Almost exactly nine years after its initial 2014 release exclusively in Japan, Like a Dragon: Ishin is finally being made available worldwide in the form of a remake that largely stays faithful to the original version, for both better and worse. As a whole, the samurai-themed spin-off of the Like a Dragon (formerly Yakuza in the West) games is a blast to play, but some strange technical issues are notable enough to hurt the overall experience.
Like a Dragon: Ishin’s premise can ultimately be boiled down to asking, “What if the characters in the main games were members of the Shinsengumi from Japan’s Bakumatsu period?” While a historical figure like Okita Soji is a major character in the game, he has the personality of fan-favorite mad dog Goro Majima, carrying over his likeness and voice actor. There is something inherently funny about seeing how the characters would act in a setting outside the present day and then remembering that they represent people who had been alive at a point in history.
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The actual story is quite compelling as it follows lower-class samurai named Ryoma Sakamoto who is framed for his father figure’s death and travels to the city of Kyo to find the real killer, someone who is likely a captain in the Shinsengumi. This special police force serves the Bafuku to keep peace in the area, but has a reputation for its brutal ways, making it a controversial figure in Kyo. While some of the reveals are on the more predictable side and the overall story is not the strongest in the entire series, it does remain gripping throughout its runtime. A powerful theme, in particular, is the meaning someone gives their name through their actions, and what it means to cast aside one’s name and live with another.
What can hamper some scenes is the stiff animation accompanying many of the cutscenes. Pre-rendered sequences carry the emotional weight thanks to the excellent voice acting, but some potential impact for several…