Yakuza has become quite popular in recent years. Yakuza 0 would be partially thanks to that with it being a masterpiece as well as an excellent entry point into the franchise. Most notably its success in the west was due to influencers streaming the series. There is nothing out there like the Yakuza series and the way it juggles itself from the absurd to the heartfelt resonated with western players. Sega smartly transitioned the entire mainline series to the current generation of systems, BUT sadly there was no way to play the spinoffs that were only localised for Japan, until now. After playing Like A Dragon: Ishin! I see why it was worth bringing this one to the west.
The story takes place in 1860s Japan at the end of the Edo period. This is a time of great conflict as the ideals of old Japan were failing and Western interest were coming ashore. There is a hell of a lot to the plot. It’s a bit of a history lesson. It’s like when you watch a biopic and the there is a lot of truth there amongst all the liberties it takes. This may not be the most entertaining Yakuza game, but it might be the most important. It’s the Red Dead Redemption of the Yakuza series
Yakuza is full of interesting characters all with a backstory and emotional pull. Starting off with Like A Dragon: Ishin! is initially jarring because they use the character models of key characters from the franchise. After an hour you no longer connect them to their previous characters due to the drama of the story and how well these new characters feel fully developed.
Combat feels dated, but there is a card system that has been included in this remaster that keeps battles feeling fresh. The cards are troops that can be levelled up. The cards charge up and unleash powerful attacks that happen at your choosing or automatically. They feel like moves out of Dragon Ball Z as you blast the enemies with these absurd looking moves.
As much as I love most of Like a Dragon: Ishin! it has a lot of flaws that break the flow of the game. The biggest flaw is the constant traversal from one side of the map to the other. With every story beat it seems like you must travel back and forth. It’s tedious in a map that has a brown colour palette. This isn’t different to any other Yakuza game, but Kamurocho the city in those games is bustling with people and every street is full of detail and colour. The substories are not as engrossing as they are in other Yakuza entries though they do provide intreating insights into the period.
Overall, Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a must play for Yakuza fans. The writing you know and love is here in the main story. There is a mystery throughout that will keep you guessing all the way to the end as well as a history lesson that will have you digging into Japan’s archives. For non-Yakuza players this provides a good jumping in point in a more streamlined game without nearly as many absurd activities and moments that are frequently found in the other titles.
Available on PS4, PS5, Xbox, and PC.