Like A Dragon: Ishin!

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.

Robert Ring

Yakuza All Night Long

Sometimes you hear of a critically acclaimed series that is up to like the third or fourth sequel and it puts you off. There is just too much history to go through and the earlier titles tend to be unplayable on the latest console. Yakuza was one of those series for me. I obtained Yakuza 4 and 5 on PlayStation 3 through PlayStation Plus, but why would I start there? A few more years passed and Yakuza 0 was a critical darling on the Playstation 4, which I found out was the prequel to the series. So I jumped in and played it for a couple of hours. It was fine and I put it down for a few months. When I came back to it everything started to click in place. The story was so grounded and cinematic in scope. I was all in. Then I started doing some side quests and things went completely bonkers. Somehow the game juggles the dramatic with the absurd and it works perfectly. Now Yakuza 0 is one of my favourite games of all time, and a series I absolutely love.


The Yakuza story has mostly centred around Kazuma Kiryu. The series is one big grand story so it’s been hard to appreciate until recently with all the mainline titles available on PlayStation 4. Currently there are eight titles in the main series and two games in the Judgment spin off series. That’s ten games all of substantial quality. If you’ve never played them you should start with Yakuza 0 as I did.


The series is a third-person action-adventure where you will brawl your way through clans to do the right thing. Every game takes place in the same city, which you see evolve over time. The side quests contain some of the most humorous side quests of any game ever and there are even in-game arcades that let you play some of Sega’s older titles. Each game is lengthy and could take around anywhere from 20-40 hours to finish the main story, and double that to complete everything the game has to offer. You can watch videos on YouTube to see if you’ll enjoy the game, but I think you should give one a go and see if it’s for you.

Later on this month we will be getting a remake of the spin off title Like a Dragon: Ishin! What is special about this one is it was never available in the west, so for most of us it’s a brand new game. At the end of the year there is also Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which is an interstitial game for the Yakuza series. This has never happened before and reveals the events of Kazuma Kiryu between Yakuza 6, and Yakuza 7. Finally, Yakuza 8 comes out next year showing that the series is in no way slowing down.

All Yakuza games are currently available in the PlayStation Plus Premium tier, that includes the first Judgment game too. And if it is for you, well, welcome to what might be your favorite video game series.

Robert Ring