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Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review-In-Progress – Best Of RGG Studio In A While
Picture this: take everything you love about the beloved Yakuza series, the over-the-top performances, the compelling characters, and the intense action, and transport it all back in time to 19th-century Japan.
That’s what you get with Like A Dragon: Ishin!, a historical drama that manages to maintain the franchise’s signature brawling gameplay and ridiculous humour. While the gangs have been replaced with political factions in a turbulent time in history, the game still delivers on what Ryu Ga Gotoku (RGG) Studio is best known for.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of Yakuza: Ishin, a game that originally came out in 2014 for PS3/PS4 but wasn’t brought to the West. The new version of the game is somewhere between a remaster and a remake, but it still feels a bit dated when it comes to gameplay. Despite this, the game’s story and characters are as engaging as ever, keeping players hooked from one chapter to the next.
In Like a Dragon: Ishin!, players are transported to a time of great change in Japan, where foreign trade deals are being established and political attitudes are shifting. As Sakamoto Ryoma, a real-life historical figure with a Yakuza-inspired redesign, players must clear their name after being framed for the assassination of Ryoma’s adoptive father.
Fans of the series will immediately recognize the familiar character design, as Ryoma bears a striking resemblance to Yakuza’s protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu. Along the way, players will encounter a number of familiar faces from previous games in the franchise, adding to the game’s charm and fan service.
In this historical setting, players will need to quickly get up to speed on the complex caste system and other related terminology of late Edo-era Japan. But fear not, the game provides helpful explanations when needed, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the game’s storyline.
Like any good Yakuza game, there are twists and turns aplenty, with formidable foes to take down. As Ryoma becomes invested in the struggles of the people of Kyo, players are reminded of the familiar themes of loyalty, honour, and redemption that make the Yakuza universe so captivating.
Like A Dragon: Ishin’s combat system is intricate, offering four unique styles to choose from: Brawler, Swordsman, Gunman, or a hybrid of the two latter dubbed Wild Dancer. Each style has its own moves and abilities that can be utilized in different scenarios.
As you progress through Kyo, you’ll come across groups of foes that you’ll need to defeat with a mix of attacks to boost your heat meter. When the meter is full, you can unleash a flashy finisher that can vary from shooting an enemy at close range to making them swallow an orange whole.
At the end of each battle, you’ll receive rank and experience points for the styles you used, which can be spent to unlock new abilities and moves. You can also allocate Trooper cards to each style, providing a range of power-ups and special abilities that can be earned by completing various activities.
Despite the game’s intricate combat mechanics, they are gradually introduced to the player, ensuring that they’re not overwhelmed. Additionally, the game features an extensive weapon upgrade and crafting system that is accessible by completing combat missions, enhancing the game’s immersion.
While Like a Dragon: Ishin’s main focus is on melodrama and combat, there’s plenty of worthwhile side content in the streets of Kyo. One minute the game can be serious, and the next it can be wacky, but it never feels out of place because of the organic way you can interact with the characters.
Substories are scattered throughout the city and can range from a comedic love story to taking down loan sharks. The writing in these quests is strong and doesn’t detract from the main storyline. Instead of an overload of quest markers, most of these stories are found naturally while exploring.
The game also offers a variety of minigames to play. For example, after levelling up your relationship with an Udon store, you can take and make orders for cash. Of course, classic Yakuza minigames like Karaoke are also included with a Samurai twist.
The map is relatively small, so there’s more time to engage with the side content, and the balance between the main story and the side content feels just right. This is the only game in the series where the optional farming and fishing mechanics are worth spending time on.
In Like a Dragon: Ishin, there’s no shortage of things to do, people to talk to, and battles to be had. This creates a vibrant world that may not be the largest, but it’s definitely the most packed. It’s a space where Ryoma could truly exist, which is the highest compliment one can give to a game with open-world qualities.
The smaller scale of the game makes everything more manageable and less overwhelming. The pacing is smooth and you won’t be bored by any of the activities you choose to participate in.
Honestly speaking, so far, it seems as if RGG Studio has struck gold with Like a Dragon: Ishin! The game offers a fresh setting, plot, and characters that intermingle to create an immersive open-world adventure. Players can spend hours wandering around, engaging with the locals, farming, or taking down the Shogunate. Like a Dragon: Ishin is the perfect blend of RGG Studio’s signature formula and new features, creating a cohesive and entertaining experience.
Stay tuned for the full review on Kakuchopurei next week!
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