Surely I mentioned it more than once, but I am a rabid fan of the saga of YAKUZA (RYU GA GOTOKU in Japan), to such an extent that I have completed 100% of all the titles in the franchise, which is not very easy since, in case anyone does not know, they are titles that require an average investment of about 150 hours, due to to the huge amount of content they have.
A SAGA THAT IS NOT AFRAID TO LEAVE ITS COMFORT ZONE
the saga of YAKUZA It felt kind of “niche”, back in 2005, when I started consuming it in its first version for PS2. I confess that the first thing that caught my attention was its resemblance to another Sega franchise, the legendary SHENMUE, Another of my favorite games of my life.
Although talking about Kazuma Kiryu in the West was unusual, it was not until the release of YAKUZA 5 that the fans on this side of the pond began to appear everywhere. That title, precisely, was not initially released in the West due to the apparent lack of interest from players on this side of the world. Which was not such, since both RGG Studio and Sega received so many requests and complaints from fans that they had no choice but to end up launching the localized game on this side, although 3 years later. Color fact: with the recent physical version of the remasters of YAKUZA 3, 4 and 5the company decided to give its fans an (empty) box of YAKUZA 5 for PS3, so that fans who couldn’t get it at the time can have, even if only symbolically, the title on our shelves.
The saga today has 8 main titles, 2 “brother” games that take place in the same city (the JUDGMENT) and three other titles that deviate quite a bit from the main premise, as spin-offs. RYU GA GOTOKU: ISHIN! It was at the time one of them, originally released in 2014 exclusively for the Japanese market.
SINCE GUNPOWDER WAS INVENTED, THE BRAVE PEOPLE HAVE FINISHED
The title is temporarily located at the end of the Japanese historical era known as Bakumatsu, at the end of the Edo period (1853-1867). Both in-game events and participating characters are broadly based on both people and events drawn directly from actual historical events. Japan is going through a rather chaotic period for various reasons. To begin with, society is strongly divided into well-differentiated social classes, which means that at a social level people have different values according to their social position. This regime is promoted by the Bafuku, that is, by the dictatorial shogunate in charge of the country. This means that practically those people who belong to a high social class can practically do whatever they want with people considered to be of a lower level, even abusing or murdering them without any kind of consequence. At the same time, the country begins to receive the arrival of multiple boats from the West, which makes the population nervous. Among all the changes caused by the invasion In the West, there is access to gunpowder and firearms, which also causes a strong change in terms of the traditional way of implementing justice or defending oneself in the country, based mainly on sword fighting.
So the city of Tosa is brewing a coup to change this whole situation, so unfavorable for the majority of the population. Sakamoto Ryoma is the character we control, a young Ronin who, along with his adoptive father and brother, Yoshida Toyo and Takechi Hanpeita, are the leaders of the Imperialist Party, the group in charge of the revolution. But the night before their plan is executed, the group is attacked by a masked assassin with surprising combat skill, who ends up killing Toyo and critically injuring Hanpeita. Sakamoto is falsely accused of these events, so he leaves the city as a wanted man.
Finally, he will end up joining the legendary Shinsengumi under the false identity of Hajime Saito, and will collaborate with this group while secretly following in the footsteps of his father’s murderer.
NEVER BRING A KNIFE TO A GUN FIGHT
ISHIN! It is not the first spin-off of the saga YAKUZA temporarily located during some ancient Japanese historical period. There is another previous title, whose name is RYU GA GOTOKU: KENZAN, released in 2008 for PS3 and also exclusively for the Japanese market. Although both titles share the same feudal setting and the “samurai” theme, there is no relationship between the stories of both. In fact, the oldest title is timed to the mid-1500s, 300 years before the events of ISHIN!, and narrates the events corresponding to the life of Musashi Miyamoto, another legendary Japanese swordsman.
Those who know the Kiryu saga know more or less what they are going to find when playing this game: a journey through several cities in an open-world environment, while we fight a multitude of enemies in our path and carry out an infinite number of tasks. additional that, for the most part, have absolutely nothing to do with our main mission.
