For yakuza veterans and genre lovers, the name Like A Dragon: Ishin! may look familiar. There can be two reasons for this: Either you played the “Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon” released in 2020 and beat yourselves through the streets in the turn-based RPG combat system. Or maybe you know the original from 2014, which unfortunately never came out in the West. Both are good prerequisites for playing Like A Dragon: Ishin! To have fun.
Under aliases under samurai
Action RPG Like A Dragon: Ishin! is set in 1867 of the Bakumatsu era in Japan. Although the land of the rising sun is often romanticized in film and television, it is also very rough there. At the time, the country was fraught with problems and political unrest. In the game you take on the role of the swordsman Sakamoto Ryoma, who wants to reform the backward country and fails miserably.
Struck by life and on the run by a stroke of fate, the fighter takes the name Saito Hajime and seeks revenge to save his honor. He comes across a samurai fighting force from the old Edo period, which he joins in order to get closer to his goal. At this point our demo version started, in which we had to complete a trial of the Shinsengumi samurai faction.
Fast combat system with four combat styles
Unlike Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon, Ishin! true to the “Yakuza” gameplay line and once again relies on a freer combat system. This makes confrontations with opponents much more flexible and leaves more freedom for different combat strategies. Because instead of selecting skills and waiting for the opponent’s reaction every round, lightning-fast action with four different fighting styles is required here.
The swordsman style allows for powerful slashes with the katana, while the gunslinger lives up to his name. If you can’t decide, the free dancer style might be something for you. This combat stance is particularly agile and gives you access to sword and weapon. If you enjoy brute force and prefer to rely on your own fists, choose the street fighter style and use objects in the environment as weapons.
You can change styles at any time during battles. Playing will show whether the free dancer style is really universally best suited. So far it seems the best option as it combines both gunslinger and swordsman style. In terms of playing, there will certainly be differences in balancing that still need to be found out.
Fun Fact: Did you know that there were actually firearms used by samurai back in the Edo period? This is often not shown in films, but revolvers and the like came into the country through the Portuguese. The Japanese modified the handles to look like a small knife so they could be carried unobtrusively.
In the fights you can move freely and thus provide the necessary distance or more closeness. It is important to keep an eye on all opponents and to block or dodge at the right moment in order not to lose energy yourself. But don’t worry: “Like A Dragon: Ishin!” is a long way from being Souls-like – you’ll also always do well with the Free Dancer style, as it leaves a lot of room for different fighting styles.
If you’ve taken a few hits, you can heal yourself at any time using the Items menu. Unfortunately, this is a bit cumbersome – we would have liked a shortcut here so that we didn’t have to pause the fight every time. Little things like that make you realize that this isn’t a game that has been created from scratch, but rather that it has been overhauled.
Minigames – the heart of the “Yakuza” games
Lore and combat are incredibly important in any game, we’re not denying that. But at this point we just lean out the window and claim that the entire “Yakuza” series would not have been so successful without its mini-games. And that’s really meant in a positive way, because hardly any other franchise understands the funny side jobs as well as the developers of these games.
All over the world you will discover dice symbols on the map that indicate a mini game. They are a great pastime and provide more than just a laugh in front of the screen. Karaoke and dance lessons are just the beginning: How about a chicken race where you bet on the fastest rooster? And if your life as a samurai isn’t exhausting enough, you can also help out in the udon shop.
The brothel is particularly relaxing, where you can play mini-games against the employee there so that she gradually loses more items of clothing. If things go badly, you’ll end up naked yourself. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to win all the minigames in the preview – but we’ll definitely catch up on that from the release!
Side stories reveal the true core of the madness
Stories about yakuza and samurai are usually quite dark at heart, after all, it’s about fame and honor, murder and political unrest. To loosen it up a bit, you can tackle a few side missions. You literally stumble over most of them and are drawn into mini-quests via small cutscenes. This is where the quirky side of the franchise is revealed.
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The side quests are varied: sometimes you have to prove your ability as a good listener, at other times you help a woman in love to finally find a man. Things get a little wilder in the bathhouse when your clothes are stolen and you go stark naked chasing the bandits and then becoming a victim yourself when the law enforcement officers are after you.
The bizarre stories often lead to completely new places and gift you with items or even activities that were previously locked. So it’s always worth helping people with their little problems.
“Like A Dragon: Ishin!” fits seamlessly into the “Yakuza” series of cool action-adventures with bizarre stories and mini-games. If you enjoyed “Like A Dragon” or any of the other “Yakuza” games, you should definitely take a look here as well.
A lot has changed graphically since the first release in 2014. Movements here and there are not AAA level and some corners look a bit antique. At the same time, it kind of fits with old Japan and rarely gives the feeling that “Ishin!” essentially older. If you don’t expect a visual remake like “Final Fantasy VII” but are still looking forward to good graphics, then that should satisfy most fans. Minor minus point: we would like to see the many delicious dishes that the protagonist eats. Unfortunately, he constantly turns his back on us while eating, so that we unfortunately miss these visual highlights. In general, it is noticeable that many a detail is preferred to be hidden rather than remodeled or even integrated at all.
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