Sting Like A Dragon: Ishin Game Review

Like A Dragon: Ishin is an almost 100 percent original Japanese culture-based game. I’ve played a few Yakuza games, and they never fail to impress with their enthralling narratives, nor do they shy away from delving into ‘political’ or taboo subject matter. ISHIN seeks to replicate this, though in its own unique way, with its interesting story and engaging combat mechanics. Graphically, musically and gameplay-wise it certainly seems as though it has achieved success – not quite like the Yakuza series perhaps, but a high-quality product all the same.

Unlike other similar games, the game does not contain many openings or options and is linear like many other similar games. We play a strong and tough samurai who is bound by a code of ethics. A long adventure awaits us at the end, divided up into chapters and built in advance for us. Compared to other recent games, it has a slightly different atmosphere, especially since it tries to combine such abilities with other role-playing abilities in a relatively subtle manner.

The dragon’s beautiful side

The visuals are not bad and can be said to convey a relatively authentic atmosphere. The textures, whether up close or far, are quite good, bearing in mind that realism is not necessarily being sought after. Graphical bugs do exist though, which detract from the immersive environment. Moreover, the combination of subtitles and interface art can be perceived as being quite unrefined. Character models have stiff facial expressions which give them an almost animated quality. While the world design is limited given the linear nature of the game, it has been witnessed before that game developers have managed to create attractive worlds with even fewer resources. Thus one has to hope that it will be achieved here as well.

A lot of effort has gone into the aesthetics of the world, but they could have strengthened the atmosphere and what we got more. Hence, the models are sharpened and the textures are of better quality, strengthening the visual impression. As a result, we will have a slightly different finished product that is even more reminiscent of a drawn and mesmerizing manga atmosphere that only the Japanese can achieve with a little desire and skill.

The story of the samurai’s town

We have already grasped that Like A Dragon: Ishin is situated in the year 1867 and plunges us into a 19th-century atmosphere. The samurai and the culture of the East have long fascinated those in the West; thus, it stands to reason why games from this part of the world are so unique. In this particular game, one finds themselves amidst political turmoil in rural Japan and portraying Sukumo Ryoma, a fearless samurai. Like with most eastern tales, the main story is typically narrated using subtitles for accessibility to international players; moreover, when those crucial conversations are driven by dialogues, we can hear them expressed in Japanese.

Our mentor was cruelly murdered for political reasons, so we set out on a journey of vengeance as well as to uncover the truth. The only way to track down the assailant is through his fighting style and thus we embarked on a quest to seek justice. Disguised as members of the Shinsangumi organization, we experienced an exciting story – one I am glad I could partake in regardless of it being dubbed in Japanese rather than English. So please do not give up until you reach the end!

The dialogues are generally fascinating, but you may want to speed them up at times. The stories surrounding the era of the samurai are wonderful in and of themselves, so the fact that they’ve been expressed in a game is astounding. There’s an air of disbelief in its presence, which isn’t necessarily the point of it being there, but that’s what it feels like.

Having fun

Despite being set in a relatively small environment, Like A Dragon: Ishin can be difficult to understand for those new to the genre. The relatively unintuitive gameplay may have you searching for your next mission or objective for hours. Fortunately, there are some bright spots: the battle system, which makes you feel like a skilled martial arts fighter. Attacking and fighting without restraint allows you to move the story forward, however, the actual movement and displacement within the game feel awkward and unnatural. It is clear that it has not been optimized for this purpose.

The game also comes with a small map on the side that helps us get around, so we can find the places we need to go. All in all, the mechanics as a whole aren’t disappointing or bad; they just need to be updated to improve them and make them smooth and not stuttering. This includes the main storyline, nice mini-games, or even nice side missions along the way.

Verdict: Like A Dragon: Ishin 8/10

Ishin is an interesting game that presents the traditional culture of Japan in a faithful way. Players can explore a world filled with samurais, construction, and a distinctive atmosphere, making it quite different from other games. Something that I was hoping for was more innovative plotlines and dialogues, which is actually an important part of games like Yakuza which has been referenced multiple times. Nonetheless, the gameplay is still enjoyable, especially when it comes to combat mechanics. While having a less western feel to it than most popular titles, Like A Dragon: Ishin is worth playing for its environment and not just its visuals.

I'm a professional writer that has experience when it comes to comics and entertainment writing.