Having been a fan of the Yakuza series since it first came out on the Playstation 2, it’s a no-brainer that I’d be pumped to play Like A Dragon: Ishin!, especially after getting a taste of it at the Thailand Game Show 2022.

Now that I’ve had more than a week of access to the game, how does it stand up to the more modern settings of the mainline Yakuza games?

Read on and find out!

What is Like A Dragon: Ishin!?

Like A Dragon: Ishin! is a remake of a Japan-only Playstation 3 Yakuza spin-off. A third person, open world action RPG, it’s set during the Japanese Bakumatsu years, and stars a fictional samurai known as Ryoma Sakamoto. Developed by the Ryu Ga Gotoku Team and published by SEGA, the game is available for the PC, Playstation and Xbox consoles.

Our copy was given to us by the great folks at SEGA!

For review of the game, we were running a rig off these specs:
– MSI B550M Mortar
– AMD Ryzen 9 5900X with NZXT Kraken X73 RGB Liquid Cooler
– MSI GeForce RTX 3080Ti Suprim X 12GB
– 64GB DDR4 RAM (Teamgroup T-Force Dark Z 16GB x 4 @ 3600MHz)
– Samsung 980 PRO 2TB SSD

Settings were all set to the maximum, at 4K resolution.

A side mention; both our motherboard and GPU were awesomely sponsored by the great folks at MSI. I can honestly say the MSI GeForce RTX 3080Ti Suprim X 12GB is a hell of a GPU and more than worth its asking price. Great performance in games, looks damn cool with its RGB stylings too!

Thanks to MSI and their kind generosity, we’ll be reviewing more PC games now since we have the hardware to deliver a quality review experience.

One thing to know: Like a Dragon: Ishin might be set in the 1800s, but this is Yakuza true and true.

The series’ main characters (except for Takeshi Kitano‘s character from Yakuza 6) all return as different fictional characters. Even Haruka (Kazuma Kiryu’s ward in the original games), returns as a kid that Ryoma (or rather Saito) volunteers to take care of.

The characters you encounter are all based on real fictional figures, though like most games, there have been tons of liberties taken. Especially for the main character, Ryoma Sakamoto. Let’s just say the real person’s not as open and cool as the game’s version is.

In-game Ryoma though, he’s awesome. He’s pretty much Kazuma Kiryu with a katana.

The game gives you four distinct fighting styles (bare knuckles, katana, pistol and sword and pistol) and each of them are fun enough to fool around with on their own. You’ll want to continuously change styles though, as you only get orbs for the styles through usage.

Orbs are used to learn new skills. Colored orbs (which correspond to the styles) are only given when you rank up for that skill. These can only be used on the board they belong to. Clear orbs (which are only given when you level up), can be used on any board, though they’re much hard to come by.

Fights happen pretty much everywhere in town and you can literally go from one fight to another in just a few seconds. The random fights are easy enough so it’s not big of an issue.

It is however, a buzzkill that Ryoma (like Kiryu) doesn’t murder anybody with his killer attacks.

In fact, despite the vicious moves, there’s no gratuitous gore, dismemberment or decapitations. In fights, you’ll stab, slash, smash people’s faces…moves that would kill if you do them in real life.

In the game, your enemies are simply stunned on the ground after the fight ends. What a gyp.

Combat changes about 1/4 of the way through the game, once Ryoma joins the Shinsengumi.

Once with them, Ryoma gets the ability to bring along soldiers in battle. In actuality, it’s just equipping cards with special skills that Ryoma can use in fights. You don’t actually get to bring in allies to kick ass with, which I feel is a missed opportunity to have bigger fights.

I mean, it’s not like modern consoles or PCs can’t handle it, right?

These cards come in varying rarities, and can even level up as you gain experience. It’s not really a must to get good cards, as finding the rare ones are pretty random. You either have to spend Yen, find them randomly on the streets as combat encounters or get them through mission rewards.

Thankfully, you can just ignore them and get by on skills alone.

Honestly, while the cards do give a new slant to combat, they doesn’t really alter things too much.

Other than the random fights, there’s a HUGE amount of stuff to do.

You can do the side stories (which are just as wacky as those in past games), you can collect journals for a special foreigner, you can play shogi, you can race chicken, you can dance, you can karaoke (yes, Baka Mitai is in the game), you can fight in a battle arena.

Hell, you can even go on Shinsengumi missions to wipe out threats!

Then there’s the Another Life aspect of the game. It’s unlocked a bit into the game but this basically gives your own customizable house and farm. You can decorate the house, grow your own crops and even cook your own food.

Hell, if you need the Yen, you can fulfill delivery requests and get Haruka to deliver the goods.

I honestly love this! The pets you rescue from the main game (up to 3 different cats and 3 different dogs) will end up at your house so it’s awesome!

Unfortunately you can’t get up close and pet them, but they do give you perks when you befriend them and bring them to Haruka’s house.

You can even use Virtue (a currency you accumulate from doing completing side quests and other activities), to upgrade your farm and house. Virtue can also be used to purchase items from special shops, or unlock special perks for Ryoma. If you’ve played past Yakuza game, you can think of Virtue as an alternative to the GP that you used to need to unlock special perks.

Visually, the game doesn’t really look too hot, especially on 4K.

The characters are fine; they look great, animate well and the action scenes are awesome.

It’s the bare environments that are a disappointment.

The game looks rather basic in that regard, with very little detail to the streets of Kyo (modern day Kyoto).

It’s a bit of a letdown, especially when compared to the mainline games’ modern cities, Kamurocho in particular.

With everything on max, the game’s populated with a ton of NPCs walking around and I didn’t even notice any pop-in. There is some texture pop-in during cutscenes though, which is a disappointment considering the hardware I’m running the game with.

There’s also stuttering present, especially when in crowded areas. That’s rather strange too, considering my hardware far exceeds the recommended settings.

Disappointingly, the game doesn’t support NVIDIA DLSS so it really depends on brute hardware to play well.

The Bottom Line.

Despite its different setting, Like A Dragon: Ishin! leaves no doubt its heritage.

Some people who were expecting a radical departure from the usual (perhaps like Yakuza: Dead Souls) from the mainline Yakuza will undoubtedly be disappointed, but those who are looking for more Yakuza (and don’t care how they get it), the game’s a godsend.

Perhaps, with the good reception of Like A Dragon: Ishin! we might actually get a remake of Yakuza: Dead Souls and Like A Dragon: Kenzan!, another samurai-themed Yakuza spinoff that was never translated to English.


Great Yakuza game but might be too similar to the regular series for some gamers.

The Good.

  • Yakuza gameplay we all know and love in a different setting.
  • Character models.
  • Lots of things to do.

The Bad.

  • Stuttering issues.
  • Plain graphics, even on 4K and maximum settings.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. Recently, Sal served as a juror for the Indie Game Awards at Taipei Game Show 2020. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.