Yakuza fans have it pretty good right now. As a Dragon 8 and a Kiryu spinoff were just announced, but most importantly, Ishin isn’t just getting a localization, but a full remake and worldwide release.
For non-Yakuza fans, this seems a bit confusing. Why are we so excited about an eight-year-old PS3/4 game being playable in English?
To explain, we have to go back to the Yakuza series as a whole.
By the time of Ishin’s original release in 2014, the main numbered series had reached Yakuza 5, but only in Japan. There had also been a few spin-offs, including Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan! (also a Japan-only release) and Dead Souls.
Until now, the Yakuza series had always fared better in Japan than in the West. By the time Yakuza 3 was released in Japan in 2009, western localizations were already canceled due to low demand and even weaker results.
In 2014, a Yakuza samurai spin-off was never going to see the light of day outside of Japan. The general public that would have warranted a localization just wasn’t there. Devoted fans who wanted to play Ishin would have to rely on importing the game or finding a ROM online.
Even Yakuza 5, which was released in 2012 in Japan, wouldn’t be available worldwide until December 2015. There were no plans to localize it at launch, and many Western fans were worried that Yakuza 5 would be the last one they would see the series. At this point, Yakuza 0, the prequel that explored the backstory of series protagonists Kiryu and Majima, had already been released in Japan, and a Western release wasn’t announced until July 2016.
But Yakuza 0 propelled the series to the forefront of Western gaming. Hotly followed by Yakukza 6 and the reimaginings of the first game in the series in Kiwami and Kiwami 2, suddenly Yakuza had a western presence.
Longtime fans who had wanted to play Ishin since 2014 had been hoping for years that Ishin would get a Kiwami-style makeover, or even just an official localization. New fans (like me) also wanted to see Ishin. After the success of Ghost of Tsushima, a Yakuza game set in feudal Japan seems to have the potential to sell very well.
The Yakuza series was so close to being forgotten outside of Japan, and now we have Sega and RGG Studio committed to making all games accessible to fans. Not only are they bringing older games to current-gen consoles, like with the Yakuza Remastered Collection, but they’re making sure the Japanese-only releases receive the same fan love as well. This is something we could only dream of until today.
And now our prayers have been heard. It’s been a long time for Yakuza fans, but we’ve made it. There really is an Ishin remake. We can’t talk about Ishin anymore, so… Kenzan next?