Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 30.12.2014

Review for Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! on PlayStation 4

The Ryu ga Gotoku series (also known as Yakuza) has frequently been considered SEGA's successor to the Shenmue games. Yu Suzuki, the creator of Shenmue, was a pioneer of the F.R.E.E. sub-genre (full reactive eyes entertainment) a concept that helped paved the way for games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Fable, and Deadly Premonition. F.R.E.E. at its core suggests that the core involves open-ended sandbox gameplay amidst a dramatic story and has life-sim like elements. While SEGA tragically ignored Western fans of Yakuza since the disappointing release of Yakuza: Dead Souls, they were further crushed when missing out on the HD remasters of the first two games on the Wii U, as well as the prequel, Yakuza 0, on PS3/PS4. However, as of early December, Yakuza 5 is getting localised for the Western territories and yet there may never be a place in the Western market for the spin-off games like Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! or its sequel Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!, probably because most Western players just won't be interested in political dramas set in the Edo or Bakumatsu periods. Cubed3 gives the lowdown for those who are keen on importing Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!.

When most people hear when a game is "mature," more often than not they assume that the title is a super violent, edgy or gratuitous with dark themes. While Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! is a game definitely aimed at adults, it is also a game that handles its content with dignity and restraint. A story of political intrigue, impending war and one man's saga to find revenge, only to find himself caught up in a revolution. Much of the cast of Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! is played by "characters" from the Yakuza games - with Kazuma Kiryu playing the part of Sakamoto Ryoma, the hero. It's as if the cast of Yakuza decided to go have the most intense LARP (live-action role-playing game) in history, always staying in character. While Ryoma is not a criminal, like Kazuma is, they both retain many characteristics, such as honour and just being one tough stoic dude who takes nothing from anyone. There are other characters from the Yakuza games accounted for who are recast as thieves, politicians, thugs, ninjas, and so on, and, as always, they are wonderfully performed and have a lot of heart poured into each character.

The attention to detail and atmosphere is utterly breathtaking. With the exception of incidental citizens, there is nothing copy-pasted in the environments and the variety of locations is staggering. From the sleek and sturdy fortresses, to the lived in slums, or the red light district, Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! has the historical accuracy and authenticity that rivals the efforts found in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise. Unlike Assassin's Creed, players are not able to go starting fights or go kill indiscriminately. Ryoma is not a psychotic murderer, nor is he an assassin. This is like a role-playing game after all, and as the role of Ryoma, players will get into fights when other characters initiate them… and Ryoma will be getting into fights, a lot. Loaded with many mini-games, some of which are esoteric, like Mahjong, but the more universal games are rhythm-based or evocative mobile games that requires memorisation/timing. Other times, just exploring the locales and finding items for weapon crafting or fishing can be pretty involving. Getting roped into the dozens of side-quests while searching for the next objective is always interesting since many times these diversions can be pretty amusing stories that don't take themselves as seriously as the main story - always a colourful cast of ancillary characters!

Screenshot for Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! on PlayStation 4

Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! has the best combat in any Yakuza game yet. The transitions from exploration mode to combat are seamless and very smooth. The mechanics are tight and the amount of character growth is pretty staggering at times. Ryoma has four styles: bare-handed, gun slinger, two-handed sword and the aptly named "wild style," which combines gun slinging and single-handed sword fighting. The action may not be hyper fast but the combat stays fluid running at 60fps. The targeting is a bit finicky sometimes and players will have to go through a learning phase to identify the invincibility frames of the every character. It is grounded in reality for the most part, even though some of the moves Ryoma would do would probably kill a man - the saga is like a fable and the embellished combat moves that Ryoma does reinforce that fable-like quality. When not in combat or exploring, players can choose Ryoma's growth via a skill tree that is not unlike the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X. Certain coloured spheres are exclusive to respective grids, and so as to keep the game balanced so players don't get stuck in one style, there are universal spheres, too. It is this kind of convenient and forward-thinking game design that shows just how far the development team has come since the first instalment. Despite the leniency of the game's systems, Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! can be pretty challenging sometimes. Boss fights tend to drag out a bit too long and each one is pretty unique in how they fight, so learning them is pretty demanding. Expect to survive some of the boss encounters just by the skin of Ryoma's teeth.

Ryoma's quest is also a long one, lasting about 60 hours, or 80 should gamers dare to do side-quests and play a few mini-games. The long and epic quest is complemented by the New Game Plus feature, which is always a welcomed addition to any game. With so much to do in Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!, classifying it as just a beat 'em up does not do it justice. It is so much more than that and dares to enter RPG territories at times. While its rigidity may turn off players who hope to be a thuggish samurai who goes around picking fights, and lacks the immense freedom of Grand Theft Auto V or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, being Ryoma and watching him grow and making him sing and dance is every bit as gratifying. It is the little things that make Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! the sum of its parts, whether it is going fishing or fighting a clan of ninjas.

Screenshot for Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The West may never get Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!, which is the great samurai epic sandbox game. The legacy of Shenmue lives on here and any fan of the Yakuza games will feel right at home upon playing this game and seeing Kazuma and the rest of the gang re-imagined as Bakumatsu period figures is pretty fun. With so much content and things to do and see, the import price makes it very much worth it considering there are alternatives that are available in the West that do not measure up in terms of variety and gameplay. Just be prepared with a translation or story guide for the full experience, which is a minor concession since Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! won't ever leave its homeland. If the wait for Yakuza 5 is too much to bear, Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! will certainly keep players busy for quite some time.

Also known as

Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin!






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   


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