If you somehow thought the Like a Dragon (formerly Yakuza) series wasn’t over-the-top enough already, a new addition to the upcoming remake of Like a Dragon: Ishin! might just turn the tables…or flip them. Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has revealed that wrestler Kenny Omega will be making a cameo appearance in Ishin as a summonable character to aid in battle, complete with a wondrous crossover of a move: One-Winged Angel. He’ll be joined by Midnight Mass star Rahul Kohli.
Omega and Kohli’s appearances will take the form of a “Trooper Card,” effectively a summon similar to the Poundmates used in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Trooper Cards are a feature new to the remake that allows players to summon other characters to aid them in battle with special abilities, attacks, or temporary stat boosts, and will include both celebrity cameos as well as visits from other characters across the Like a Dragon series.
Kohli’s Trooper Card is titled “Essence of Firestorm” and its in-game description reads as follows: “A chivalrous man who’s traveled through space, time, and reality to serve the Shinsengumi. Draws upon his experience in law enforcement to keep the peace.”
Meanwhile, Omega’s Trooper Card is called “Essence of the One-Winged Angel” and bears the description: “A strapping fighter who’s traveled through space, time, and reality to serve the Shinsengumi. It’s said that his elite skills can summon the stars themselves.” It’s a reference both to Final Fantasy 7 as well as Omega’s in-ring wrestling finisher, One-Winged Angel.
That said, wrestling fans shouldn’t expect it to look anything like his actual in-ring move, as he told IGN ahead of this announcement.
“It’s completely different,” Omega says. “It’s not a wrestling hold. It takes into account that we are heavily influenced by swordplay, magic, and gunplay. I thought it was a chance to do something a little different. As much as I do want, hopefully someday, to have some of my actual wrestling maneuvers in a game, for now I’m more than happy and thrilled to have a very unique and original attack that feels like it belongs in the universe.”
The AEW World Trios Champion is a known gamer and RPG fan, and has been a massive fan of the Like a Dragon series since he was a kid. He’s played every entry so far except for two: Kurohyō, a PSP game that was only released in Japan, and the original Ishin.
His favorite? Omega loves Yakuza: Like a Dragon because it’s an RPG, but he also wanted to shout out Yakuza 2.
“I feel like there’s a nostalgia factor, and I feel like that captured my imagination the most,” he says. “I knew so much about Tokyo and the sights and sounds, so to take the adventure to Osaka and then see just how quirky and cool and fun Osaka was without ever having a hope of going there. Yeah, it always has a special place in my heart.”
It was Omega’s love of the series that netted him the cameo, too. He was initially just helping out with advertisements for Ishin, but that opportunity eventually evolved into a Trooper Card. His appearance in a Like a Dragon game has been rumored since last fall, when Omega shared on Instagram that he had his likeness scanned into the engine. And the wrestler is clearly stoked, comparing his love of Like a Dragon to Yakuza: Like a Dragon protagonist Ichiban’s love of Dragon Quest.
The more time that goes by and the more installments we get, the more honed to our reality that the games become.
“That caught me off guard,” he says of the cameo. “Huge surprise. Very, very, very happy about that news. Looking very forward for people to get their hands on the card, and I’m happy to report that even if you’re not a wrestling fan, even if you’re not a Kenny Omega fan — I know, geez, wow, boy, would that ever be sad if you weren’t? — but if you’re not, totally understandable, because I’ve helped design a card that I think will be useful across the board, and just make your time in Ishin a little more fun and a little more overpowered.”
Omega isn’t just thrilled about his own inclusion in Ishin, but about what it means for the franchise. While past Like a Dragon games have had occasional cameos of popular Japanese celebrities and even wrestlers, his appearance coincides with ongoing growth in popularity for the series in the West. That means we might see more cameos from Western celebrities in Ishin or future games…and maybe even more of Omega.
“I do feel like the more time that goes by and the more installments we get, the more honed to our reality that the games become,” Omega says. “We’re starting to see more real-life people. More real-life restaurants, intellectual properties, landmarks. It’s getting to become very similar to the world that we live in, or at least the Japan that we have in our world.
“And who knows? Who knows where their travels will take them? Maybe they’ll end up somewhere else one day. But yeah, for now, the world is starting to feel more and more familiar, and also more and more relatable. So if there’s any sort of collaborative effort, I’m definitely throwing my name in the hat, and hopefully this will not be the end of Kenny Omega in the RGG universe.”
I close our conversation by asking Omega if he thinks he could take the protagonist of Like a Dragon: Ishin!, Ryoma, in a fight, and the champion is surprisingly humble…perhaps even a bit villainous?
“No, of course not,” he says. “I don’t know what kind of answer anyone was expecting. No, I’m just a showman. I’m a bad guy, too. I’m the guy that needs to get his butt whipped, I think.”
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is planned for release on February 21, 2023 for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.