over the heads of more casual players.

But what is aYakuzagame without its iconic characters? RGG Studio used the models and voice actors of their beloved characters to populate the cast ofIshin, and kept their unique personalities and quirks intact. “Kiryu” as Ryoma is still a granite-faced paragon of virtue surrounded by corruption at every turn. “Majima” as Soji is still a vicious mad dog with a sharp blade, always spoiling for a fight. And “Haruka” as, uh, Haruka is still a beacon of innocence that pushes Kiryu/Ryoma forward in his quest. However, just because everyone here is playing to type doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the roles you would expect. Allies become enemies, enemies become friends, and relationships long established in the canon entries of the series are often turned on their heads. What I love about this is that, for the first time in years, you don’t know who you can trust or not. The story, though labyrinthine in its complexity as always, is much less predictable when you can’t gauge the characters the way you can in the main series.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review | RPGFan (1)
(Video) Like a Dragon Ishin - Review

That said, there is a point where this story can get too confusing for its own good. Following the dual identities of its protagonist, Sakamoto Ryoma/Saitō Hajime, isn’t too bad. But when multiple other characters start showing up with various identities, it becomes a bit difficult to keep things straight. I’m not saying you’ll need a flowchart, but you may need to make a few notes as you play!

AlthoughIshinis being advertised as a remake somewhat along the lines ofYakuza Kiwami, this is closer to an enhanced remaster. To my eyes, it looks like the vast majority of textures and models were directly imported from the originalRyū ga Gotoku Ishininto the Unreal 4 Engine, including the facial models of many of the characters. Though these characters look fine in isolation, the stiffness of their expressions makes it obvious that this game was built in 2014, not 2023. However, that’s not the case with every character. To make the game more relevant to newer fans, RGG Studio has replaced some character models from older Yakuza titles with newer ones, ranging fromYakuza 0 models onwards to ones fromYakuza: Like a Dragon. This change creates a bizarre juxtaposition, with character models looking like they are from two different console generations. Add to this the new and incredibly bright lighting system that occasionally washes out all facial details (especially for female characters), and you are left with a game that occasionally looks modern, occasionally looks retro, and occasionally looks terrible.

Speaking of arguably the most beloved entry of the series,Ishinreally did come across to me as a prototype forYakuza 0, especially in the excellent brawler-based combat. Though Ryoma’s combat styles differ from Kiryu’s, there are still four of them you can switch between on the fly in every fight. You have the option to fight barehanded, with your katana, with a revolver, or with your katana and revolver at the same time in a wild dance of death. Each style offers its own strengths, and learning how the various styles synergize with each other is a joy. For example, you can lower enemies’ health at a distance with your gun, switch to Wild Dancer to windmill your way through the mob, soften up individual enemies with your katana, and then absolutely crush them barehanded with a few well-timed Tiger Drops. My only complaint is that, when properly leveled up and equipped, your gun style can completely break the combat. By the end of the game, I was literally able to rapidly take out hundreds of enemies simply by wailing on them from a distance with my firearm. Machine Gun Kiss, indeed!

(Video) Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review | RPGFan (2)

Nothing beats a Yakuza game when it comes to gameplay value for your money. Though the main story will take you thirty or so hours, the side content will consume more time. Sure, you COULD simply follow the critical path… but why bother when you can instead spend your time betting on chicken races, gambling at the casino, or learning traditional Japanese fan dancing? And let’s not forget the dozens upon dozens of substories that litter the infinitely fascinating city of Kyo, ranging from absurd to absolutely heartbreaking. You can also strike up friendships with various characters across the city. Sometimes, building up their friendship meter simply involves buying things from them. Other times, the process might be a little more involved. The more friends you make, the more your reputation improves across the various neighborhoods, changing how NPCs react to you as you race across the map.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review | RPGFan (3)
(Video) I strongly recommend: 'Like A Dragon: Ishin!' (Review)

Outside of the main story and substories, there are several different gameplay modes on offer here, including a massive piece of side content called “Another Life.” In it, you become the guardian of an innocent orphan named Haruka (history not only repeats, it rhymes), and you must pay off her 100 ryo debt to save her house. You do so by farming, cooking, fishing, and peddling your wares as a merchant to earn money while building up your relationship with her. There are times when this mode can feel a little repetitive, but that’s the beauty ofYakuzagameplay: when you get bored with one activity, there are a dozen other ones you can do instead, such as grinding through the battle dungeons, manning an udon noodle stand, fighting in the arena, and much, much more.

