Review: Yakuza Ishin (Import) AKA Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin

Sakamoto Ryoma is living undercover, with a false identity, as “Saito Hajime” in Kyoto. One year earlier, on the eve of the coup d’état of Tosa, Ryoma’s foster father, the man who raised him, was murdered before his eyes. The only lead he had to discover who the killer was is that he used the Tennen Rishin style of fighting. This is a style used by the Shinsengumi, so Ryoma infiltrates their ranks, becoming captain of the 3rd Shinsengumi unit, in attempt to find the killer.


  • Graphics are awesome, A huge step up not only in scenery and detail, but in facial expression and movement. In the past Yakuza games have had very stiff facial movements, This iteration improves it and then some as it runs the whole game at 60fps. The draw distance and lighting in particular is exceptional.
  • Loading times are less frequent and when you do get loading it is on the whole a lot quicker than before.
  • Combat is easier and feels more fluid, No awkward pauses as you switch your moves up. Locking onto people is simple and you dont even realise you are doing it half the time.
  • Veterans will appreciate the fact that its still the same controller/menu outlay. A few new additions but the core options remain in tact and where you would expect them. Only difference with the pad is the obvious one in which X is O and vice cersa.
  • You get a lot of sign posting in the game with a big pink circle on your mini map with a guide arrow to point you in the right direction. Only a few times in the whole game will you not have the arrow but for everything else you are in good hands.
  • Fast travel between areas is back. Jump between areas by visiting a guy and his boat who is marked on your mini map.
  • Uses the Dualshock 4 pad in interesting ways. Most  noticable is how the light on the pad changes colour and flashes when you pick items up and when you are fighting. You will get an orange flash and a little noise to alert you to danger and pick ups nearby. You can use the touch pad to bring up and navigate the map.
  • You have four fighting styles this time round, You can have just a sword, just a gun, a gun and sword or bare fist. At any point you can change your load out to include different weapons. Swapping between loadouts is quick and simple, It uses the d pad directions for each one.
  • Big huge open world playground, More areas unlock as you progress through the main game, But you are not forced into doing the story unless you want to.
  • Mini games are back and a lot of them will be familiar to returning players,albeit with a new Ishin overlay. A few games you can expect to find and play are:
    • Karaoke-Parrapa the rapper style hit the buttons in time, pad smahingly difficult rhythm game. Hear Kaz sing along to popular Japanese songs and laugh as the crowd cheer or boo him on.
    • Fishing-Find new fishing spots from the basic harbour side to a fishing boat out in the wild ocean. Fish for lobsters or go for the mother load, Sharks.
    • Cannonball derby- A twist on the baseball mini game in Yakuza games, Simply return the canon ball to score points.
    • Mahjong-Popular game and one I still have no idea to play.
    • Chopping wood-chop wood as fast as you can and eran dharma, xp and money.
    • There are a few more but I dont want to spoil all of them.
  • Earn xp and level up. Everytime you level up you can choose one of 4 upgrade paths to upgrade. Each colour represents a different fight style to correspond with you d pad selection/weapon layout. Earning specific colours like a red orb or green orb are awarded as style points, Style points are basically like level up tokens for using a certain weapon x amount of time. Use just a sword for extended periods of time and you will get a load of style points to increase your sword skills. Here you will also increase health and unlock new heat moves.
  • Heat moves are back and there are so many, With 4 different weapon loudouts to choose from you are spoilt for choice. Thats not including environmental heat moves, Throwing someone into the river being a particular favourite.
  • Dharma, Or as we would call it Karma. Do good deeds for people and pray regularly at save pints will give you dharma points. Take these points to a Dharma altar (marked on your map) and exchange them for new abilities like increase your stamina,increase your pouch size etc. Here you can also upgrade your farm like size and crop efficiency and you can even buy better fishing equipment. Another way to earn Dharma is through the list of tasks you unlock. These are tasks like defeat x amount of people in random battle or pray x amounts of time. There is loads of them and you will soon be racking up bonus Dharma for finishing them. They are usually tiered so you can continue to rack up Dharma.
  • Save points are not only a save and prayer place, Here you can also manage your items and transfer them between storage and what you carry. Save points are everywhere and very common.
  • Pots lying on the side of the road/path can be searched for new items, usually containing health items, its worth checking.
  • New friendship mechanic, Mostly used for Dharma points, Doing taks for an individual person or animal will increase your friendship bar. Once complete you will get bonus Dharma,xp and cash. If you make friends with animals then they will live on your farm.
  • You unlock a farm in which you plant and harvest plants. Its like its own little mini game where you try and get decent crops so you can sell/use them. Unlock new things like a chicken farm or a birds nest to further expand your crop.
  • You can visit a blacksmith and craft/upgrade your weapons. To do this you must collect certain items like metals,wheels,and many others. Both options trigger a little mini game where you must press the button on a rotating upgrade wheel. A bronze, silver and gold icon will inform you of how well you have made/upgraded your item.
  • Random events in the street still happen and can still be avoided if you wish. Along with the usual street fights, you may get involved in shake downs,rescue missions or even feeding stray animals. It has a lot more variety and events occur more often.
  • Battle dungeons and arenas are a new addition, Away from the main game, Its a place where you go to do a set objective like defeat x amount of people in a set time or in case of the dungeon, You must navigate through a maze of enemies and defeat the boss at the end. You use soldier cards to level up new soldiers and using one in game will have an effect on you. Whether it be a health boost or a momentary attack boost. Leveling up soldier cards will not only increase the boosts effectiveness but also unlock rarer skills and cards.
  • Soundtrack is brilliant through out, The opening track by OK One Gang being a particular highlight.
  • Full Platinum trophy.
  • Vita app is a companion app that allows you to tend to your farm, do battle dungeons and play some of the mini games. All progress will carry over between consoles and is a good way to earn some extra xp.
  • Main Story will take on average 20-30 hours and then you have at least double that in side missions so the content is defiantly there.


