Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review — A Blast From The Past

Like A Dragon: Ishin! is a remake of 2014’s Yakuza spinoff for PlayStation 3 and 4 exclusive to Japan. The question is nearly ten years later, is this remake worth your time? If you’re a fan of the Like a Dragon series FKA Yakuza here in the West, the answer is a resounding YES! Here’s why…

Game Name: Like A Dragon: Ishin!
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), PC
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Release Date: 21st 
February 2023

The Legend Of Ryōma

First things first, there is one major difference between Ishin and its story compared to the rest of the series. The story in Ishin is based on real-world history where you take control of Sakamoto Ryōma a Samurai from Tosa Province during the late Edo period in Japan. Ryōma was a crucial figure in the establishment of the Empire of Japan during the mid-1800s, this is the story the game tells.

Of course, this is a game so some creative liberties are taken here and there. Based on a bit of research however, as far as I can tell all the key real-world events of Ryōma story are presented fairly faithfully here. Even if the journey to get to those events might be quite different at times.

This is a tale that made me laugh, cry, and say “oh my god” on multiple occasions. It isn’t my favourite story from the franchise, but leaning into reality over fiction makes it a close second. I love real-world history, combining that with Like a Dragon’s signature wacky style is a real winner.

How Will You Play

Being a Like a Dragon game, Ishin gives you lots of things to do outside of the main story. Fancy a light farming sim, cooking meals or maybe a spot of karaoke? Ishin has you covered. And these are just a few of the options. Want some shorter stories to experience? There are plenty of wonderfully wanky sub-stories. There is so much to do, with every piece of content I experienced being fantastic. I mean I spent hours just farming and cooking meals, it was great!


Of course, some of you may wonder what the combat is like. The answer is traditional action-based combat, like the series was known for before going turn-based with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Of course, the setting of the game allows for some unique combat twists.

You have four different fighting styles at your disposal:

  • Brawler is a hand-to-hand combat style, allowing you to use objects in the environment as weapons. Anyone who’s familiar with the series will know exactly how this style plays it was the foundation of the franchise for so long.
  • Next up, my personal favourite: Swordsman which as the name implies is all about using your Katana, it is particularly useful for those one on one boss fights.
  • If you don’t like getting up close and personal, maybe the Gunman style is for you. It allows you to use a revolver and different ammo types, perfect for keeping your distance which is sometimes necessary.
  • If you can’t decide between a sword or a gun Wild Dancer might be the style for you. Perfect for fights against big groups it uses a combination of both short and long-range attacks, while also allowing for fast dodging.


Each of these fighting styles can be upgraded with stronger attacks, new heat action finishing moves and more. This can be done using two types of orbs: training orbs and style orbs. You receive training orbs for leveling up your character, by completing tasks and fights. These orbs can be used to upgrade any of the four fighting styles but for extra upgrades, you can gain style orbs which are earned by using whichever style you want to level up. The best part you can replace training orbs with style orbs as you earn them, use this to your advantage to get as many upgrades across as many styles as possible.

You can also upgrade and craft new weapons at a blacksmith, but I never had to use this. It felt like I always found a new weapon at the right time, especially once you get trooper cards which are essentially special abilities you can activate, from healing to area-of-effect attacks and more.

Outside of combat most of the progression revolves around Virtue, a currency you can use at shrines for various upgrades. Anything from more inventory space to better fishing gear, some of the upgrades may not seem that important, but depending on the content you choose to engage with they could be crucial. You earn Virtue by doing pretty much anything in the game, even fast travelling a certain number of times. Playing the way you want and getting rewarded for it seems to be the goal of Ishin.


Visually, Ishin is a great looking game on the whole, with nice looking seemingly period-accurate environments and character models with standout facial animations. Of course, as with most games, general NPCs aren’t up to the same standard as the main cast but they still look pretty good most of the time.

Audio-wise it’s a harder one to judge. Unlike more recent franchise entries there is no English VO support this time around, so I had to play it in Japanese with subtitles. That being said, the audio I could judge was fantastic. The score has so much range, always reflecting the emotions of characters and what I should feel as a player perfectly. From silly playful jingles in mini-games to the more serious tones of the main quest, the composers did a fantastic job as they always seem to with this franchise.

Sound effects during gameplay had that delightful slightly over-the-top tone that the series is known for while also never being overbearing.


There is a small accessibility menu which was nice to see allowing you to auto-complete QTEs, auto-activate special moves, subtitle size and colour and a few more. The options aren’t as plentiful as you might expect from a AAA game in 2023. That being said, the options for combat assistances and auto-completion of certain actions, along with the subtitle options are more than we get in some games and they make Ishin significantly more playable for many people as a result.

Technical Performance

I played Ishin on Xbox Series X and during gameplay, the performance was spotless, not a single frame dropped and not a bug in sight. Unfortunately, I had one issue in some cutscenes: major pop-in! Like details on characters’ faces popping in a second after each camera cut, that could be very distracting when it occurred. Thankful, this wasn’t a problem during most scenes, it was just very noticeable when it did happen.


Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a superb entry into this beloved series, a must-play for long-time fans. Using real-world history and characters as the basis for the main narrative sets the game apart from the rest of the franchise telling one of the best stories in the series so far. It being a spinoff and stand-alone game also make it the perfect place to start for new players. Being a remake, it takes a small step back in some areas compared to the most recent releases, but these aren’t enough to take away from this fantastic game.

Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of Like A Dragon: Ishin! was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review - A Blast From The Past

Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review - A Blast From The Past

Like a Dragon: Ishin! blends the real-world history with the franchise’s signature charm in a way that shouldn’t work but just does. Resulting in one of the most memorable Like a Dragon experiences so far, this is a must-play game for long-time fans.


  • Story is one of the best in the franchise
  • Progression that rewards however you play
  • Lots of top-quality content
  • Nothing that feels like filler


  • No English VO
  • Pop In during cutscenes
  • Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review - A Blast From The Past