Like a Dragon: Ishin - Review [WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]


The Unreal Engine treads the fine line between what Unreal Engine is known for and the Pre-Dragon Engine. Marvelous!

With Like a Dragon: Ishin releasing on February 22, 2023; that begs to ask the biggest question: Should I get it?

February 15, 2023 - Like a Dragon: Ishin! Is the latest released game under RGG studios that is a remake of a Japanese exclusive classic originally released in the PS3. It takes a fresh new look and gameplay operations thanks to the Unreal Engine.

RGG knows how much the public loves the Yakuza/Like a Dragon cast and no different from its PS3 Japan only release, it does the same with LaD:Ishin! Utilizing the cast of (now) all Yakuza titles to date: from 0 to 7 / Like a Dragon although still loyal to the original plot as with the PS3 title preceding it.


WARNING: The following are spoilers about the game:

Taking place on 1867, of the Keio era, Takuya Kuroda voicing Kazuma Kiryu, is left unchanged and visually represents the lead character of this story, as the character Sakamoto Ryouma, also going by the pseudonym Hajime Saito – a captain of one of the squads of the Shinsengumi.

If you’re familiar with the history of the reign of the Tokugawa Era, of Oda Nobunaga & their clashes with Okita Souji either as a Japanese Historian, fond of history in general – particularly Japanese History, or as one who has at least played that one mobile gacha game that features these aforementioned characters, but genderbent, you would have no problem diving in to the lore and story surrounding the adventures of Kiryu- I mean, Ryouma.

Do note, that this is using the historical writings of Ryouma and company, as a mere base. It is a Yakuza game first, and a [fictitious] retelling of history second. Historical accuracy would be around just the 30% mark of the entire game. We’re here not for a history lesson, but here for a full-on yakuza packed action game filled with bakamitai singing, minigames, cameos, and JAV artists(?) and overall comical encounters.



Due to my lack of actual knowledge about the PS3 version, nor my knowledge about Japanese History or the story of the Shinsengumi in general, I may keep referring to the characters I recognize as their Like a Dragon / Yakuza counterpart. And from here, this is a HUGE SPOILER WARNING. You’re better off skipping this segment if you don’t want your experience to be spoiled. Also, this will cover just the Prologue and Chapter 1:

We start with a First-person view of someone who meets up with a bloody Majima (Okita) who is with Mine (Hijikata), and Saejima (Nagakura) on a rainy night. They along with you, charge towards a certain building with swords unsheated raiding what looks like a bandit camp. As per Okita, your mission is to rescue or get to Sakamoto Ryouma who’s on the upper floor. You kill someone holding a pistol tagged as “Sakamoto Ryouma?” and eerily converse with someone who addresses you as Sakamoto Ryouma; face reveal to Kiryu- I mean, Ryouma himself.

The camerawork, for those loyal to the RGG franchise, recognize that shot from anywhere and it is the iconic camera shot that was taken straight out of Yakuza 1 / Yakuza Kiwami. The throwback would make any fan of Kiryu Kazuma smile at the intentional coincidence. A rainy night, someone dead, Kiryu is behind it (this time definitely, not mistakenly), you know you are in for a wild ride!

Upon arriving at Tosa, your first task is to help a doctor tend to a young girl’s inflamed appendix. But before you could take notice and help the doctor and the mother in need of help, the Joshi arrive and they seem to be the Ye-old Edo counterpart of the Yakuza recognized and revered by even the public when everyone, including Kiryu- I mean Ryouma, got on their knees. At the very least, they were a good pair of meat bags for you to try out the new combat system since the writing made them look out to be a bunch of disposable self-centered bun-haired degenerates, worthy of getting their asses whopped.

But gladly, our man Kiry- Ryouma comes to the rescue, grabs the Joshi’s sword by the blade, YES, THE BLADE (So badass!), gives the boys a good ol’ Daddy Kiryu talks, and you’re introduced to the first of 4 combat styles: Brawler/unarmed style. But just like any Yakuza game; at the very least – throwing back to 1 and 6: this throws our lead to the slammer as the Joshi are treated like high brass officials and defying them means breaking the law. And quoting the words of the prison Guard taunting Ryouma: “Class is more important than life itself” and the old days, they emphasize a lot on that and Ryouma’s sentenced to death row.

