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Despite A Change in Setting Like A Dragon: Ishin Still Feels Like Home | Preview

New city, same heart.

Last week, I sat down and played a few hours of the upcoming RGG Studios game Like A Dragon: Ishin. For those unaware, Like a Dragon: Ishin sits somewhere in-between a remake and remaster of the 2014 Ryu Ga Gotoku: Ishin game that was never localized outside Japan. So for many fans of the series, this is the first time they will be able to experience it.

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Much has been done to the game, including updating the cast to bring in characters from Yakuza 0 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. However, the entirety of the game is outside of the Yakuza canon because Ishin is a game of historical fiction that uses the characters of Yakuza to tell the story of Sakamoto Ryoma and the late samurai era of 1867. The twists and turns play out much like a stage play.

Despite A Change in Setting Like A Dragon: Ishin Still Feels Like Home | Preview

Despite all of this, Like a Dragon: Ishin still feels like the Yakuza games we know and love; it still feels like home.

It took me a bit to acclimate to the setting and new city I was able to explore. Still, along the way of my journey, I got embroiled in helping an author pick the subject for their subsequent work (I chose cats, by the way), started my career as a Buyo Dancer, and even helped out at an Udon Shop.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how RGG Studios took to the samurai era and made everything we know and love about the series fit into the mold.

Walking down the streets and getting into an altercation with some thugs provided time to mess around with the four different combat styles Ishin offers. You have your classic swordsman style, which focuses on powerful strikes. I found this to be the simplest of the styles while painting a good balance between offense and defense.

The Gunman style focuses on a six-shooter that feels straight out of the wild west. You can load special types of ammunition like electricity, explosives, poison, and more. This style is excellent for swiftly taking out an enemy from afar or inflicting a status effect on a foe.

The most interesting style was Wild Dancer, which had me dual-wielding a gun and a sword, making a swift flurry of blows. Cutting through groups of enemies with ranged and melee attacks felt rewarding.

The final style available in Like a Dragon: Ishin is Brawler. This is the style you know all too well if you have played a Yakuza game before. Even though it’s a samurai era, nothing beats taking down foes with your bare fists and using those over-the-top heat actions to deal blows in the highest fashion.

You can swap between these styles on the fly using the d-pad. Swapping between the different styles during a fight allows for some wild combinations.

While the main story scenes include your typical Yakuza-style cinematics, drama, and excellent graphic design for character introductions, I spent most of the time in the demo dancing, learning the town’s layout, and engaging in the minigames. These always tie me to the series and make it feel like a world worth exploring.

Related: Yakuza: Like a Dragon Review | Working Class Hero

While the demo was only chapter 3, there was still plenty to do. I honestly spent at least half of my demo time playing the Buyo dancing minigame because it’s that good.

Pick between a few different songs, choose your difficulty, and then play a rhythm game that combines the face buttons and d-pad to hit buttons to the beat. You also get to watch Saito Hajime (Kiryu Kazuma) dance traditionally to the music. I found myself going back, again and again, to try and get a better high score. This didn’t lead to any significant reward or special bonus, but it was just a good time.

It’s the small moments like these in this series that make it feel like home. Learning the ebb and flow of the city, the people living here, and getting sucked into bizarre story after bizarre story.

I was afraid that Like a Dragon: Ishin would shed this charm in lieu of a historical fiction retelling, but instead, it wears its charm like a badge of honor.

Like a Dragon: Ishin releases on February 21, 2023, for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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Image of Jesse Vitelli
Jesse Vitelli
Jesse loves most games, but he really loves games that he can play together with friends and family. This usually means late nights in Destiny 2 or FFXIV. You can also find him thinking about his ever-expanding backlog of games he won't play and being constantly dehydrated. Do not contact him.