Like a Dragon: Ishin! was originally released only in Japan for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in 2014. However, in February 2023, the game was finally released to worldwide audiences in a remake for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. The remake is simply titled Like a Dragon: Ishin! in the West, but it is known as Like a Dragon: Ishin! Kiwami (Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin! Kiwami) in Asia.
subtitle should tell you the treat we're in for, as Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
produced a remake similar to Yakuza Kiwami
and Yakuza Kiwami 2
where the content from the original release is there, albeit remixed a bit, but new content has been added as well.
The story takes place right before the Restoration period of Japan, hence the Ishin in the title, as Ishin means Restoration in Japanese. The story follows a samurai named Ryōma Sakamoto who takes on the identity of Hajime Saitō and infiltrates the special army for the Shogunate, the Shinsengumi, to discover who murdered his foster father, Tōyō Yoshida.
Ryōma Sakamoto, Hajime Saitō, and Tōyō Yoshida are all historical samurai who had an influence on Japan, but in real life, Ryōma Sakamoto and Hajime Saitō were separate people. The story mixes the lives of both men, as it begins with the life of Ryōma Sakamoto, with his friend Takechi Hanpeita, the head of the Tosa Loyalist Party. It twists things a bit, with Tōyō Yoshida being Ryōma Sakamoto's foster father in the game. This is where it diverges with the life of Hajime Saitō as it details his joining of the Shinsengumi, although in the game it is to find the person who killed Tōyō.
It's a very dramatic story filled with betrayals and bittersweet triumphs mixed in with craziness, especially in the side stories. In other words, it is very much a Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game.
The characters are portrayed by Like a Dragon series
staples, as well as those characters who are lesser known. The likeness of Kazuma Kiryu, complete with the marvelous deep voice of Takaya Kuroda, plays Hajime Saitō, aka Ryōma Sakamoto. The likeness of the wonderfully crazy Goro Majima portrays Soji Okita. You'll be glad to know Hidenari Ugaki plays Okita with all of the passion of Majima, complete with taunts of Hajime-chan! Many of the likenesses and voice actors of other characters that were playable in previous games also appear here as historical and fictional characters including Haruka Sawamura, Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, Ryuji Goda, Koichi Adachi, and Tianyou Zhao. Other series characters are also represented in supporting roles.
In the change from Like a Dragon: Ishin!
to the Kiwami
remake, some of the characters from games released after the original release of Ishin!
, such as Koichi Adachi and Tianyou Zhao from Yakuza: Like a Dragon
, were used for characters that had no counterparts as well as those from games that were recently released at the time of the original release but aren't as well remembered now, such as Shigeki Baba from Yakuza 5
It is an action RPG as opposed to the turn-based RPG style of Yakuza: Like a Dragon
. However, it does represent a change from the usual fare as swords and guns are available with unlimited use as fighting styles. Like Yakuza 0
, Ryōma can use four styles of combat. These include brawler which uses fists, swords, guns, and a combination of guns and swords. These styles can be leveled up and new moves can be learned from masters of the various styles. Master Komaki even serves as the master of the brawler style.
Happily, minigames made it into the game despite the pre-Restoration era setting of Japan. Karaoke is available, including a mix of "Baka Mitai (I've Been a Fool)" with a backing track of traditional Japanese instruments. The usual Japanese gambling games are present, as is the Western gambling game of Texas hold 'em poker. The latter does make sense within the context of the game, as the era is set when the "black ships" from Britain came to Japan. As expected from a Like a Dragon series game, there are also odd yet fun minigames included such as cannonball slicing and cannonball skeet shooting. You can also fish, farm, cook, and then sell the results of your hard work with help from Haruka.
Side stories are also here, and many are just as crazy as you'd expect. The creators also had fun with the time period with some side stories, as there are some here that just wouldn't work in modern Japan. Speaking of the time period, Atlus has once again gone far and above in localizing the game into English, as there is a glossary of terms for players unfamiliar with the setting of the game.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is finally in English, and it was worth the wait. This is a fantastic game, with all of the series staples that you would expect from a Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game. The voice actors, as usual, have brought their A-game, delivering fantastic voice performances. The plot is interesting as well, weaving together the stories of two famous historical samurai in a story with both historical and fictional elements. If you are a fan of the Like a Dragon series, or just interested in historical Japan, this game is one that is well worth playing.
Addendum April 17, 2023
: I meant to mention how much Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
resembles Like a Dragon: Ishin!
As the former was released before the latter, it is obvious where Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio got the inspiration to delve into the post-apocalyptic world of Fist of the North Star
. As I was playing the Kiwami
remake of Ishin!
, I noticed the similarity right away due to the rustic feel of the in-game villages between the two games. However, once Haruka's villa was available, it became more apparent. Lin's expressions, comments, and movements are identical to Haruka's here. It works in both games, though, as it gives off a cute vibe that suits both characters.
4½ out of 5