Like A Dragon: Ishin Hands-On Preview: Familiar Yakuza Trappings In A Whole New Setting

Masayoshi Yokoyama, executive producer of RGG Studios and writer of the Yakuza series, said during the RGG 2022 summit that Like A Dragon: Ishin is meant to be the all-star Yakuza game. It’s pitched as a game that will feature characters from the entire franchise, music from across the games, and returning actors, and the 20 minutes of hands-on time I had with the game definitely delivered on that promise. But Like A Dragon: Ishin doesn’t just feel like simple Yakuza fan service. From what I’ve played, Ishin features enough of a new story and presents a fresh environment (to a western audience, at least) that it is poised to welcome new players to the massive franchise without completely alienating them.

The preview demo–played at Tokyo Game Show, courtesy of Sega–featured two modes: day mode, which was a more explorative and story-centric introduction to the game’s central area, Kyo, and night mode, a more action-focused look at the game’s many fighting styles.

Starting with day mode, I spent my first 10 minutes with the game watching a lengthy cutscene introducing the many characters of Like A Dragon: Ishin. It was certainly a slow start to the hands-on demo, but by Yakuza standards, it felt very apt. While most of the series’ entries are action brawlers by genre definition, the heart and soul of any Yakuza game is in its story and characters. The cinematic provided a glimpse at its stoic protagonist Sakamoto Ryōma, and the many captains of the Shinsengumi special police force, including the snarly Takeda Kanryusai (played by Japanese superstar Riki Takeuichi), the rather snakey Todo Heisuke (Tianyou Zhao from Yakuza: Like A Dragon, with Nobuhiko Okamoto returning as the voice actor), and many more.

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Author: Kurt Indovina