Luckily, Toyo of the Edo Magistrate (Shintaro Kazama) saves Ryouma and have him adopted under him and have him escape with his head intact. The correlation between Toyo and Ryouma and their character models: Kiryu and Kazama made me jump off my seat in splendor.

After having a meal, you go to the schoolhouse Toyo told you to meet him with but on the way, you come across some Ronin – wandering samurai – the thugs of this game. And after a few tutorial guides, you’re introduced to brawler style formally. After you get reacquainted with Toyo, he tasks you to join the Tosa Loyalist Party led by your blood brother Takechi Hanpeita (Shibusawa). I love the play that they made you two brothers here and only for the RGG fact that you two are the very first dragons of the Yakuza series. You thought you’d get Nishikiyama, as per the original lore? His role is best reserved for something better.

Takechi lays out the plans he and Toyo have in overthrowing the castle and end the caste system of the Joshis, etc. ending it with a heartwarming albeit idealistic goal of where everyone especially those with no privileges living in poverty, to attain true happiness by tearing down the Tosa system. At the end of his speech, Takechi gives Ryouma his own pistol, where we unlock the next 2 battle styles. What bothers me is that the plot is advancing way too early, and a tragedy is bound to happen in this revolution. If it connects to the death of Toyo, then I won’t be surprised.

Heading back to get ready for the raid (shadow legends), You get interrupted by Mr. Ten Years in the Joint Made you a ****y, Okada Izo played by Nishikiyama himself (his Kiwami form). Izo’s motivation to fight you was fed by other members of the Loyalist opposed to Takechi promoting you to second in command right off the bat and you’re thrown into your very first boss fight. And if you know anything about the relationship between Izo and Ryouma if you know your history, you know this won’t be the last we’d hear from Izo.

After making quickwork of Izo, you advise him to leave the Loyalist Party if you’re just after prestige or cold-blooded murder. We fast forward to the meeting of Takechi, Toyo, and Ryouma inside the Kechi Castle where, as I anticipated – went on quite quick… Toyo got in what we say in Filipino, and pun intended, na-toyo. (I’ll see myself out) A ninja barges in and assassinates Toyo.

Takechi commands Ryouma to tend to Toyo (and his dying breath), and Ryouma gets framed for the murder of Edo Magistrate Toyo, so your best chance is to fight your way out.

Upon reaching the exit, you’re met back with a downed Takechi and a pool of dead Castle soldiers who all tried to take down the Ninja. You fight the Ninja, but it seems that with the heat actions presented, and the penalty of failing to do so – you are destined to lose against him. This is an old trope back in the PS2 era where you’re faced with an unbeatable boss early-game. Glad they kept it on this next-gen remake.

To prevent being arrested for the 2
nd time, you and Takechi leave but the latter has reached his limit. Takechi plans to sacrifice himself and plead innocent, but Ryouma decides to swear a public oath to his captors and Takechi that he will leave Tosa, find that Ninja to make penance and bring him to justice by jumping off the cliff into the rocky river below.

One year later, he takes up the name Hajime Saito, and gets involvement with the Shinsengumi at Kyo. Honestly from here, seeing a Kiryu-face with laid back funny music is an all-time new for me to experience given Kiryu is mostly serious. Fast forward into some Dojo, Ryouma asks around who knows the Tennen Rishin sword style. To him, it is the only lead he has about the Ninja Assassin that killed Toya.

 *Story Spoilers end here*


Jumping between the Dragon Engine and the Unreal Engine is a bit of some adjustment that is due, but it is manageable given how nostalgic to the likes of Yakuza 0 the menu is laid out. Those who have played past Yakuza titles would feel right at home with the popular classics; especially Yakuza 0.

Unlike its modern setting titles, with no more the ability to pick up and store weapons, your weapons are locked to 4 specific slots: Katana, Special, Gun, and ammo whereas your Equipped gear is now locked down to just a Headband, Breastplate, and Gauntlet; somewhat similar to the 3-piece gear in the popular titles but more streamlined. Just because you now have a gun slot you might go “Ryouma is not Kiryu, so he can kill people now”; yeah, no – we’ll get to that when I talk about the combat.

