After 9 years, SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have remade Like a Dragon: Ishin! for next-gen consoles. We were given the opportunity to test out the game before its release. While waiting for our full review, here are our first impressions of Like A Dragon: Ishin!
Let’s check if it’s like a dragon that soars or if we will be singing Baka Mitai. Also, we won’t really be discussing much about the story as it pretty much follows the same one from the 2014 game. Also to avoid spoilers for new players.
But still, spoilers ahead! Also please note that this is the beta copy of the game, and it may be improved upon day 1 release.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a semi-open-world game wherein you play as Sakamoto Ryoma. After witnessing his father’s murder, he sets out in search of the killer in late Edo-period Japan. You will encounter different side-quests and achievements to pass the time as you follow Ryoma’s story.
The game has the same combat formula as the Yakuza series, find an encounter and beat the crap out of it. Encounters are pretty much random, but running a route can easily spawn around 3-4 per rotation. The encounter enemies are easy to beat, however, the story enemies are in a league of their own.
Heat is the same as a skill bar in most games, you fill it up by attacking and taking damage. You use heat to do special attacks or when using special-style maneuvers. It is upgradable via a skill tree, although you need to check which style skill tree has it. You can also upgrade heat collection in these trees.
This is your regular character leveling, it only adds to your HP and Heat. Aside from a boost to your character’s HP, you also gain Survival Points (SP). SP replaces style points in obtaining skills in each tree.
Beating the crap out of your enemy in Edo-period Japan sure sounds like you’d be using your sword right? Yes, but you also have the option to go with your fist, a pistol, or even with both sword and pistol. Like a Dragon: Ishin! offers four different stances or styles for players, which they can easily change during combat. Leveling them up however is more of an individual task, as you only level the stance that you’re currently using. Also, note that there are certain scenarios that force the use of a single fighting style.
You are also allowed to use a special weapon for each stance such as the Nodachi for Swordsman, and Spear for Wild Dancer. However, you need to unlock certain skills to equip the weapons, and you get no style experience for using them. Also, some skills affect combos and damage in other styles, rewarding those who complete the entire skill tree. You could also unlock dojos wherein you could train and gain new skills.
The typical hand-to-hand combat method in the game, and the first style the tutorial introduces. A bit hard to dodge with, unless you learn the combat roll. It uses no weapons, so you could only improve the damage by upgrading it via its skill tree.
High damage outputs, but early combos leave you vulnerable afterward. However, you can gather skills that extend your combos and provide you with new moves to use your heat with.
Gunman is the ranged fighting style, using a pistol with seemingly unlimited bullets. It also consumes rounds in combo finishes, but are still doable even without. Different kinds of rounds are unlockable in the skill tree as well.
A combination of Swordsman and Gunman, with a very versatile and easy combo chaining using both the sword and pistol. In my own opinion the easiest style to use and master. With combos easily refreshable with a dodge, and skills improved by both the swordsman and gunman skill trees.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is also packed with minigames for you to play in your downtime. From playing mah jong in the gambling den to singing your heart out at Karaoke. Aside from that, there are also mini-games in your own home that reward you with healing items and so much more. Some of these games though can only be unlocked as you progress the story.
Combat is pretty straightforward, but a bit easier if you’re using a controller than a mouse and keyboard. You will encounter different groups of enemies on the streets, from common bandits to some special encounters. However, be warned as story encounters are a lot harder, so I suggest you get familiar with all the styles first. As we’ve mentioned earlier, some story events require you to use a certain style only. So, it is wise to level up everything.
Although starting street battles are a bit buggy as sometimes they just stare at you for a solid minute before engaging. Another issue is knowing which attack to use on a downed opponent. You could use finishers, but without heat you are bound to use a different style or wait for them to stand up. Often leading to your combo chains being disrupted. Other than that though Like a Dragon: Ishin! has solid combat and gameplay.
Visuals, Graphics, and sound
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is the first game by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to be built using Unreal Engine 4. From what I’ve seen on old gameplay videos of the 2014 title, a lot has really changed. We’re getting crisper, cleaner, and more detailed background and character models. There are also changes in character design, such as changing small details to a character altogether. The environment’s lighting seems to have been adjusted too, making scenes a bit clearer. The Heat aura is more visible and detailed as well.
As for the audio aspect of the game, it feels immersive, to say the least. There is detail in every place you go. The faint background music and people talking as you pass the town, to the upbeat combat music and grunt in battle. Even every sword swing and punch has an oompf to it. It also gives you the choice to set up your audio based on speaker angles, if you want a more cinematic feel when playing.
As someone who seldom plays this genre, I would say that Like a Dragon: Ishin! got me hooked completely. The story is honestly compelling enough to stop me from skipping the cut scenes, even for the side quests. The Visuals for the remake really made it feel like it was a new release. Even when playing at the lowest setting it felt like the details still pop off.
I just wish that they would patch the combat encounter for this game. I would honestly recommend this remake to any Yakuza franchise fans, and even to newbies such as myself. So what are you waiting for? Grab a copy now at the links below: