Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Fascinating, complex, and mature tale of Japanese history.
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Like a Dragon: Ishin!
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Like a Dragon: Ishin! is an action role-playing game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PCs. The game is a remake of a title originally released exclusively in Japan in 2014, and is a spin-off from the Yakuza franchise. It's set in the Late Edo period, and players fight their way through outlaws, rival samurai, and other enemies in a complex plot of revenge, freedom, and national intrigue. Violence frequently occurs in the game, with players using one of four different fighting styles in battle. Guns, fists, swords, spears, and more are used to eliminate enemies, which results in sprays of blood as people are impaled or shot. There's a lot of mature language throughout, with frequent use of "s--t," "f--k," "bastard," and more. Characters are also frequently shown drinking sake or being intoxicated, and other characters are seen smoking pipes in cutscenes. The game features some sexual innuendo, as well as women revealing cleavage in their kimonos and men shown in loincloths at varying times. There are some geisha in brothels that can be interacted with during mini-games, including strip rock paper scissors and drinking games.
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What’s It About?
LIKE A DRAGON: ISHIN! is a remake of a title originally released exclusively in Japan in 2014. The game, set in the Late Edo period of Japan, is based off certain events that actually happened. Players take on the role of Sakamoto Ryoma, a young swordsman who leaves his hometown of Tosa after his mentor is murdered. Sakamoto's only clues to the man who's upended his world is that the culprit used an unusual sword style known as the Tennen Rishin. Sakamoto's search takes him to Kyoto, where he learns that the fighting style is taught and mastered by a gang of warriors known as the Shinsengumi. To fulfill his quest of revenge, Sakamoto takes on the alias of Saito Hajime, and joins the Shinsengumi with the idea of finding the killer from the inside of the group. What occurs over the course of the game is a twisting tale of political intrigue, deception, and violence, set against the backdrop of a country on the brink of civil war and chaos. Fortunately, Ryoma is a skilled warrior, with four separate fighting styles he can switch between at will, from bare-handed brawling to a twirling mix of gunfire and swordplay for rapid strikes. You'll need to become comfortable with these abilities, because you'll frequently be attacked from all sides by groups of enemies looking to prevent him from learning the truth. If things look a bit too overwhelming, you can also borrow the power of trooper cards, which let you unleash special abilities on opponents. But the gameplay isn't just about fighting against people. Between fights, you'll have the opportunity to explore Kyoto, shopping at stores, dining at restaurants, taking in a game of chance at a gambling den. You can also explore side quests to learn more about the people of the town, contributing a bit of your time to make their lives easier (and becoming more well known in the process). Successfully accomplishing these deeds grows your virtue, which can be redeemed at shrines for experience boosts, items, or character upgrades. Take up your sword and prepare to avenge your mentor, and don't stop until you've gotten the answers you seek.
Is It Any Good?
Full of plot twists and fast-paced action, this role-playing game will keep you busy for hours exploring the streets of Kyoto. From the hunt for a murderer to the complex inner workings of the Shinsengumi and its rival gangs, Like a Dragon: Ishin! presents a rich and detailed look at life in Japan at the end of the 19th century. There's so much to do on every city street, from gambling to eating to karaoke and dancing. You could spend hours upon hours playing the various mini-games and completing the side stories and quests, but this isn't just diversionary or a waste of time. Tasks that you perform will boost your renown, making you more well known in the streets as you go from place to place. This can result in discounts in shops, receiving free items, and even virtue points, which can be used to strengthen Ryoma's skills, making him more capable in battle. It's great being rewarded for doing actions that you'd already participate in, and it makes you want to explore the entire town to complete goals. Not all of the mini-games and side quests are stellar -- some, like the viral dance craze, are just excuses to get into brawls, while others, like delivering produce to a store, are minor inconveniences. Others, such as the "relationship" mini-games with geisha, feel more awkward and out of place in this version of the franchise than its modern-day equivalent. But these hiccups aside, the country being on the brink of war makes the random fights from ronin and cutthroats in the streets feel more plausible.
Combat is more of a tactical affair than you'd expect. At the beginning, you may be able to button-mash your way to success, but as you move deeper into the game, the number of enemies that attack from all sides, the armor they wear, and the counters they perform will force you to be more deliberate in your attacks. Each one of the four fighting styles is incredibly effective and surprisingly deep, with its own set of moves, and you'll want to spend time learning strikes so that you can punch your way through opponents. What's more, you'll want to spend time cultivating and boosting your trooper cards (when you get access to them), because they'll give you bonus powers like healing in battle or magical strikes. This is important, since the difficulty in some fights can scale wildly out of balance, with enemies suddenly landing harder strikes and shrugging off your blows, and if you haven't focused on upgrading your gear, you'll find yourself in trouble. But the fastest way to get the cash and items for these enhancements is by fighting, so be prepared to grind to get what you need to fight through the story. You may also want to take notes, because the story is full of twists and curveballs that are thrown at players as the numerous plots, subplots, and schemes are revealed. But it's worth diving into, and action RPG fans will have a lot of fun diving into Like a Dragon: Ishin! for dozens of hours.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Like a Dragon: Ishin! affected by the amount of blood and gore shown? Would the impact be as intense if the game wasn't as realistic? Is the violence realistic considering that the main character can fire guns without reloading, or unleash magical effects on enemies as you grow his skills?
Did you know that the events of Like a Dragon: Ishin! are based off events in Japan's history? Does that make you want to find out what actually happened in the Late Edo period? How hard do you think it was for the designers to make the game historically accurate, but just slightly different to tell their own tale?
- Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid ($59.99)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Sega of America
- Release date: February 21, 2023
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History
- ESRB rating: M
- Last updated: January 27, 2023
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