TheYakuzaseries has always excelled in the sound department, andIshincarries on this tradition. The voice acting (which is only in Japanese) is exceptional. All the old favorite actors are in top form, and it’s wonderful to hear some long-absent voices return and stretch their acting muscles in their new/old roles. The music here is also fantastic. Featuring a mix of modern tunes combined with more traditional Japanese fare,Ishincreates an atmosphere that feels likeYakuzawhile fitting right in with 19th-century Japan. It was also a thrill to hear some old favorite tunes, including Baka Mitai (I’ve Been a Fool) and Machine Gun Kiss, get period-appropriate remixes!

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review | RPGFan (4)
(Video) Like a Dragon: Ishin! - Before You Buy

PlayingLike a Dragon: Ishin!took me back to the feeling I had when I first playedYakuza 0, which is not a bad thing! Though it isn’t the pinnacle of the series,Ishindelivers a pureYakuzaexperience that will delight both long-time and new fans. It’s an expertly told melodrama punctuated with moments of genuinely breathtaking absurdity. In other words, it’s aYakuzagame. And frankly, if this actually were a historical drama in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars, it would absolutely get my vote!


Is Yakuza Ishin worth playing? ›

Like A Dragon: Ishin is among the very finest games in the Yakuza franchise. From its refined combat engine to its delightfully melodramatic plot, to its impressive offering of off-beat side quests, this is a game packed with Yakuza goodness.

Is Ishin like a dragon related to Yakuza? ›

Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! is an action-adventure video game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. It is a spin-off of the Like a Dragon series, formerly and commonly known in English localization as Yakuza.

Is Yakuza Ishin turn based? ›

As a turn-based action-adventure, you must explore late-Edo Japan to find your father's killer and save Japan from a plot to unseat the Empire. Like a Dragon: Ishin! is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC.

Is Yakuza Like a Dragon the best? ›

Not only is it one of the best, most beloved titles in the franchise, it's also the first mainline game chronologically. It's a fantastic example of what Yakuza / Like a Dragon is all about. Yakuza Kiwami isn't a bad option, either.

What Yakuza games should I play before Ishin? ›

I'd still recommend that newcomers start with Yakuza 0, a game that is both on Game Pass and frequently on sale for like US$5. Not only is it a fantastic game, it also sets you up for the rest of the mainline series, something Ishin does not do.

Which Yakuza game made the most money? ›

1. Yakuza 0 - ~2,000,000 Copies Sold. Quite possibly the best-selling title of the franchise, Yakuza 0 acts as a prequel to the rest of the series.

Will Ichiban be in Ishin? ›

It was previously confirmed that Ichiban would appear as a Trooper Card in a recent game overview trailer for Ishin, but we now know that he won't be appearing as a central character to the game's plot like some of the other stars of Like A Dragon.

Do I need to play the other Yakuza games before Ishin? ›

That said, Ishin is mostly a great time and it's just nice to see this game finally come to the west. Whether you start with this one or another game in the series doesn't really matter. Just get started. You won't regret it.

Why is Kiryu called Dragon of Dojima? ›

He is popularly known as "the Dragon of Dojima" (堂島の龍, Dōjima no Ryū) due to the tattoo of a dragon on his back and him originally being a fearsome member of the yakuza group known as the Dojima Family, a subsidiary of the Tojo Clan.

Are Kenzan and Ishin connected? ›

Ishin! is set two centuries later than Kenzan!, hence the plots are not related to each other since both games focus on different characters, the historical figures of Sakamoto Ryōma (1836–1867) and Miyamoto Musashi (1584–1645) respectively.

Is Yakuza Ishin a sequel to Kenzan? ›

Importantly, Kenzan is set over two centuries before the events of Ishin, and thus features a narrative and a cast of characters completely unrelated from the latter game.