  • Facial animations whilst massively improved, Do still look a bit wooden in certain cut scenes, more so in the animated FMV cut scenes.
  • Fight animations are a bit broken, things like doing a ground heat move on a guy who is clearly stood up and running away being the main one.
  • You cannot stream on Twitch or take screenshots until you have finished the game and are doing one of the premium modes.
  • Save screen still suffers from the trademark Yakuza double screen. By this I mean it saves then says complete then does it again. Almost like its saving then loading.
  • Still does a lot of jumping between FMV scenes to clickable cutscenes. You would of thought this would be different on next gen.
  • QTE prompts are displayed and the window for action is so small you land up missing it half the time.
  • Language barrier obviously.
  • A lot of back tracking in the game, You will notice the more you play the more you must trek back and forth across town for just a simple cut scene.
  • You will fight either the same boss a few times or after a while you notice all bosses have a similar fight style, Thus feeling like your fighting a previous boss but with just a different appearance.
  • Last section of the game is a bit of a slog as you just trek all over the map for the smallest of interaction with people.
  • End of game boss is a dick, No other way of putting it. Cheap with some skanky moves, Dick is appropriate.

In Summary, Should someone who cannot read a word of Japanese import this game? In short YES. For you may not know what they are saying, but the gameplay is the same as any other Yakuza you have played. If this is your first time you can still get through it ok. But its the action and body movement that really tell the story and you can easily identify what is going on. Yes the menus will be hard to navigate and upgrading will be a nightmare but this is where you are in luck. For over at KHHSubs the team there have translated every menu in game and are always updating it. They are slowly going through a full translation for the main story so you can in essence read along to the events. Its the only website you need in order to get everything out of this game. The game itself is a huge step up but still needs a bit more next gen shoved in there to really propel it higher. At the moment it is a nicer looking Yakuza game set in a brilliant time period with some really cool new ideas. You can still interact with random people, eat at restaurants and enter shops. But it needs more, bigger areas and more variety again in many areas. I personally couldn’t stop playing it once I started it and that has always been the case with Yakuza games. After playing this I cannot wait to see Yakuza 6 (?) on PlayStation 4. Course we need Yakuza 5 localised first but eh whatever. Importing Yakuza Ishin can be done through your usual sources like eBay for your physical copy. Or you can go the digital route either buying it from Japan PSN store or from Honk Kong which works out cheaper than Japan. Codes for credit can be bought from any site but PlayAsia do instant codes. So in finishing, Forget the language barrier, this is a Yakuza game through and through and you will have so much fun playing it.


Yakuza Ishin is available to import for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The Vita app is free and only available on the Japanese and Hong Kong PSN stores. To use the Vita app you will need to play on your HK/JP account. The game can be played on your main USA/EU account but just with no Vita game support.


Jim Smale

Gaming since the Atari 2600, I enjoy the weirdness in games counting Densha De Go and RC De Go as my favourite titles of all time. I prefer gaming of old where buying games from a shop was a thing, Being social in person was a thing. Join me as I attempt to adapt to this new digital age!