The Yakuza series has seen a worldwide rebrand from the Yakuza name, and has now lined up with what the series has always been known as in Japan. Part of the reason for the rebranding of the series is the expansion of the series, due to its worldwide success. The release of Like A Dragon saw the series go from its brawler roots into a turn based role-playing game. Now, the series seeks to branch out even further in the west with the release of Like A Dragon: Ishin!.
Dragon of the Eastern Sun
Like A Dragon: Ishin! is the latest game from SEGA developed by the famed Ryu Ga Gotoku studio. A remake of a game that has never been released in the west. Ishin, originally released in Japan for PlayStation 3 and 4, is set in historical Japan at the end of the Edo period. This game will follow the events of real people during this time period.
All of your favorite characters from the series will appear here as historical Japanese figures. The popular characters are essentially actors portraying these new roles. Kazama Kiryu will be the main character, taking on the role of real life samurai Sakimoto Ryoma. Instead of the feared “Dragon on Dojima”, here he is “The Dragon of Tosa”.
Also, expect to see series favorites like, Majama Goro, Ichiban Kasuga, and many more, to make appearances here as supporting characters. In fact, SEGA has revised to the game to include more recent characters to the mix.
The main crux of the story is Ryoma’s search for his father’s killer in the city of Kyoto. This story is far different from the comfortable confines of Kamurocho that we have become accustomed to in the series.
Historical Japan with that trademark SEGA flair
Surmise this to play out with a lot of reverence to Japanese history with the series wackiness thrown in for good measure. The Yakuza series has long been rife with serious tones undercut with off the wall craziness. Fighting a tiger with your bare hands has not been uncommon to the series. Nor has side quests involving drunks and perverts. I’m not positive we can expect that level of craziness here, as this is a more serious adventure, but I can’t entirely rule it out either.
The Edo period was an odd time in Japan where the code of the samurai was being phased out, and guns were appearing in Japan, so you had an odd mixture of sword and gun. Likewise, the will be reflected in the game as the main character Sakimoto Ryoma who will wield both. At one point in the trailer Ryoma is seen wielding a cannon! Also, the dance and brawler techniques return here, so there will be a wide variety of ways to unleash fury on your enemies.
Manning your army
Moreover, a new twist in Like a Dragon: Ishin! is, calling on troops to unleash special abilities. Using the d-pad you can call upon characters to different effects on the battlefield. Calling on troops acts like buffs in other series. They may temporarily strengthen your character of even slow time. Consequently, slashing enemies with your katana and then quickly unloading your revolver, is a major difference from the brawling that defined the series for so many years.
Nevertheless, expect to see a lot of blood flow. Slashing, shooting and pummeling your foes lets loose torrents of blood flying in every direction. This is SEGA’s western appeal for the series, as blood letting is frowned upon in the Japanese market. Previous games in the series would show flashes of light as you pounded your enemies, showing massive blood letting is definitely a change.
A new head of the family
Consequently this is one of Ryu Ga Gotoku’s first major release since the departure of prominent members of the studio. In October of 2021, the studio lost what to many, was the face of the studio, Toshihiro Nagoshi. Nagoshi had been with SEGA for 30 years and had long guided the series. Series producer Daisuke Sato, and spin-off series Judgement, producer Kazuki Hosokawa followed as well.
With all of these major departures, the future of the series seemed very much up in the air. Yet, the studio quickly announced not only Like A Dragon: Ishin!, but also announced Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and Like A Dragon 8. Consequently, this quickly put a lot on the plate of the new series chief director Ryosuke Horii. If what I have seen so far is any indication, the series appears to be in good hands.
Steelbook available for American pre-orders
Those who pre-order Like A Dragon: Ishin! in the United States can get a steelbook case for the game. Gamestop and Best Buy are both offering steelbook cases for the game.
Consequently, the Gamestop version is available only for pre-ordering the game. A Best Buy steelbook however, may be purchased separately.
Japanese Like A Dragon: Ishin! Bonus Items
The Japanese version of Like A Dragon: Ishin! has a large number of bonus items that fans can get by preordering the game. Bonus items include: coasters, wooden plates, buttons, stickers, keychains and more.
Most notable of the bunch is an incredible life size wall tapestry of Ryouma Sakamoto. The scroll is around six feet tall. The tapestry is sold only in the Super DX version sold exclusively on the SEGA Store of Japan.
Included in the Super DX version are a bamboo folding fan featuring Ryouma Sakamoto and Saito Hajime’s crest on the opposing side. Also thrown in is a sitting pillow featuring the the game’s logo.
Wrestling with Feudal Japan
Kenny Omega is a world wide force in the pro wrestling world. Now a part of All Elite Wrestling, Omega rose to prominence with New Japan Pro Wrestling. As such, the Japanese audience is familiar with wrestler Kenny Omega.
Omega will make an appearance in Like A Dragon: Ishin! as a battle card. By using Omega’s card you will be able to pull off a move that is related to Omega’s finishing manuever, the one winged angel. The move itself is based on one of Omega’s favorite video game characters, Seprioth from Final Fantasy VII.
Becoming a global force
Obviously, this is more than a simple remaster cash grab. SEGA has gone to great lengths to add content and new characters to the original game. In addition, they have upgraded the graphics significantly to add an extra layer of polish. For some in the western world, this may be their first exposure to the series. Therefore, SEGA is trying to make a good impression to try to continue to build the series’ popularity. Yakuza 0 was something of a rebirth for the series and opened the gateway for this series to flourish. Ghost of Tshushima was a big hit for Sony. It’s apparent that the western world is hungry for big budget samurai games.
Likewise on those lines, SEGA has many popular franchises amongst the hardcore gamer crowd, but outside of Sonic the Hedgehog, they have lacked a major franchise in the west, for a while. Like A Dragon is quickly becoming that major franchise they have been searching for. With multiple entries in the series coming, and a renewed interest in Japanese history, SEGA seems to have a major hit on it’s hand with Like A Dragon: Ishin!.
Like A Dragon: Ishin! releases February 22, 2023 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and PC.