Is Kiryu in Yakuza Ishin? ›

He is based on the real-life historical figures Sakamoto Ryoma WP and Saito Hajime WP , and is portrayed by the former Yakuza/Like a Dragon series protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu.

Can you beat Yakuza: Like a Dragon without grinding? ›

You don't have to grind. You do however have to do all the side stuff lol (but that doesn't include the part-time hero checklist stuff). So there's a lot of talk about a difficulty spike later in the game that a lot of people have had to go grind for.

Can you romance in Yakuza: Like a Dragon? ›

While it may seem surprising, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has six different romance options that you can pursue. Most of these romance options have a reward, but there's also a big bonus that you'll get from dating them all.

Which Yakuza is easiest to play? ›

Yakuza 0 is the easiest game to date when it comes to combat, too many OP gimmicky styles. Going from 0 to Kiwami and everyone complains about the difficulty spike, anyone who had played the games before Y0 already knew what to expect when it came to fights with multiple strong enemies or battles involving guns.

Is Yakuza Ishin a remaster? ›

Sega's Like a Dragon: Ishin is a remake of 2014's Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin, and its changes go beyond improved visuals. It's finally here. After 9 years of being one of the Yakuza series' hidden gems, Like a Dragon: Ishin! has made it to the rest of the world via its flashy new remaster.

Which Yakuza game should I try first? ›

Not only is Yakuza 0 the best Yakuza game, it's the one you should start with. Why? Because it's two origin stories wrapped up in a 1980s Kamurocho that overflows with the mightiest minigames, and easily the series' most iconic characters: Mr.

Who stole the $10 billion Yakuza? ›

In 2005, Sera breaks ties with Jingu and helps Kazama and Yumi steal the ten billion yen to reveal Jingu's money laundering scheme; the disclosure of this theft by the Nishikiyama Family prompting a civil war in the clan.

Why did Yakuza change to like a dragon? ›

In regard to Like a Dragon: Ishin!, the Japanese development team told Sega of America that they had complete freedom to come up with a new English title, and Sega of America decided that it was best to go with Like a Dragon: Ishin!, which is a direct translation of the Japanese title.

What is the fastest selling game in Japan? ›

Japan's top 100 best-selling games of 2022
  • Pokémon Scarlet/Violet (Switch) – 4,338,931.
  • Splatoon 3 (Switch) – 3,687,814.
  • Pokemon Legends: Arceus (Switch) – 2,314,806.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Switch) – 969,047.
  • Nintendo Switch Sports (Switch) – 887,722.
Feb 2, 2023

Will Yakuza Ishin come to USA? ›

Here's Exactly When You Can Play Yakuza Ishin — And How to Get Early Access. Samurai style. After nearly a decade, Like a Dragon: Ishin! will finally arrive overseas. The Yakuza spinoff first launched in Japan in 2014 but never appeared in the United States (or anywhere else) until its remake was announced in 2022.

Does Ichiban have a love interest? ›

The second female party member, Eri, starts off as an acquaintance who Ichiban decides to help by managing her ailing business. You'll need to complete the Management quest by getting her business to the top of the Share Price ranks. This will max out her Bond and open her up to a romantic relationship.

Who is Ichiban modeled after? ›

Ryu Ga Gotoku Online: Kasuga's inspiration for the tattoo was Jo Sawashiro, whose tattoo depicts the same creature. The two both hold a strong admiration for Masumi Arakawa and view him as the 'dragon' they aspire to be.

Will Yakuza Ishin come to the West? ›

One of the feudal spin-off games in the ever-popular Yakuza series, known as Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin!, is finally coming to the West for the first time. Announced at the Playstation State of Play in September 2022, Like A Dragon: Ishin! will be remastered from its original PS3 and PS4 iterations for PS5.

Will Yakuza Ishin get localized? ›

Big day for Yakuza news: First the modern murder mystery thriller series Judgment gets rated for PC, and now the feudal Japan spin-off Yakuza Ishin, first released on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in 2014, is getting a remake. More importantly: it's being localized for the first time.

