Ishin’s Feudal Japan Has Modern Characters

Ishin’s Feudal Japan Has Modern Characters

Like a Dragon: Ishin! recasts characters from the series in the roles of figures from feudal Japan, but it has good reason to reuse its designs.

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Like a Dragon: Ishin! is one of the more eclectic games in the Like a Dragon series, thanks to it featuring feudal-era versions of various characters from the series. After its surprise announcement, the game will finally be leaving Japan for the first time. This samurai-flavored entry looks to bring a different kind of experience to players while using some familiar faces.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! was originally released in 2014, but never received a release outside of Japan. It follows the story of real-life historical figure Ryoma Sakamoto, who is portrayed in-game with the appearance of Kazuma Kiryu. Fitting the setting of feudal Japan, the game adds swordplay and other lethal fighting styles to the series’ signature fisticuffs. A Like a Dragon: Ishin! trailer confirmed the upcoming remake, which will include new features and characters that weren’t in the original, providing a new and improved version of the game for its international release.


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The first thing that will likely draw the eyes of most fans is the resemblance that many characters bear to figures from the Yakuza series. Ryoma’s resemblance to Kiryu has already been noted, but he is far from the only one. For example, the Shinsengumi captain Soji Okita is portrayed by Goro Majima, the wild, knife-wielding deuteragonist of the main series. Although their names may not resemble the characters playing their roles, the resemblances are impossible to ignore for fans of the series. Although Judgment inherited Yakuza‘s action gameplay, Ishin! brings its own flavor to the formula of the long-running franchise.

Like A Dragon: Ishin! Uses Many Faces From Games Past

As for why Ishin! is using the appearances of past characters in the series, there are a couple of solid reasons why. For one, the resemblances to past Yakuza characters helps to tie Ishin! to the series, despite its status as a spin-off. The remake actually goes a step further than before by incorporating the likenesses of characters who didn’t exist at the time of the original release, such as Shibusawa from Yakuza 0 and Adachi from Yakuza: Like a Dragon. These familiar faces can help to ease fans into the new story, similar to how Kiryu’s return in Yakuza: Like a Dragon helped to draw old fans to check out that game’s new gameplay style.

Another reason for using characters from the series to portray the cast of Ishin! is to implicitly tie them to the characters they are portraying. This works for the purpose of reflecting the original as well as coloring the player’s perception of said character. For example, Shintaro Nakaoka is portrayed by detective Makoto Date, letting the player know what to expect from him. This narrative trick can be used to clue the audience in to a character’s nature, but it can also be used to play against the audience’s expectations, similar to Volo’s role in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, which was quite different from that of his implied ancestor Cynthia.

By using the likenesses of the series’ well-known characters, Ishin! is able to bridge the gap to bring fans into an entirely new kind of story. It can be a useful strategy when trying something new for a series, and it’s especially a draw for existing fans. When Like a Dragon: Ishin! is released in 2023, players will get to see just how these characters stack up to their counterparts.

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