Ishin is one of the most beloved spinoffs in Sega’s Yakuza franchise and is now available on PC as a remastered game. It’s a faithful recreation of the original, released over a decade ago (though the new engine is a good deal more modern).
The main story sees Ryoma Sakamoto / Saito Hajime returning home to Tosa after training in Edo to seek revenge for his adoptive father and sworn brother’s death. He reunites with his adoptive brother and soon finds himself embroiled in the tumultuous socio-political climate of Japan’s Bakumatsu period, as he enlists the services of the Shinsengumi police force in his quest for justice.
It’s a story filled with twists and turns, but Ishin also has a great sense of pacing that makes it enjoyable to play through even when the plot is stacked with complications. In short, Ishin is a fascinating look at how political fighting can change people’s identities and morals, as well as the way grifters exploit them to achieve their goals.
While a lot of these themes can get heavy and complex, Ishin’s cast is very familiar to Yakuza fans thanks to its use of the same character models and voice actors from the series. It feels a bit like an Assassin’s Creed with all of the familiar Yakuza characters playing historical figures and taking on the roles of real-life samurai.
Ishin’s combat is a little less weighty and over-the-top than the brawler-style combat we’ve come to expect from the series, but it still offers players an array of ways to tackle fights. Ishin’s four combat styles – Swordsmen, Brawler, Gunman, and Wild Dancer – are all surprisingly effective. The gunman style is particularly handy for dealing with larger crowds of enemies and works especially well against bosses, allowing players to easily chip away at their health bar.
Each of the four combat styles has its own distinct strengths, and it’s important to select the right ones when faced with a particular scenario. For example, Swordsmen and Gunman are incredibly effective in getting in close to melee foes and using their sword to tear them up, while Brawler is great for catching out the ronin in Kyo’s many locales and putting them down in a single hit.
A nice wrinkle for the game are Trooper Cards, which allow players to equip up to four cards that can be charged up through combat for various special attacks and boosts when used. They add a nice touch of depth and player agency over the experience, though they can be clunky to use on certain enemies.
As a result, Ishin’s combat isn’t as absorbing and rewarding to master as the weighty samurai brawlers in Yakuza games, but it does a good job of challenging players’ abilities to pick the right styles for the specific situation at hand. The gunman and swordsman styles are both extremely efficient at breaking up crowds of enemies, while the gunman style is also a strong choice for dealing with club-wielding brutes that can make it difficult to dodge.