Will there be Kiwami 3? ›

Unfortunately, it would seem that there are no plans to show of Yakuza Kawami 3 at the upcoming virtual convention, although Sega does have a spot on the official schedule where fans may want to keep an eye on for some subtle hint at what's to come.

Who is Kiryu's love interest? ›

Unlike his friends and colleagues, Kiryu has rarely pursued women; his only love interests, Yumi Sawamura and Kaoru Sayama, have passed away and disappeared respectively, and he has since repeatedly turned down other potential lovers like Mayumi Madarame, with no clear reason given as to why when asked by his boss, ...

Who married Kiryu? ›

Mayumi Madarame | Yakuza Wiki | Fandom.

Is Ichiban the opposite of Kiryu? ›

Ichiban's English voice actor, Kaiji Tang, describes him as a "whimsical" character who, despite being the game's protagonist, also serves the role of a supporting character due to how he often assists his allies. Tang said that his character is the "opposite" of Kiryu in terms of personality.

Do I need to play other Yakuza games to play Ishin? ›

Whether you start with this one or another game in the series doesn't really matter. Just get started. You won't regret it.

How long is Yakuza Ishin? ›

Like a Dragon: Ishin takes approximately 25 hours to beat, according to many reviewers. However, this estimate can vary depending on how much side content you decide to engage with. If you're a fan of Yakuza's charming and quirky side quests, you'll likely spend closer to 80 hours completing most of the content.

Which Yakuza has the best gameplay? ›

Best Yakuza Games, Ranked
  • 8 Judgment.
  • 7 Yakuza Kiwami.
  • 6 Lost Judgment.
  • 5 Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life.
  • 4 Yakuza Kiwami 2.
  • 3 Like A Dragon: Ishin.
  • 2 Yakuza: Like A Dragon.
  • 1 Yakuza 0.
Mar 16, 2023

Can you play as a female in Yakuza? ›

How Haruka Brings a Feminine Touch to a Macho World. A Princess League of her own. This article contains spoilers for the Yakuza series. For a series known for its larger-than-life displays of machismo, Yakuza 5 changed things up by introducing the series' first playable female protagonist.

Can you romance in Yakuza 7? ›

In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, there are six female NPCs that Ichiban can romance by chatting outside of their normal occupation. You can improve your relationship with these NPCs by giving them gifts.

What is the longest Yakuza game to complete? ›

Yakuza 5 is easily the longest game in the series, but it's also one of the most ambitious.

How many chapters are in Ishin? ›

Like a Dragon: Ishin features 14 chapters, all of which are listed below: Chapter 1 – Escaping Home. Chapter 2 – The Man Named Saito Hajime.

How long does it take to 100% Yakuza like a dragon? ›

When focusing on the main objectives, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is about 45½ Hours in length. If you're a gamer that strives to see all aspects of the game, you are likely to spend around 102 Hours to obtain 100% completion.

Is Ishin a sequel to Kenzan? ›

Importantly, Kenzan is set over two centuries before the events of Ishin, and thus features a narrative and a cast of characters completely unrelated from the latter game.

Is Yakuza Ishin based on a true story? ›

All of the major characters in Ishin are based on real historical figures. The Bakumatsu Period was one of the biggest eras of change in Japan's history, as it marked a shift away from the Tokugawa Shogunate's rule and restored power back to the Emperor.

What does Ishin mean in Japanese? ›

English Translation. prestige. More meanings for 威信 (Ishin) dignity noun.

Which Yakuza is the strongest? ›

1. Kazuma Kiryu. Kazuma Kiryu, nicknamed the Dragon of Dojima, is the single most legendary and accomplished character in the Yakuza universe.


1. Like a Dragon: Ishin! - Easy Allies Review
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2. Like a Dragon Ishin! Remake Review - The Final Verdict
3. Like a Dragon: Ishin! | Samurai Game Review
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4. The NEW Yakuza Game is WEIRD but FUN! - Like a Dragon: Ishin Review
5. Like a Dragon: Inshin - Rapid Fire Review
6. Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review - A Step Back for Yakuza Remasters
(Noisy Pixel)


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