Preview: Is Like Dragon: Isshin’s Journey to the West worth the wait on PS5, PS4?
It’s as ancient as a Dragon: Isshin’s background, but there was a time when Yakuza fans had to fight tooth and nail for Yakuza games like Kazuma Kiryu. Back in 2014 when Yakuza Ishin released for PS4 as a Japanese exclusive launch title, PlayStation’s third-party publicist Gio Corsi was hard at work “building the list”. The initiative raised cash to help Sony release several fan-requested games, of which Yakuza 5 was one. SEGA, seemingly disinterested in the series after disappointing sales, had given up on everything. And then something extraordinary happened: the franchise took off.
This brings us to the present day, where almost a decade later, Ishin is getting a modern remake and an overseas release. This isn’t the first historical yakuza, of course – Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan There’s an earlier one on the PS3 – but its story stands alone, and works beautifully as a period drama featuring familiar faces from across the spectrum of the franchise’s catalogue. This means fan favorites like the aforementioned Kiryu, Majima and Akiyama are all present – but they’re pantomiming as real people from the Bakumatsu period, with the plot loosely retelling the stories of real-world samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma and Saito Hajime. recites
Renowned developer Ryu ga Gotoku Studio strikes a smart balance here: it’s really interesting to see so many recognizable faces reprise their roles in new roles, but the fan service aspect doesn’t take a backseat to the historically influenced drama on display. move away We were lucky enough to play a good chunk of the plot from the third chapter, which effectively sees Ryoma – masquerading as Hajime – infiltrate the Shinsengumi, a clan famous for the Battle of the Tenen Rishin that had taken his father’s life. As you’d expect from a Yakuza title, each cutscene is bursting with testosterone and Freudian brows, and there’s clearly more than enough setup for the studio to bend into its trademark twists.
Of course, if you’re familiar with the Japanese original, you’ll already know what’s in store, as it seems to blur the lines between remaster and remake. While the game is completely rebuilt in the original engine, we referenced a YouTube video of the chapter we played, and the cutscenes were identical. However, running at 60 frames-per-second on modern hardware, it almost doesn’t feel like a decade-old experience; It’s not going to compete with any of the first-party Sony titles in the budget department, but it’s a pretty decent outing with distinct art direction and silky smooth performance.
Many of the modern Yakuza bells-and-whistles are present and accounted for, such as the seamless transition between exploration and combat, which, like Yakuza 0, is fueled by four styles. We spent most of our demo using the standard samurai stance, which naturally sees you using a sword, but the tried and trusted melee combat from previous games is also an option. The remaining two types include a long-range pistol type and a combination of weapons and melee, which we just couldn’t wrap our heads around. Based on our demo, we were disappointed with the heat move finishers, as there seemed to be a real lack of variety – although browsing the skill tree, it looks like this aspect could develop with more play.
In fact, if there’s one concern we have right now it’s that Like a Dragon: Isshin, given its origins, appears to be based in a more archaic style of yakuza gameplay. Yes, there are contemporary ModCons as mentioned above, but being faithful to the 2014 original, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d not only “been there, done that”, but also that the series had moved on. Don’t get us wrong, it’s refreshing to return to a traditional beat-’em-up loop after the previous title’s boldness with turn-based skirmishes, but something about the action feels stuck in the past — and not just because of the delay. Edo backdrop
Either way, there’s plenty to see and do. Minigames, a series selling point, abound in every historic street corner, with franchise stalwarts like Karaoke reworked to suit the time period. For us, the button-matching rhythm gameplay is getting pretty old, but it’s always fun to see the weird scenes when you try to tap your DualSense’s buttons in time to the music. Chicken races are also featured, complete with attention to detail, such as farm guides for each rooster that you can study to inform your bets. Fishing, gambling, and even traditional Japanese dancing are off the list.
Our demo ended before the launch of Eishin’s most interesting feature, however: Second Life. In the original game, you were able to plant and grow crops as part of the Harvest Moon-esque mode, which we’ve been informed is purposefully part of the remake. We’ve seen references to Foray’s friendship system, which sees you form relationships with NPC characters, so we assume Haruka’s trust is part of this version; In fact, you were able to unlock additional cinematics by befriending Kiru’s adopted daughter, playing a similar role here as she struggles to pay off her mortgage.
Another aspect we didn’t get to see is the detailed trooper card system. It was, as we understand it, part of the original game but limited to a mode outside of the core campaign. However, the re-release appears to include this in the story as well, allowing you to turn the tide of battle by playing special cards with unique combat abilities and buffs. While we can’t directly comment on the system without testing it, we found key battles to be a bit soft in our demo, as mentioned above, so we could see that layering light on top. How deck building systems can add a little spice. felt the lack of
The reality, however, is that you probably already know if you want this game. A lot of time has passed since Yakuza Ishin was first released, but the appetite for games inspired by historical Japan hasn’t waned – just look at the recent success of Ghost of Tsushima. What’s drawing us to Like a Dragon: Isshin is the series’ very unique mix of serious and silly at this point; Like its immediate peers, the game zig-zags recklessly from dense political drama to outright tomfoolery. Seeing it all in period garb just adds to the ridiculousness of it all.
It’s a yakuza game through and through, no question about that – but with Kamarocho yet to even be made into this canon, it at least has a different flavor to its infamous peers.
Publishers, in an attempt to impress the press, will often try to set the scene for their preview sessions by kitting out themed venues with ambient lighting and large displays. In the case of Ishin, however, Sega sent us to the unexpected destination of Berlin, Germany. While still several thousand kilometers away from Japan Samurai Museum It turned out to be an impressive niche filled with the personal collection of one Weeboo who decided to take his appreciation far beyond just a Crunchyroll subscription.
Here we meet a strapping guy who is supposedly adopted into the same school as Isshin’s character. While we had doubts Of Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke The background, no doubt he knew his samurai history, and it was interesting to learn about the different fighting styles used at the time – and how they were adapted into the game.
We must stress, all expenses were kindly covered by SEGA – except for the very nice bowl of porridge we bought at the airport on the way home. We don’t know if Samurais ate porridge, but we thought it was worth mentioning all along.
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