Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review | Legacy Bound

A home away from home.

RGG Studios finally brought Like A Dragon: Ishin! to the west, and while it still has the bones of that old PlayStation 3 game, what it lacks in technical prowess it makes up for in spades with its heart. I was worried the change of scenery would remove what makes this series great, but the game stands on its own and finds plenty of ways to make you fall in love with these characters all over again.

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Like A Dragon: Ishin! Review | Legacy Bound

Like A Dragon: Ishin! puts players in the sandals of Sakamoto Ryoma. After the death of your surrogate father by a mysterious masked man just days before leading a revolution, you’re blamed for the murder and forced to flee your home of Tosa.

A year later, you go by the name of Saito Hajime, and are on a mission to discover your father’s killer and why they did it. You’ll explore the city of Kyo, now known as Kyoto, and this will be your home for the rest of your adventure.

After joining the Shinsengumi to learn more about the fighting style that killed his father, Ryoma tracks down all of the known Tennen Rishin sword users.

While Kyo lacks the visual flare of Kamaroucho from the mainline series, it still feels like a bustling village, filled with substories to get lost in and plenty of Ruffians looking for a fight.

After getting five games in the Dragon Engine from RGG Studios, it’s a little jarring going back to Unreal Engine 4. While things still look good, and combat plays out very similar to Yakuza 0, it’s difficult to acclimate back to an older engine, especially when we’ve seen how the Dragon Engine can shine in games like Lost Judgement.

Like a Dragon: Ishin’s story is best described as a dramatic retelling of samurai-era Japan but told through the Yakuza cast. Think of it as a stage play where your favorite actors are doing dramatized versions of a historical event.

Ishin! brings in Yakuza 0 and Like A Dragon characters this time, and the performances are unrivaled. Familiar faces like Majima, Kuze, Zhi, and more keep things familiar while forging a new path ahead. The character portrayals also feel true to who they are. While Majima plays Okita Soji, those two characters feel extremely similar, and it’s akin to the perfect casting in a film or television show.

The story of Ishin! takes some twists and turns in typical Yakuza fashion, and your allegiance to characters will span the spectrum from deep hatred to undying love. While I don’t think all of its twists are earned, it’s a story worth seeing for yourself and ultimately ends up in a solid spot.

Ishin!’s localization is just as good as other games in the series. While the game takes itself seriously, it’s never afraid to throw some humor and charm in there. The series has always been shrouded in zany humor, and Ishin! does not disappoint on that front. Even the most serious of moments in that game are levied with comic relief at the correct times.

The Clashing of Swords

Combat in Ishin! is a series highlight, with four unique styles all with their own distinct vibe. Swordsman is thematically appropriate and allows you to cut through enemies with heavy swings. The heat actions range from a simple stab to the gut, to swirling your victims around with your sword.

Gunman feels broken in ways I still can’t comprehend. Just busting out a sixshooter and gunning your enemies down with special ammo from electricity to fire gives group fights a whole new layer of complexity.

I used Brawler and Wild Dancer the least in my playthrough, but both offer their own ways to play, and there isn’t a wrong selection in the group. The ability to swap between them on the d-pad makes for quick and easy ways to string unique combos together.

The combat truly comes together in the boss fights. One on one duels feel more intense than they ever have. The clashing of cold steel from parries, quick time events, and heat actions make for cinematic moments that stand against some of the greats of the series.

Every boss fight felt like two warriors with nothing left to lose.

Home Away from Home

The true heart of Ishin lies within what you do around the main story. It’s the tiny tales of the people of Kyo that paint a larger picture of life here. From substories about teaching kids how to read a globe to protecting the local karaoke spot, Sakamoto Ryoma’s conviction lies within helping Japan’s people.

After chapter five, you open up a whole new part of the game. A little slice-of-life story in which you help a young girl whose family perished and her house is being taken. You step in, take the debt on yourself, and work on building a farm to pay it off. This wholly separate story and mode shows what this franchise can be when it slows down and lives in the moment.

In this area, you can plant crops, cook dishes in a Cooking Mama-style mini-game, and send items out to be delivered to earn money. After hitting milestones, you’ll receive more cutscenes in the house and learn more about the situation you’ve gotten yourself into.

While none of these systems are incredibly deep, it’s just enough that I was constantly going back to tend my crops and check in on the house. It was a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just take a breather between major story beats.


I don’t know if the story of Sakamoto Ryoma will stick with me the ways other Yakuza stories have in the past. It’s a good narrative and one I’m glad I experienced, but when put up against juggernauts like Yakuza 0, 6, and Like A Dragon, Ishin! feels a step below.

Like a Dragon: Ishin!’s highs are high, but some of its lows feel like they drag. Learning a million different proper nouns and all of the factions at play can sometimes feel like a chore. Ishin! doesn’t let up on the gas when talking about the parties at play, and you either need to catch up or subject yourself to being lost forever.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a great adventure through samurai-era Japan and one that I’m glad I took. It feels like an almost compelling story, and I got to take it alongside my best friends, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.


  • A great cast of characters
  • Combat feels great
  • Substories and farming


  • Story drags a bit
  • technical issues
  • Unreal Engine 4 feels like a massive step back

Score: 8

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS5.

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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.