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7 Reasons Why You Should Play Yakuza Ishin!

Geek, gamer, writer, graphic artist. Ced's favorite shows and adventures are those that allow him to enjoy the world from his bedroom.

Yakuza Ishin is also known as Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin. It is a “historical” spin-off of Sega’s best-selling gangland series.

Yakuza Ishin is also known as Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin. It is a “historical” spin-off of Sega’s best-selling gangland series.

1. Don’t Understand Japanese? No Problem!

As there is still no news for an English version of Yakuza Ishin, the biggest hurdle to playing the game would be that of language.

Should this be the case for you, fret not! With the game already several years old, detailed English walkthroughs have long been published online for it. Just google for “Yakuza Ishin guide” and you’ll find various detailed walkthroughs.

And even without these guides, the game is not unplayable, though you might find the lengthy cutscenes baffling. The game is as a whole, also straightforward enough provided you do not approach it with a completionist mentality.

Remember, at its heart, Yakuza Ishin is a brawling adventure. Language has little to play in a street fight.

View of Shijō Street from Shijō Bridge. Shijō is still the main shopping street in Kyoto today.

View of Shijō Street from Shijō Bridge. Shijō is still the main shopping street in Kyoto today.

2. It’s a Time Travel Journey to 19th Century Kyoto!

Sega’s Yakuza series has long been celebrated for its meticulous virtual reconstructions of Japan. And this historical spinoff is no exception.

Believe me when I say you would be blown away by the huge amount of detail included in the environs of the game. What’s especially noteworthy is that if you compare Sega’s version of old Kyoto with historical photos, you would immediately notice how similar they are too.

Best of all, many Kyotos landmarks and locations featured in the game still exist today. If you’re able to, there is no experience quite like visiting Japan’s ancient capital after completing the game.

You’d be well-familiar with the Japanese names for cooking ingredients after playing Yakuza Ishin.

You’d be well-familiar with the Japanese names for cooking ingredients after playing Yakuza Ishin.

3. It’s a Beginner’s Introduction to Japanese Cooking

Believe it, or not, Yakuza Ishin is one of the best introductions to Japanese cooking. Or should I say, Japanese cooking ingredients.

Thanks to its elaborate mini-games and the extensive inventory in shops, Ishin is a treasure trove of Japanese names for vegetables, seafood, and so on. An invaluable resource for any student struggling with learning Japanese, in other words. In fact, when playing the game, you might even get the feeling that Sega intended the whole adventure to be a learning resource.

Best of all, near every item comes with pictures. If you’re looking for a fun way to strengthen your Japanese vocabulary, this just might be one of the best ways ever.

Kyoto’s famous Gion District atmospherically lit up at night.

Kyoto’s famous Gion District atmospherically lit up at night.

4. You Can Virtually Visit Famous Kyoto Landmarks

Further on the second point, several key Kyoto landmarks are featured in Yakuza Ishin. For example, the world-famous Kiyomizu Temple.

Most of these can’t be virtually explored at leisure, but the good news is, they form the backdrops for the key events of the games. In other words, the stages for boss fights or extensive cutscenes.

The different time settings of the game furthermore ensure “different experiences” when visiting. This, especially so for the historical Mibu temple area.

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The short of it, if you’re longing to visit Kyoto but is unable to, playing this PlayStation 4 exclusive is the next best alternative. With the game’s complex story, you will also gain a wealth of Japanese history trivia.

Play the game to know who this fearsome character is.

Play the game to know who this fearsome character is.

5. Yakuza Ishin Is Hilarious, As Well As a Cultural Trip

Yakuza has always been a quirky game series. The main quest is typically somber. On the other hand, the substories i.e. side quests frequently get downright bizarre or hilarious. One wonders whether developer Sega intended for these substories to feature the weirder and hysterical aspects of Japan.

Humour aside, some Yakuza Ishin substories allow you to indulge in the enduring passions of the Japanese. Fascinated by Japanese tantei i.e. detective stories? Deeply in love with Anime-style romance tales? You can briefly experience them all in the substories of this adventure.

Just be careful not to over-indulge. In my case, I took forever to complete the main quest, because I was spending too much time on these side quests.

Range, power, speed, or a combination of everything? You get to decide how your fights would go.

Range, power, speed, or a combination of everything? You get to decide how your fights would go.

6. There’s Not Just One, but Five Combat Systems

Some players might find this confusing. However, if you enjoy variety when it comes to combat, the five inter-switchable battle styles of Yakuza Ishin will delight you.

All five operate on the same control system too, although differences in combat nature require starkly different deployment methods.

To assist learning, the game provides a variety of training missions and conditioning quests, as well as a specific minigame for you to hone your expertise in each style. In short, even if you dislike complex battles, you will come to love the variety. Pretty soon, you would also wish for this flexibility to appear in other games.

The legendary swordsmen of the Shinsengumi are the protagonists of Yakuza Ishin.

The legendary swordsmen of the Shinsengumi are the protagonists of Yakuza Ishin.

7. It’s an Introduction to One of Japan’s Most Tumultuous Historical Periods

I emphasize the word “introduction” here. While many famous Japanese historical characters and events appear in the game, history is retold in a very different way. In other words, the game’s version of things is not something to cite in a history assignment.

That said, Yakuza Ishin is still an effective introduction to Japan’s bloody Meiji Restoration yearsAs in, it is likely to pique your interest in reading about the era.

Curious to know what led to Japan’s rapid modernization in the 19th century? What price did the Land of the Rising Sun paid to become Asia’s first industrialized nation?

This game provides emphatic albeit indirect answers. After playing it, you might even become a Meiji Restoration history buff. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly able to name key historical characters at any time.

Resources and Further Reading

  1. Detailed Walkthrough
    KHHsubs’ walkthrough is hands-down, the most detailed one.
  2. Japan’s Enduring Admiration for the Shinsengumi
    Why is the Shinsengumi so often romanticized in Anime and Japanese video games?
  3. Visiting Kyoto, the Yakuza Ishin Way
    My fanboy visit of Kyoto after playing the game.



© 2018 Ced Yong

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