Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (RGG Studio), the developers of the long-running Yakuza series (now known in Western markets as Like A Dragon, and which continues to be known as the Ryu Ga Gotoku series in Japan) has shared some reasoning behind the somewhat confusing English name change for the series. Or at least, has insinuated it.
In a post on the RGG Studio Twitter account, director Masayoshi Yokoyama seemed to imply the studio decided on the series name change to create some kind of continuity for relatively new audiences, whose first introduction to the series was through the seventh game, Yakuza: Like A Dragon.
After seven mainline Yakuza games featuring Kazuma Kiryu as the primary protagonist, as well as a real-time action combat system, Yakuza: Like A Dragon introduced a brand new hero, Kasuga Ichiban, as well as a new turn-based combat system akin to traditional RPGs.
It seems as if the Western fanbase for the once-niche series grew significantly with Yakuza: Like A Dragon, which may have influenced the decision to change the series name entirely – kind of like a soft reboot.
Like A Dragon is also a direct translation of the Japanese name for the series, Ryu Ga Gotoku, and the change also coincided with a major change in leadership at the developer, with longtime series director Toshihiro Nagoshi leaving to form a new studio.
The game that followed Yakuza: Like a Dragon was a reboot of a side-story game set in Feudal Japan, that never originally released in the West. It was called Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Speaking specifically in regard to the upcoming eight game in the series, Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Yokoyama said that, ‘the reason for this change is because we determined the messages and themes of this latest game could be perceived differently by fans in Japan and Asia versus those in the West, who started the franchise with Yakuza: Like A Dragon.’
He then said that a subtitle wouldn’t be necessary for the Japanese market, reasoning that ‘one subtitle simply isn’t enough for Ryu Ga Gotoku 8 in Japan.’
‘Which character and which point of view in this complex, intertwined storyline do you think you’ll most closely relate to? Depending on which of the past titles you have played, your answer may change!’, seemingly referring to the game’s long popularity and recognition in Japan.
The game will simply be called Ryu Ga Gotoku 8 in its home market.
The Western version of the upcoming game is ‘subtitled for fans who started their Like a Dragon experience with Kasuga Ichiban’s Story. The concept of infinity is deeply tied to the themes of the latest instalment.’
Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth was first revealed as ‘Like a Dragon 8‘ at the RGG summit 2022, where it was revealed that both Kiryu and Ichiban would share the spotlight as dual protagonists, with Kiryu sporting an odd new hairstyle. It will supposedly be the largest game in the series to date.
A trailer revealing the game’s new title for Western markets was revealed at the 2023 Xbox Game Showcase, depicting a naked Ichiban washing ashore on an American beach, much to the dismay of its beachgoers. It’s speculated that the game could take place in Hawaii, given the strong Japanese representation in the US State.
Another side-story, Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is slated for release on 9 November 2023.
More information is due to be revealed at the 2023 RGG Summit, which takes place on 16 June 2023.
The first game in the Yakuza series was released on PlayStation 2 in 2005. It received an English audio dub featuring actors like Mark Hamil and Michael Madsen taking on key roles, and removed several culturally specific elements. While sequels continued to get released in the West, it wasn’t until Yakuza 0 that the series began capturing a broader audience, thanks to a 1980s setting that drew closer attention to the game’s mix of melodrama and absurdity.