Graphics wise, it is to be expected by the Unreal Engine, texture detail is very evident down to the very pigments of the skin. Switching to UR over the pre-dragon engine one they use sees no change on how the characters interact from animation to inputs but graphically, rivals that of the softer & more refined Dragon Engine used in Kiwami 2, 6, LaD, and Judgement/Lost Judgement. The only way to differentiate the game-engine cutscenes from pre-rendered ones is the frame rate; by default, the game runs at 60 up, whereas pre-rendered cutscenes play on the traditional 24 fps and of course have more dynamic range of animations (not to mention blood shown is by default set to realistic). Everything from 5, 0, and Kiwami were seamlessly carried over into UR with no problem whatsoever; and slight improvements on NPC animations during substories; their movements aren’t as janky as they used to be.

Inventory Space now spans to your usual in-combat menu inventory, produce, seafood, materials, and valuables. Seeing Produce & Seafood have its own slots, it’s giving me really bad PTSD memories of Kingdom Hearts 3 and Donald Duck constantly nagging at your ear of good spots to look for ingredients.

Substories are now categorized by region with a grand total of 72 substories for the base game. Not as much as past titles but at least you know how padded out the game would be even outside its main story.

The map is where the game shines and segmented into regions that you unlock as the story progresses. Fushimi down south, Mukurogai by the east-southeast area, Rakugai, the central-west area, Rakunai, the northern area, and Gion by the far eastern area. There are other regions as well, but they're either for main-story only or for like a home-base; and categorized under "Others". Outside of certain buildings, there is seamless entry to some shops inside for less immersion-breaking moments. Some restaurants do this.

During combat, some elements of the demo did grab the attention of those fans who were not fond of certain new elements – such as Battle damage markers from Y7/LaD, and the troop card system; and for those who have phobias or young ones who do not want to play this infront of their parents – the amount of blood and gore during combat (you can’t take them off cutscenes of course for the last one). If you’re not fond of RPG like damage counters lifting up from your/your enemies’ heads during combat, you can disable Damage Values on your Display tab in your settings while you can disable or reduce bloodiness under the Graphics tabs of your settings menu.

At the very least, the game gives you the option to simplify the interface and go for a more grounded combat look; and the card system is all but an optional feature – think of them as the extracts system from Judge Eyes & Lost Judgement. It’s there but you’re not obligated to use them.

Graphics wise, for a game that uses the Unreal Engine, it is optimized that my dated mid-high-level rig from 2020 runs the game super smoothly in Extra High settings with no frame loss whatsoever at 60fps, but this is considering without streaming in mind. I later tried with recording and there is no futher frame loss either; with CPU consumption clocking in at 4.5% only throughout a 2-hour recording. But the optimization rivals that of Yakuza 0 / Kiwami so I’m quite satisfied with the performance of the game on my current build. Mind you I’m just running on a GTX 1650 on a B450M MB and a Ryzen 5 2600 3.40 GHz. 

Aside from softer and higher resolution textures, the most subtle thing you've seen them do in pre-rendered cutscenes next to super subtle flowing hair is, if you see it, saliva strands when the characters talk. Gone are the days of the PS3 where all characters look like shiny polygon-ish figures that talk and breathe; the diffusion of light on the character surfaces almost rivals that of the pre-rendered cutscenes. However, some elements are left unchanged such as texture priority to the main case, and highly reduced texture quality and geometry for mob characters; even on the highest graphic settings, you can still pick out the lack of anti-aliasing on surfaces of some mobs in favor of the Kiryu model, which is very high geometry built.



For players who take auto-saving for granted – the game initially asks you if you wish to have auto-save enabled or not. And unlike most titles, at least for my copy, Legend Difficulty is unlocked from the get-go so that makes me wonder what incentive I would have for clearing the main story and give me reason to come back to it; it turns out this is in favor of the new difficulty: Ishin! Difficulty, which is locked behind a paywall DLC. If you have auto-save disabled, head on over to the pause menu and save right there.

As with previous titles, you can access your item box in any Jizo statue if you wish to store in some rare items that you don’t want to carry around in your person. Do note tho that you cannot nilly willy save anywhere as you please. If you’re just roaming around the town, sure. But when you’re in the middle of main story, the save button is absolutely greyed out for such purposes. They won't have you save in the middle of say a boss fight you’re struggling with.

Combat wise, there is a good boat load of variety among the enemies – gunmen, riflemen, club users (that hit like a truck) with and without armor, your good ol’ Samurai/Ronin/Shinsengumi po-po, and of course the bosses – certain events in the main story and boss battles bring back the use of Quick time events to play the game to or against your favor. What I do notice is that if you fail a QTE and you lose a lot of your HP in the process, the game doesn’t treat it as an automatic Game-over but like a last-resort sort of thing where you’re left with 1 HP.

