Like A Dragon: Ishin Review – Rewriting History

by Philip Alexander
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Like A Dragon: Ishin is a video game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, the creators of the Yakuza series. Released exclusively in Japan in 2014, it is a historical fiction set in the late 19th century during the Meiji Restoration period. The game is a spin-off of the Yakuza series, but instead of taking place in the present day, it is set in a completely different era. Like A Dragon: Ishin is a fascinating exploration of history through the lens of a video game, and it offers a unique experience for both fans of the Yakuza series and those interested in Japanese history.

One of the most striking aspects of Like A Dragon: Ishin is the attention to detail given to the historical setting. The game’s map is a recreation of the city of Kyoto during the Meiji period, and it is packed with landmarks, shops, and people that give players a sense of what life was like during this time. The attention to detail extends beyond the environment and into the characters and story. The main character, Sakamoto Ryoma, was a real-life historical figure who played a pivotal role in the Meiji Restoration, and the game’s story is loosely based on his life. Other historical figures, such as Shinsengumi member Hijikata Toshizo and geisha Gion no Shimai, also appear in the game.

One of the most interesting things about Like A Dragon: Ishin is the way it mixes real history with fiction. The game’s story takes a lot of liberties with historical events, but it still manages to capture the essence of the time period. The game’s story is divided into chapters, each of which is based on a different historical event. For example, one chapter is based on the Ikedaya Incident, where members of the Shinsengumi attacked a group of anti-Tokugawa activists. While the game’s interpretation of the event is fictional, it still manages to convey the tension and conflict of the time period. Similarly, the game’s portrayal of Ryoma’s relationships with other historical figures, such as Shinsengumi member Okita Souji and Choshu domain leader Kido Takayoshi, offer a unique perspective on these historical figures that is not often explored in traditional history books.

Like A Dragon: Ishin is also notable for its gameplay, which is a mix of action, adventure, and simulation. The game’s combat system is similar to the Yakuza series, with players controlling Sakamoto Ryoma as he takes on various enemies in the streets of Kyoto. However, the game also includes a variety of mini-games and side activities, such as running a business, playing traditional Japanese games, and even participating in a baseball game. These activities not only offer a fun diversion from the main story, but they also add to the game’s historical setting by giving players a glimpse into what life was like during the Meiji period.

Overall, Like A Dragon: Ishin is a fascinating exploration of history through the lens of a video game. The attention to detail given to the historical setting, characters, and story makes for a rich and immersive experience that is both entertaining and educational. The game’s mix of real history and fiction offers a unique perspective on the time period, and the gameplay provides a variety of activities that add to the game’s overall historical setting. While the game is only available in Japan and requires a basic understanding of Japanese to fully appreciate, it is definitely worth seeking out for anyone interested in Japanese history or the Yakuza series.

That being said, it is important to note that the game does have its flaws. The game’s pacing can be slow at times, and some of the mini-games and side activities can feel repetitive. Additionally, the game lacks some of the polish and refinement of the mainline Yakuza games, which may make it a harder sell for fans of the series who are expecting a certain level of quality. However, for those who can look past these flaws, Like A Dragon: Ishin offers a unique and engaging experience that is well worth the time and effort.

Another point worth mentioning is the game’s handling of sensitive topics such as discrimination and oppression. Like A Dragon: Ishin does not shy away from these issues, and instead confronts them head-on. The game’s portrayal of the discrimination faced by the Burakumin, a group of people who were considered social outcasts during the Meiji period, is particularly well done. The game does not sugarcoat the treatment of the Burakumin, and instead presents a frank and unflinching look at the prejudice and violence they faced. While this may be uncomfortable for some players, it is an important reminder of the struggles faced by marginalized groups throughout history.

In conclusion, Like A Dragon: Ishin is a game that deserves more recognition than it has received. The game’s unique blend of history and fiction, coupled with its attention to detail and engaging gameplay, make for a truly memorable experience. While the game is not without its flaws, it is still a must-play for anyone interested in Japanese history, the Yakuza series, or just looking for a unique and immersive gaming experience. Like A Dragon: Ishin is a game that rewrote history, but it did so in a way that is respectful, informative, and, above all, entertaining.

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