RGG Studio boss explains why the Yakuza series was adapted as a dragon in the West

Yakuza is a name that has become well known in Western territories such as the United States, but in Japan it is traditionally called Ryu Ga Gotoku, which roughly translates to “Like a Dragon”. Now, with the announcement of three new Like a Dragon games, it looks like the Yakuza name is being retired.

In a recent roundtable interview featuring IGN, RGG Studio boss Masayoshi Yokoyama discussed dropping the Yakuza moniker, explaining that the move was essentially tested with the Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

“In [Yakuza 7], it’s Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and so we figured if we released this game all of a sudden without the Yakuza in it, people would ask, ‘What is this game? What is going on with this? ‘… The reaction to the name Like A Dragon seemed pretty good, so it gave us the confidence to get rid of “Yakuza” and just move on with Like A Dragon,” said Yokoyama.

When asked if there was a thematic reason behind this change, Yokoyama replied that the name doesn’t really make sense for games like Ishin, which are set in the 19th century.

“[S]Wisely, we’re talking about the criminal underworld, but we’re not talking about the Yakuza, really,” said Yokoyama. “So it makes sense for us not to include them in the names. If we change our voices, we’ll be Yakuza: Ishin! It’s not a Yakuza: Ishin! That’s not what it’s about. So Like A Dragon: Ishin! more meaningful.”

The name Yakuza is a holdover from when the PS2 version of the series first arrived in the U.S. Advertised as “GTA in Japan,” it initially flopped, but later became popular thanks to Yakuza 0. For many fans, the name Yakuza has long since fallen out of favor, but it’s managed enough to hold on.

The name change also coincides with the dawn of a new era for RGG Studio, which recently saw the departure of Toshihiro Nagoshi and several senior leaders. With Yokoyama now at full helm, RGG Studio is gearing up to release three new games in the series, including Like a Dragon 8 and a Kazuma Kiryu-focused spinoff titled Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. In addition to the name change, RGG Studio is also looking into the possibility of porting the series to Unreal Engine 5.

The next game to debut in the series is Like a Dragon: Ishin, a samurai-themed remake of the side story set in 19th century Japan. You can read ours. Full impressions of Like a Drago: Ishin here, with the release date set for February 2023.

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