Now if your enemy follows up immediately, that’s on you. Not all QTEs you engage on boss battles are offensive based – a lot of them are defensive based and it will test your knowledge of proper use of styles. Each style has an advantage over the other, but my preference would be using Wild Dance style especially if you’re with an arena filled with a lot of enemies – the scatter attack at the end of your rush combo of O gives a good amount of knock-back.

If you’re still struggling on higher difficulty levels at certain stages, mobs, or bosses; the game gives you the option to temporarily reduce your difficulty and unlike past titles, the default option for this question is “NO” so if you’re just as stubborn as our Dame Da Ne singing protagonist, you may continue to struggle until you overcome that hurdle. Also, this isn’t permanent – it reverts back to your difficulty of choice after you clear the stage you struggled with.

An additional note of combat is that even knock down animations they mostly use the same ones as in 5, 0, and Kiwami; amidst running on the Unreal Engine. As for the mix ups of the enemy, it’s a good hand full of those. Bosses, like in past Yakuza formula, tend to have a long string of almost uninterruptable combos; I say almost because getting behind them is the least you can do to interrupt their chain; and they carry Auras as well. 

Depending on the story, some battles have allies in the mix with their own HP bars. Now, much like in Yakuza 6, and the Judgement Games, they don’t die; BUT if they lose their HP, they will be out of commission catching their breath to recover their HP and continue combat... or so I thought. They actually lose HP, and their HP gets locked on the criticial level and stays there, with no recovery, and no further HP loss. I guess the panting recovery only applies to the Dragon Engine games (YK2, Y6, JE, LJ).

Safe to say though the support AI is competent to a degree. On my playthrough, they are able to deal a fixed amount of chunky damage and can parry and dodge at their own perusal, though if they get mobbed, they will get their HP drained, but that's a non-issue given they don't die.

There are 4 battle styles for Kiryu/Ryouma to choose from: introducing the most basic, the classic Brawler Style reminiscent of the Dragon of Dojima; hell, even Kir-Ryouma’s battle stance is exactly just that: The Dragon Style – one fist up, the other fist down.  It even functions and flows just like the classic Dragon style with a few changes. You can even throw and use special weapons. What’s unique though is a dedicated parry ability button that activates War Cry Counter, granting you i-frames. The downside is when slashed or shot, you cannot guard in this style.

The window of allowing parries to activate is quite wide in this style; holding the parry button too long would leave you open for a slash, since majority of your enemies are blade-weaponed, for one. Nonetheless, brawler style is made for our Kiryu-but-not Kiryu character; though do note his combo chains have a mix of Dragon of Dojima and a little bit of Ba Ji Quan added to distinguish this from his modern-day counterpart.

Swordsman Style would be your general battle style and is a mixed use of Katana and heat actions mostly. This one can hold its own on both offense and defense and unlike Brawler style’s parry, this is a pure defensive style use of the parry button. Your heavy attack can also be charged for a much stronger guard breaking attack, alongside your grab is now replaced with a guard-breaking double slash. Majority of combat will be using the swordsman style, but you’re not obligated to stick to it; after all it is the point of switching styles depending on the situation.

What I find iffy about sword style because it is so planted, is the fact that early game your swings are very slow and to deal big damage you need to charge your hard attack; but that leaves you open for attacks by your enemies. At the very least, the block is very responsive and the only thing that can hurt you through your block is a hard-knockdown attack or a boss grab.

Gunman Style is unlocked after you talk with Takechi. Gunman style uses, yes you guessed it. A GUN! The bullets pack a punch and is an easy way to pick off enemies at a CERTAIN distance. Hit too far, your power & accuracy decrease. You literally have infinite ammo for the light attacks and it’s your Heavy/special attack that uses up your ammo and you can only equip one kind of ammo at a time. 

So, if you plan to interchange your ammos for various effects, you will visit the menu quite a lot, its immersive breaking but a strategy’s a strategy. Safe to say, you are not obligated to equip ammo if you don't want to waste it, and the heavy gun attack will do just that; there is just a moment of delay and still deals a fair amount of heavy damage; just not comparable to the likes of special ammo rounds.

