I beat Like a Dragon: Ishin but I can't stop playing its supremely chill in-game farming sim
A lot of people still don't know there's a whole-entire farming sim tucked neatly into Like a Dragon: Ishin, and that upsets me dearly. Another Life, as it's called, whisks Ishin's duty-bound protag to a relaxing new setting and introduces a bunch of life-simmy mechanics that have little to do with the main campaign's story of implacable revenge. For someone like me, who harshly judges any RPG that doesn't at least offer fishing as a respite from the action, Another Life is a big selling point for Like a Dragon: Ishin and the main reason I'm still playing the game a month after beating it.
Another Life can be unlocked in chapter three, and opens up a pastoral countryside home you can travel to by boat from the docks in Kyo any time you like. Once there, you can farm fruits and vegetables, cook a long list of authentic Japanese dishes, adopt pets and upgrade their own adorable abodes, try your hand at interior design, and develop a relationship with Haruka, your new foster daughter. Truly, it might as well be its own game, with a depth comparable to Story of Seasons, if not Stardew Valley.
Like a Dragon: Ishin lets you dance, make Udon, and race chickens - I enjoyed every minute
The expandable farm, arguably the centerpiece of Another Life, can be used to plant and harvest a ton of fruits and vegetables, which can be sold or used in recipes. Fertilizer can be used to speed up this process, but unless you're in a rush it's not essential. You can also upgrade the farm to increase cultivation speed and boost your chances of a good yield, and install scarecrows to protect your crops. There's even a chicken coop you can use to procure eggs for dishes like True Grit Chirashi Sushi and Shrewd Castella.
My personal favorite Another Life pastime is cooking, which includes a joyful rhythm jaunt where you slice vegetables to a bouncy beat. The other cooking mechanics are a little more rudimentary, like button-mashing to blow into a furnace fire and flipping fish on time, but the food art is on point, looking every bit as delectable as the weirdly lifelike fake food often displayed outside restaurants in Japan. I've always been fascinated by Japanese cuisine, and I love reading Like a Dragon: Ishin's unnecessarily in-depth descriptions of each dish.
You can't take the bloodshed out of a Yakuza game
"The only warning I'd give to farming sim fans who might now be eyeing Another Life for their next fix is that it's still buried in an otherwise very bloody game."
The only warning I'd give to farming sim fans who might now be eyeing Another Life for their next fix is that it's still buried in an otherwise very bloody game. A lot of Another Life's mechanics require you to trade your sickle for a katana and venture out into the cruel world of feudal-era Japan.
For one, if you want to cook some seafood, you'll have to leave Another Life to catch or buy your own fish, at which point you could be interrupted by Tosa loyalists out for your head or, just as likely, some weirdo who wants to lure you into a bathhouse to steal your underwear. And so my point is: I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking Another Life can be enjoyed in isolation from Like a Dragon: Ishin.
Another example are the stray cats and dogs you have to first rescue from Kyo to bring back to your farm as pets. However, once you make the effort of completing various side quests, which are usually pretty quick and easy, you'll find pets are another highly rewarding feature of Another Life. There's a reciprocal relationship with your adorable cats and dogs where, if you upgrade their living quarters, they'll bring back even more and better goodies to use in the main campaign. But more importantly, the poor fellas are often in rough shape when you find them, so there's an emotional incentive to restoring their coats and giving them the best life you can.
There's a lot going on in Like a Dragon: Ishin, so I can't fault the discourse for too often ignoring the charms of its wonderfully fleshed-out farming sim. This is all just to say that, if you've so far assumed Another Life to be a shallow, half-baked diversion from the main plot, you've been sorely mistaken, and you're missing out. I can't recommend it to casual farming sim fans simply because of all the murdering you have to do before accessing the chill zone, but I will say my usually neat and tidy Animal Crossing island has been full of weeds since Like a Dragon: Ishin came out.
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