The Yakuza games are known for a lot of things: their great story, complex characters, and many mini-games to name just some of what makes the series special. Perhaps most iconic is the ever-ridiculous combat that revolves around gangsters brawling and using anything from their fists to acoustic guitars to beat the crap out of each other. With the samurai spinoff title Like a Dragon: Ishin!, developer RGG studio is amping this up even more and it looks like a bloody good time.
Blast from the past — Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a peculiar spinoff for the Yakuza series. It takes the franchise's iconic characters such as Kiryu and Goro Majima and casts them as roles in a story set during the 1860s in Japan. Gone are the snazzy suits and modern-day antics, replaced with robes and katanas.
A new trailer highlighting the gameplay for Ishin puts a spotlight on the spinoff's unique take on the franchise’s gameplay.
One thing this trailer makes abundantly clear is that Ishin will not be a tense measured sword-fighting experience like Ghost of Tsushima or FromSoftware’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Rather than samurai epics from Akira Kurosawa, Ishin looks more akin to an over-the-top action flick. Kiryu (here called Sakamoto Ryoma) wields a damn cannon and fires it point-blank at an enemy. I’ve heard of bringing a gun to a knife fight, but this is just overkill!
Ishin’s combat looks to be an extension of the freedom a spinoff allows outside of the confines of a long-running series. Mainline Yakuza games can be incredibly absurd, but there is a story cohesion from title to title, nothing too drastic can happen in the narrative. But throw those characters into new roles in a completely different time and place and you can do whatever you want. So let the bloodbath begin.
These violent delights — While weapons are available in Yakuza games, most fights come down to beating up thugs with your fists. Ishin puts the focus on swords, guns, and the occasional traditional hand-to-hand combat when you want it. Sakamoto is a swordsman by trade after all and his enemies are just as well equipped to slash him to pieces.
Combat comes in many flavors, allowing players to choose what is best for them. There are styles that prioritize swordplay, a style that allows the player to wield pistols and use slow-motion aiming straight out of Red Dead Redemption, and a classic brawler. Each fighting style has its own unique fluidity and flashy style through which it can inflict pain on your enemies.
A standout in the trailer is the Wild Dancer style of fighting which is a graceful mix of sword-wielding with a revolver peppered in for good measure. At one point Sakamoto throws his sword into a man, jumps off said man, then unloads his revolver.
It is gleefully badass — not to mention bloody.
Each swing of the sword and pull of the trigger elicits a gushing fountain of blood from enemies. One combat encounter from the trailer shows Sakamoto in a hallway absolutely drenched with blood from dispatched enemies.
The idea of surpassing Yakuza’s over-the-top vibes and combat seemed like an inconceivable idea before watching the combat trailer for Ishin, but now Yakuza looks tame by comparison. The freedom that Like a Dragon: Ishin! provides has let RGG run wild with their ideas, using the period setting as a playground for what is shaping up to be the franchise’s most out-there entry yet.