Wild Dancer Style was featured in my demo play of LaD: Ishin back at ESGS 2022 – that uses both Sword and Gun style together for a unique, and style-name pun intended: wild dance that combines flair and battle into one. With a sword on your right hand and a gun on your left, you can interchange between ranged and melee attacks on the fly. The biggest drawback is you cannot block in this stance like brawler style, and the dodge has very short spacing; Brawler quicksteps are longer than in Wild Dancer, but it’s a spectacle to watch during combat. And with one of the particular rush combo chains, this is best if you’re surrounded - where you spin around and fire your gun at all directions. 

For all styles, Rush combos are still the bread and butter of the combat – mixing square & Triangle (X and Y respectively on the universal X-box style D-pad). You use O button to grab an opponent (at least for Brawler style) but these changes depending on the style you are on.

Battle results are broken down to the following: Attack, Defense, Technique and they all contribute to how much experience you earn. Attack ranking of course dictates is based on your combos, Defense is how well you parry or block incoming attacks, and Technique would most probably be for mixing styles, various combos and heat actions altogether. You can carry up to 3 heat bars as denoted by the Roman numeral indicated on the upper left of your combat UI. And as with past games – getting hit, and doing nothing on combat loses heat. 

Levelling up or gaining abilities use the Soul Orb mechanic – reminiscent of Yakuza 4 and Kiwami 1 (though more of Kiwami 1) but with the interface of Yakuza 0 – you have 4 webs that constitute to the 4 styles you will need to master as Ryouma. They’re categorized into two kinds: Training Orbs which are applicable to all and Style Orbs which are for that specific style only. 

The more times you fight on that specific stance, the sooner you get to earn soul orbs to level up your abilities and unlock more heat actions. A note of caution: you cannot withdraw or unlearn abilities with your training orbs - once it's in place, it stays there unless you trade it for a style orb; so, plan your distributions well; especially if you're after a certain heat action that you are close to unlocking but you are stuck behind a hard enemy.

Outside of combat there are “chests” around in pots; it plays a bit different than in the classic games where you just aimlessly roam around and see gleaming sparkles on the floor and pick them up - they still exist but for a different reason but hey, at least they ain't locker keys this time. On top of that, at least we can see back then how cleanliness matters. You can come back to these pots to get something new or restocked by someone, according to the game.

Virtues are something that’s new to the game but it's actually the equivalent of completion points to make it sound fancier – doing substories, shopping at shops, and praying merits you these for exchange. Your guide is the Diligence Records that lists all parts in the world where you can earn Virtue, surprisingly. Yeah, totally not the completion list, haha.

Komaki’s back… or more like his great ancestor (the resemblance hasn’t differed through the years) as one of your masters and of course reintroducing the ancient version of the Komaki style. And your first instance with him introduces you to something akin to heat release or Heat burst, reminiscent of Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6: the song of life where you maul on your opponent while holding R2 and mashing your light attack. Komaki is the master of barehanded combat so most likely his Komaki style will be enhancements to your Brawler style. Now isn’t this reminiscent of a past master from Yakuza 0? * Hey, BOYYYYY! *  

The game has 2 currencies: mon and Ryo. Ryo seems to be the rarer between the two and mon is the Yen before Yen even came to be.

Another point to note is the change between day and night is well… like Day & Night; no different from like it was in past titles, but the ambiance is very distinct from one another; with townsfolk carrying paper lanterns and the whole place embraced in a warm yellow tint. And the attention to detail among the mob characters around the area at night – you can push a drunk man down and he will just pass out and sleep. Hell, you can walk all over them too.

Of course, it can’t be a RGG game without a good ol’ fashioned hilarity of substories. I accidentally stumbled into one of them the one with the Ee Ja nai dance that had me laughing. And as much as it reminds me of the whole Munan Chohept Onast from Y0 and Y6, it was a big laugh for me to see Ryouma smiling dancing along. Some of these substories are short but they are my god impactful.

Kiryu- Ryouma, no! You're supposed to Stop the Ee Ja Nai, not join them!

You can also improve your gear via the blacksmith – purchase, craft, enhance; you know the works; unless you’re the type who goes in bare handed like a madlad Dragon of Dojima loyalist, its essential to improve your gear there to deal more damage or sustain more damage.

