Published on February 19th, 2023 | by Abdul Saad

Like a Dragon: Ishin! PS5 Review

Like a Dragon: Ishin! PS5 Review Abdul Saad

Summary: Like a Dragon: Ishin is an excellent remake of an older unappreciated RPG with an impeccable historical story to tell. While the remake isn't in the best condition it could've been, especially on PS5, it is still a game that will provide players, especially Yakuza fans, lots to enjoy. 


Feudal Fun

Like a Dragon: Ishin is developer Ryu Ga Gotoku’s latest RPG and a remake of their original 2014 Japan-exclusive title Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! Now remade for a modern, broader audience with crisp visuals and better performance, the game promises an excellent experience to not just Ryu Ga Gotoku / Yakuza fans but also RPG fans in general. 

For those unaware, Like a  Dragon: Ishin takes place in 1860s Kyo, in the Edo period of Japan, and follows the newly trained samurai Sakamoto Ryoma. Motivated by the goal of abolishing the classist structure of his hometown Tosa, specifically between the samurai ranks and the citizens, he joins the Tosa Nationalist Party to overthrow the dysfunctional governmental system. History buffs and Japanophiles most likely know that Like a  Dragon: Ishin retells the story of the legendary real-life samurai advocate who fought against the dictatorship of the Bakufu of the Tokugawa military Shogunate. However, Ishin mostly centers on his adventures in abolishing the classist system of Ota and his quest to find his father’s killer, who, after a series of events, leaves him as the prime suspect of a murder. 

What I find the most impressive about the game’s narrative is how well it depicts things, people, and places of the era in an incredibly accurate way, but with some noticeable differences here and there to make the game a unique experience of its own. The most notable way is how real-life character faces have been swapped out with those of several characters of the Yakuza series, which is both cool and admittedly uncanny. It’s just too bad that the story, while having its good moments, isn’t as engaging as the developer’s other titles, mostly due to its incredibly slow start and comparatively uneventful start.

As a historically centered game, Ishin sticks to its historical setting through and through. Players will control Ryoma in 19th century Japan, laced with historically accurate citizens, outfits, shops, items, food, and more. The visuals, specifically the art direction, are pretty impressive, as buildings, roads, and everything in between look exactly as they should and are all incredibly authentic. However, it’s unfortunate that the in-game visuals aren’t as good as the cutscenes or the in-game visuals of some of the mainline Yakuza games and even the remasters.

In terms of gameplay, Ishin provides players with many fun combat elements. However, as is standard for the Ryu Ga Gotoku series, combat is still very much shallow despite their level of enjoyment. The game consists of real-time combat where players will be able to use all manner of swords, bombs, consumable items, and due to the game’s transitional setting, old-timey pistols. Players can also combine several gameplay elements for full effectiveness, like holding a pistol in one hand and a sword in another, with separate buttons for separate actions. And as usual, the game has four fighting styles taking advantage of these combinations. The swordsman utilizes the standard sword attacks, Gunman utilizes mainly ranged pistol shots, Brawler uses all-out physical attacks but severely lacks defense, and the Wild Dancer style is the most useful as it performs flamboyant yet fluid attacks that do a lot of damage. The standard Yakuza-style heat actions also return in Ishin and provide a range of explosive finishing moves.

There’s also the usual combat actions such as blocking, counters, picking up items to use as weapons, and more. Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out the fun trooper cards mechanic, which lets players take advantage of several wacky attacks, buffs, and more.

However, while Ishin’s gameplay elements can be delightful, the game also has a few significant flaws. The first is that while combat is fluid, it can also feel very floaty at times, as sometimes attacks that should obviously hit will miss. Moreso, movement speed, both on and off combat, feels incredibly rigid, which adds a level of frustration during intense battles. Outside of story and combat, players can immerse themselves in several traditional and non-traditional pastimes via minigames, including wood chopping, fishing, singing, dancing, and more. Many of them are as wacky and unique as the other games from the developer.

Performance-wise, Ishin is a bit inconsistent on the PS5, as I ran into a few glitches and texture pop-ins. Although I will state that the frame rate remained consistent throughout both visual and performance settings. Lastly, it’s also worth noting that the game has no English voice, which is unfortunate, but the returning Japanese cast do an amazing job depicting the characters yet again.

Final Thoughts?

Overall, Like a Dragon: Ishin is an excellent remake of an older unappreciated RPG with an impeccable historical story to tell. While the remake isn’t in the best condition it could’ve been, especially on PS5, it is still a game that will provide players, especially Yakuza fans, lots to enjoy. 

About the Author'

Abdul Saad is a seasoned entertainment journalist and critic, and has been writing for five years on multiple gaming sites. When he isn't writing or playing the latest JRPG, he can be found coding games of his own or tinkering with something electrical.

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