The novelty now (or at the time) is determined first by the setting, which I already told you transports us to a feudal Japan instead of the modern Kamurocho we are used to. The other strong point of what has to do with the details of the game is that, although both the story and the names of the characters are taken from real accounts of Japanese history, the faces (and even attitudes) are taken directly from characters of the series Yakuza. Thus, Ryoma Sakamoto, the main character, is directly a carbon copy, physically and in personality, of Kazuma Kiryu, the great main of the franchise. Of course, this use of physical characteristics was applied to all the important characters in the game, so we will recognize many faces of our most loved (or hated) characters, even if they do not have the same name as always.
A very particular detail of this 2023 version is that many of the faces have been changed known which were in the original version. Unlike the previous title, which used the images of characters from games released before 2014 (logically), the developers chose this time to include faces from more recent games, such as YAKUZA 0, 6 And till LIKE A DRAGON (7). This was an absolutely conscious decision, in pursuit of greater “familiarity” with the characters for the players.
Although it is now common in the saga, the ISHIN! from 2014 was the first title to include multiple interchangeable fighting styles. In this case, we can fight bare-handed, in a style very similar to the classic games, with a sword, a pistol, or a combination of both. Each posture has its particular and highly differentiated blows and movements, and they level up independently as we use each one of them. In relation to this, a detail that was applied in this version is that now the use of each posture must be a little more thoughtful. While in the original it was almost the same which position we used and it was more a matter of personal taste than necessity, on this occasion there will be times when we will be forced to use one or more specific positions if we want to get out of certain situations, from which it can’t be done any other way.
AS ALWAYS, CITIES ARE ALSO LEADING
And as it is a trademark of the saga, in addition to the main plot line there are always many, many extra things to do. The cities themselves are protagonists of history, with their always crowded and noisy streets, their multiple businesses, shops, nooks and places to visit.
There are dozens of extra missions, requests or requests for help from citizens that cross our path. Many places where we can drink or eat something. Gambling houses where we can bet our honestly earned savings. Public bathrooms or bars where you can request the odd little massage or even, if we wish, to put on a little farm, take care of it and watch it grow. Of course, the list that I mention here falls short, and the optional content that the game has is so much that it practically triples the time that we have to invest for the main story. Of course, this is nothing new to anyone who has played any of the previous titles, so be prepared to spend about 150 hours if you want to see all the content that the title has to offer. Me, as a fan, always grateful.
MORE THAN A REMAKE, A REMASTER
the saga of YAKUZA it was never particularly noted for its graphics. Something more or less understandable in titles with massive open worlds and hundreds of characters swarming on the screen all the time. There was always quite a difference between the love and details put into the design of the main characters and the NPCs, which used to be somewhat repetitive. This tendency was improving with the running of the games and graphically they always looked better than their previous versions. ISHIN!, unfortunately, it seems to have taken a small step backwards, and it doesn’t look as good as the last titles in the series. In fact, it’s almost practically a made-up version of its 2014 namesake. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fans are used to the particular aesthetics of these games, which in some aspects tend to be minimally neglected, but it must be said that, seeing what they could come up with, for example, LOST JUDGMENT, It gave us to expect a little more quality in this section.
Loudly if you hold the line. The Japanese are, in my opinion, excellent voice actors, and here they continue to break it as always. Musically, the title is very varied, with multiple melodies that change depending on each situation and, as is already a trademark of the franchise, there are a good number of musical themes sung, including, of course, the legendary Bakamitai.
Playably, this title is essentially the same as all its previous brothers. At the time, the biggest novelty was the implementation of different fighting styles, but since something common has already been done in the last ten years of the saga, today it is not surprising. Regardless, it’s still all absolutely satisfying to play and all of you who have enjoyed a previous game will basically find more of the same here. What is it that we love, right?
A GUN DRAGON
So, broadly speaking, LIKE A DRAGON: ISHIN! It ends up being a game that convinces and works without inventing anything at all and without surprising. The only thing “new” for those of us who follow the saga is getting used to the new names of the characters we have known for almost 20 years. Then, at the playable and plot level, it does not offer us a great variety with respect to everything known. A nice story full of amazing plot twists, action, pineapples and role-playing, and a HUGE amount (as always) of little extra tidbits that have nothing to do with the main story, round out a good game by gaming standards. RGG, but not the best.
- Learn Japanese history by playing.
- It’s a YAKUZA, with the tons of content that implies
- That a long-awaited title has finally reached the West.
- Graphically it could be a tad better
- Some other combat is excessively complicated
- It’s hard to get used to new identities of the classic characters.