Travelling around has its own counterpart of the Taxi before taxis were even made – the palanquin – a 2-man Hirsch that carries you from point to point fast-travel style for a fee. Boy how have we made things convenient even before; we just added technology the more we age.

The trooper card system gets an overhaul - Back then it can only be used on the Shinsengumi Dungeon Missions board only but now they made it in a way that you can utilize them outside of it - on the main story, on the world; it's up to you how you maximize your card roster. The story behind this is that your troops, being a Shinsengumi captain and all, take the form of cards (Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, is that you?!) each with their own respective abilities from support, combat and super that you can activate or auto-activate during combat. Your cards get stronger as long as you use them during combat, they level up along with you. 

Supports can increase defense or heal you in the absence of items, Combat increases battle proficiency such as attack ups or attack speed ups and Supers are well... supers to obliterate enemies like the Kamehameha- oh wait, wrong game. Due to the nature of some abilities, they seem rather immersion breaking and was talked about a lot pre-game release but not equipping any of them disables the feature during combat if immersion is what you are after. There are 400 Shinsengumi units you could recruit into the Third Division, your division - as Saito Hajime.


Stumbling upon it by accident, I discovered one of the few mini games in the area: Wood Chopping – as per instructions it is all about timing. The higher your combo goes, the intervals between each glow of your axe become shorter, so it gets faster and faster the more you chop.

Food hopping returns like in old games and even if the setting is very dated – RGG never fails to make all non-drink food items very palatable to the eyes, my eyes and tongue salivate at the food images. Eating restores both heat and health, and amount recovered varies depending on the item… and its price. Tasting every item in their menu of course adds to your completion bonus.

Friendships can happen to certain NPC characters through substories, similar to Judgement and Yakuza 4. The requirements to such are a case-to-case basis however, from consuming their shop contents to quests.

Riverfishing is always an RGG staple and just as exaggerated as before, though loyal to its IRL counterpart. Gameplay is 100% similar to that of Yakuza 0 and future titles released since then.

It wouldn’t be an RGG game without classic tabletop Japanese gambling games – Mahjong comes back as one of the first of many gambling minigames in the Ishin world. Cee-lo, Cho-han, Oicho-Kabu, Koi-Koi, Poker, and Shogi also make a comeback and are other gambling games you should be familiar with by now especially if you’ve played all past titles.

You think Karaoke wouldn’t exist during the Edo era? How wrong you must be to assume. Given its popularity in past and present titles, and its absence in the Judgement series, by popular demand – ‘karaoke’ returns as a Singing Minigame. There are 7 songs to try out and we’ve seen spoilers already – an Edo version of Bakamitai is among the song list, making it the oldest song in (RGG) History to date. All hail and rise to our National Anthem. The singing bar is the Utamaruya at Fushimi.

Buyo Dance is something new to non-Japanese players or to those who haven’t played the original and is a very cultural thing amongst the Japanese in the olden times. And it applies Yakuza 5’s Haruka / Akiyama dance minigames incorporated into Ishin, but in a more simplified use. Either color coded or using the D-pad, its closely described to a rhythm game where you need to hit it at the right time to earn points. It’s also humorous to see Kiryu going from the feminine Buyo Dance jumping straight into a Kabuki warrior stance.

You can also help out on the udon shop; this makes it reminiscent to that of Yakuza 5’s minigame. If you’ve played this in Yakuza 5, you’ll feel right at home – a simple game of memory where your customers dictate what noodle & firmness they want; the longer you stay and engage orders – the more orders you get; it gets tougher when you have a full house of customers and you need to get it right.

Courtesan games is also an Ishin classic. Yet despite the traditional name – it’s the hostesses sidecontent  that we all know and love (in the remakes and hated in 3 and 4). Courtesans are akin to Geishas at first glance, and they’re the only kinds of characters that have their assets featured; you know what I’m talking about; not to mention how their facial characters are modelled differently & uniquely for some odd (albeit obvious) reason. The scenes are also with voiced dialogue from both Ryouma and the girls you’re with. It’s located at Yamabuki Okami at Gion and its costs 1 Ryo, the premium currency to enter.

