Depending on which title you started with, Like a Dragon: Ishin! will either feel like a return to the original Like a Dragon (formerly known as Yakuza) gameplay style, or completely new. This remake was never released in the West, but has finally been given a worldwide release. While very different in setting from every other game in the series, Like a Dragon: Ishin! keeps the brawler-style of combat, along with different fighting styles to swap between and upgrade. This skill tree and upgrade system is a bit more complex than some other action RPGs out there. Before you get swept up in protagonist Ryoma’s tale of class, politics, and blood, make sure you understand the basics of combat in Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Ryoma, just like Kiryu in every Like a Dragon game (except for 7), will have four distinct combat styles. Set in the 1800s as opposed to more modern times like the other games, Like a Dragon: Ishin! features very different options from normal. These include stances like Brawler (hand-to-hand focused) Swordsman utilizes a katana), Gunman (gives you a pistol), and Wild Dancer (where Ryoma will wield his sword in one hand and handgun in the other). Each style has strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own individual skill tree that you can invest in.
When you go into your skills menu, each stance will have its own skill tree that is represented by a circle with a series of nodes on a path. Each node represents some sort of buff, either in the form of a new skill or combo for that stance or a stat buff for Ryoma. Skills require you to unlock all others leading up to it in order to get to the better, later ones located around the edges of the circle, and there are many branches and locked skills along the way as well.
The concept of the skill trees is simple enough, however, Like a Dragon Ishin adds a layer of complexity by using two forms of skill orbs to unlock new skills. These are Training orbs and class-specific Soul orbs.
Training orbs are the ones you will unlock first and most often. These are gray in color and can be used to unlock any available skill for any of the four stances. You earn these by leveling up Ryoma’s overall level.
Soul orbs are color-coded based on which skill they can be applied to. Wild Dancer orbs, for example, are green and can only be used to unlock skills for that specific style. You earn Soul orbs by fighting using that combat style; you will earn Swordsman orbs the more you fight in that stance.
Aside from Training orbs being more versatile, the main thing you want to remember is that Training orbs can be reused, but Soul orbs cannot. If you invest a Training orb in the first two slots of any style, then earn two Soul orbs for that style, you can replace the Training orbs with Soul orbs so that you can reinvest those Training orbs either further up in that tree, or use them in on a completely different skill tree. You should constantly be swapping out your Training orbs to make the most of your available orbs.
Finally, you will notice a few slots on each skill tree that are marked with a lock symbol. These can’t be acquired simply by filling in the slots leading up to them like any other skill. Instead, these special skills have to be learned by completing different training events at specific locations in Like a Dragon: Ishin! Once you reach chapter 3 in the game, these dojos will become available to visit and you can complete a small challenge to unlock the ability.
Keep in mind that just completing the training won’t actually award you with that skill. You still need to reach and slot either a Training or Soul orb into it to actually acquire and use it.
Now that you’re trained in all the nuances of how skills work, let’s look at some of the best skills you should focus on getting first in Like a Drago: Ishin! for each style. All stat boosts are great and apply to Ryoma no matter what style you use, so we’ll focus mainly on skills that give you new moves in combat.
Best Brawler skills
Komaki Dharma Tumbler: This tactical roll is far better at getting you out of danger than the standard dodge.
Knowledge of Fortitude: It’s just a fact that you’re going to get hit and knocked down eventually. By default, you’re stuck on the ground and immobile for a frustrating amount of time. This skill drastically shortens that time so you can get back on the offensive.
Best Swordsman skills
Knowledge of the Odachi: This skill lets Ryoma equip the insanely powerful Odachi weapon you otherwise wouldn’t be able to wield. It is slower, but has a brand new set of moves.
Mugenbo Knowledge: Normally when your guard is broken, you’re left wide open to damage. If you have this skill, you can immediately put your guard back up and block any incoming attacks.
Best Gunman skills
Enhance Rapid Fire Rate: It sounds backwards, but your gun normally deals less damage at range than close-up. This skill compensates for that by raising your rate of fire.
Essence of Finishing Shots: This is a heat move that lets you deal massive damage to downed enemies, even from a distance.
Best Wild Dancer skills
Typhoon of Steel and Fire: This move would be worth it just based on the name alone, but the skill actually lives up to its promise. Spinning your thumbstick will let Ryoma unleash a flurry of slashes and bullets as long as you have some heat.
Splendid Skill: Moonlit Sake: It’s a bit more technical, but if you can pull off consistent dodges, then you’ll want this skill. It gives you the ability to follow any successful dodge with a quick strike.
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