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Like A Dragon: Ishin! is the Yakuza games’ Red Dead — and a great place to start

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Sega’s Yakuza series, now known in the West as Like a Dragon, is as beloved for its grim, stone-faced drama and brutal street brawling as it is for the silly antics of its stars, Kiryu Kazuma, Goro Majima, and Ichiban Kasuga. None of that is changing for the next game in the franchise, Like a Dragon: Ishin!, despite the game’s historical 19th-century setting. if anything, Like a Dragon: Ishin! There’s an opportunity for the franchise to be a little quieter and more serious.

But let’s back up. What? Like a Dragon: Ishin, It is a remake of the Yakuza spinoff that was originally released only in Japan in 2014 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. This is a stand-alone entry; The mainline Like a Dragon/Yakuza games are neither a sequel nor a direct prequel, so if you’re intimidated by the sheer volume of Sega’s beat-em-up adventure franchise, this is a good jumping-in point. (although fans of Jacob 0 And Yakuza: Like a Dragon You’ll recognize some familiar faces here.)

the story of Like a Dragon: Ishin! Centers on Sakamoto Ryoma – he happens to look a lot like yakuza hero Kiryu Kazuma – who embarks on a mission to uncover a mysterious assailant after his father figure and mentor, Yoshida Toyo, is murdered. The only thing Ryoma knows about the masked assailant is his swordsmanship style, known as Tennen Rishin. In search of answers, Ryoma travels from his backwater town of Tosa to the capital of Japan, Kyō, where he joins the Shinsengumi, a special police force under an alias.

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I recently Like a Dragon: Ishin! on Xbox Series X — it’s also coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox One in February — and found it as gripping, melodramatic, and humorous as any Yakuza game. In some cases, the historical Bakumatsu period setting made up only a few elements. Ishin! Even more fun.

Chapter 3 of Like a Dragon: Ishin!, “Mibu Wolves,” sees Ryoma settling in the Fushimi district of Kyō. It is a bustling, cosmopolitan city filled with vendors, restaurants, bars and brothels, as well as bandits and lowlifes roaming the streets just looking for a fight. There are also minigames – gambling, chicken racing, even a proto-karaoke bar – and diversions such as bathhouses and dojos where Ryoma can train in a variety of fighting styles.

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Ryoma Sakamoto, pistol in his other hand, kills a street thug named Hara with his katana on the streets of Kyo in Like a Dragon: Isshin!

Image: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio / Sega

Fighting styles in Ishin! Feel more different from previous games, where Kiryu can switch between a variety of brawl methods. Ryoma covers four styles of weapons:

  • Swordsman, Stance focused on powerful attacks with katana
  • Gunman, who allows Ryoma to attack from long range with a pistol
  • Wild Dancer, a “flashy” stance that combines firearms and katana
  • brawlers, bare fists combined with environmental weapons

You can educate yourself about all those styles at the dojo in Fushimi. There is also a blacksmith in town who will forge, sharpen, and craft weapons when the right materials are found. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of swords, spears, pistols, cannons, pieces of armor, and other items to unlock and upgrade throughout the game.

like the yakuza games of the era when Ishin! When first released, tough guys from the street will regularly challenge Ryoma to fight, but it is relatively easy to put them down. Ryoma faces a true challenge in his audition for the Shinsengumi, when he comes face to face with capable swordsmen such as Nagakura Shinpachi, the second division captain of the force (who still trains in the Tennon Rishin style). He also comes face to face with—but does not directly fight—a man named Okita Sōji, Ishin!Goro Majima lookalike.

It is in these moments, and in conversation with Hijikata Toshizō, the deputy head of the Shinsengumi, where the drama of Like a Dragon: Ishin! is at its most compelling. Ryoma, Sōji, and Shinpachi discover each other’s fighting skills, thirst for blood, and true motivations. A later scene, where the Deputy Chief engages Ryoma and the mysterious “Man in White” in a fight to the death, further elevates the drama – with some excellent dialogue and an English-language localization that adds dimension Ishin!characters of

Like a Dragon: Ryoma Sakamoto enthuses in Isshin's karaoke minigame

Image: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio / Sega

The silly things featured in this chapter are pretty cool too. This also includes:

  • A scene where Ryoma goes to a bathhouse and a clothes thief meets him. Ryoma has to chase the disfigured robber through the streets of Fushimi but wears nothing, leading the local police to try to apprehend him. His for indecency.
  • A group of protestors who rally behind a dance, one so infectious that Ryoma yells “Stop dancing on me!” only to subject themselves to instincts. It’s very cute.
  • A waiting-in-line-for-good-sushi minigame. Where you just… wait in line. And then the seller is sold.
  • A karaoke performance (accompanied by flute solo) of Ryoma, singing the classic Yakuza tune “Baka Mittai”, during which an indifferent audience member becomes so enthralled that she develops a crush on our hero and sobs uncontrollably.
  • Ryoma is learning the Bio Dance – a fan dance, traditionally performed by women – which shows, like Kiryu, he is tapping into his feminine side well.

Ishin! Fishing, chopping wood, mahjong, shoji, poker, and dozens of substories are included, just like previous games in Sega’s seemingly invincible franchise. All of which adds up to a very fun, fairly varied experience, just like the Yakuza games of the modern era. It is a matter of a completely different time.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Will be released on consoles and PC on February 21st. A Digital Deluxe Edition will grant early access to the game on February 17th.

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