Now, what makes the hostesse- erm, Courtesan (1 confirmed under the name Anna Konno) different from past iterations is that it has its own dedicated minigames. On first attempt, you’re introduced to the drinking minigame where you’re supposed to have the drinking bar balanced using your key inputs. Drink too much and well, you’re out. Not just game out – but drunk out. Survive the drinking game, you get to engage the girl in rock paper scissors, with a twist: STRIP JANKEN. And if you beat that… well, I won’t spoil it further. All of these though are similar to the PS3 original, apparently, and there are 9 unique games you could unlock, and Ryouma’s reactions are downright over the top.

There is also chicken racing if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s like the poor man’s equivalent of Horse racing where you cheer on your chicken and help them get to the goal faster than the rest of the fowl. I also hope using chickens in particular is a homage to the Yakuza 0 meme of Nugget, your “turkey” prize turned Real Estate Manager who clucked your investments during the golden age.

That’s not the end of it – upon meeting your daughteru Haruka, you gain access to a cooking minigame; no nothing like the udon minigame mentioned earlier – as in actual cooking minigame, harvesting, and trade management… YES! IT’S FARMING, TRADE MANAGEMENT AND COOKING SIMULATOR! Cooking is more or less a mini-rhythm-like game with button prompts. It's no Cooking mama but it’s a start. Not to mention a side business where you can manage and earn. Farming is no different from Farmville - set your crops & wait it out. The Trade Management part is simply - if you have it in your inventory, trade it for money. This is your way of earning upkeep & money if grinding is too long to do so, as long as you have the items needed for the trade.



Going 4 chapters complete in the main story on writing this game, there is so much to digest with Like a Dragon Ishin. So many things that were integrated from past titles were put in on this remake; a lot from the original PS3 Japan-only release that were further refined; and thanks to memes and popular demand were given a new fresh look, I’m looking at you Baka Mitai!

Pacing of the main story is distributed well enough; the substories though short and concise for some are heartwarming and hilarious. The new combat styles encircling around barehanded, gun, sword, and both are in good taste; my personal favorite would be Wild Dance style. Combat’s rewarding from the perfectly timed sword parries to executing your favorite heat actions, and some. 

Seeing fan favorite actors replace some cast members for that popular flair worked so well, some unexpected ones and a ton of expected characters. Integration as well of music from past titles was a good touch and added to the mood, especially the hilarious ones. The graphics look so well with the unreal engine and the soft lighting made things ten times even better too. Scripts containing past iconic lines from past games was a nice touch as well especially Okita’s “a mamaiya~ taunt” carried over from Yakuza 1. The music was gold star too – especially the unique combat theme that you can only hear in Ishin.

But there’s no such thing as a perfect game. There will still be flaws and I’m willing enough to point out, especially for those looking forward to the game. Combat encounters are gonna be a hassle; given the layout of the map and all its blind corners, especially in early game. If you’re the type gunning for just the main story, the consistent encounters are a mood breaker. Working with Legend difficulty and getting pinned on an enemy’s chain combo can immediately deplete your HP bar is both a challenge and an annoyance. 

That one raid battle on chapter 4 was annoying as hell where if you die, you have to start from the beginning; checkpoints would’ve been considerate enough to not kill the mood of progression on multi-stage story battles such as this. And maybe it’s only on my playthrough and my lack of a “substory finder” item, but randomly encountering substories in the middle of my main campaign too was breaking my pace. 

I get the point of substories being random encounters while you’re in the open world but some of them get triggered without proper heads up, it gives me more reasons to not do the substories especially when I’m invested on another one. On top of the fighting styles being more fluid if you have played the Japanese only title on the PS3, there’s literally nothing new that is being added to the table other than visual upgrades and accessibility on next-gen consoles.

        Amidst all that is listed, it all boils down to that one question: SHOULD I GET LIKE A DRAGON: ISHIN? No doubt, the answer is YES. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s jam packed, and the story doesn’t feel like a bore to watch through. Either you’re a RGG Completionist that wants all next gen ported titles or need your Kiryu Fix, or you’re after that steamy hot passionate man’s battle, there’s a little something for everyone. 

For a complete guide to the Trooper Card Guide please visit the link below:

Trooper Card Abilities and Squad Formations: Turn the Battle in Your Favor in Like a Dragon: Ishin! - EXOSIA Project

Product Information:


Like a Dragon: Ishin!

Release Date

2/22/2023 (Wed)


PlayStation®5 / PlayStation®4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Windows / Steam

*Only digital versions of the Standard Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition will be released on the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows, and Steam.


Subtitle: English / Voice: Japanese