Our Xbox Wire France team was fortunate to speak with Hiroyuki Sakamoto, the writer of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Masayoshi Yokoyama, producer, screenwriter and sound director of the game, who has been working on the series since its debut 15 years ago. This was a fantastic opportunity for our team to learn more about this latest chapter in the long-running franchise, which stands out from its predecessors while retaining the inimitable spirit that defines Yakuza, that we’re excited to share with you today.
Xbox Wire France: To get started, tell us about your experience developing Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X|S.
Hiroyuki Sakamoto: It was the first time we worked on these machines, but they have power close to high-end PCs, so I’d say it was hardware that was easy to develop on. The ultra-fast SSD allowed us to drastically reduce loading times, as we had expected. We were also able to simultaneously achieve resolutions and frames per second impossible to achieve on conventional consoles. I think these are the least stressful and most enjoyable machines we’ve had to work with.
XWF: How do you feel about the fact that your game is going to enjoy great visibility in France, since it’s one of the titles available at the launch of these new consoles?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: Given that we made this game in Japan, for a Japanese audience, I must admit that we don’t really realize yet that it has been released elsewhere. We’ve already released a game at the same time as a new console, but not globally, so it’s a first for us and we’re pretty excited about it. As far as France is concerned, I’ve heard that Takeshi Kitano’s movies, even the hardest ones, are very successful there, so I think culturally, a lot of people will be able to get into this kind of very Japanese work, so I can’t wait to see how the game will be received there!
XWF: This is the first time in 15 years that a Yakuza game has been translated into French. Any anecdotes?
H.S.: I must say that the team in charge of translating and adapting the game has worked hard to ensure that all the nuances are reflected in the final text. They even said that it was probably the best adaptation work they’ve ever done. I think the players can expect a high level of translation quality.
When did you become aware of the success of your games abroad?
H.S.: I think it was with the sales of Yakuza 0, which must have been the easy way to get into the universe. I really felt that it was from there that players felt they could try other titles in the series as well, and that the series gradually gained momentum.
XWF: Why is this new Yakuza no longer an action game?
M.Y.: Simply because we’ve changed heroes! When we created this new character and imagined his motivations, we also thought about how he would interact with his environment and his story. And since he’s acting in a band with companions, we looked at what would be the best game system to best serve our story, and we concluded that an RPG would be ideal. In our studio, we always choose our gameplay mechanics according to the story we want to tell.
XWF: How was this change perceived by your Japanese audience?
M.Y.: Very badly! At the time of the announcement, we had 90% red thumbs! However, afterwards, when we started to communicate about the content of the game, people ended up saying “Well, it’s not so bad after all…” Finally, when the game was released, we heard that it was the best idea of the game! As a creator that was the most satisfying moment! I managed to prove that my game was good, I even think it was the episode of the series that received the highest marks in Japan!
XWF: Why did you choose to show a somewhat “miserable” Japan, which we are not used to seeing in cultural works?
M.Y.: You know, we didn’t really think about it. We just wrote the story of a 42-year-old guy who comes out of prison and finds himself in a society with which he’s completely out of touch. We didn’t think that we were going to specifically denounce the social problems of real Japan, nor did we try to be provocative. We made these choices for purely scenarist reasons, for us it was the best option to show the character in amusing situations.
XWF: Why is the game called Yakuza: Like a Dragon in the West and not Yakuza 7, as in Japan?
M.Y.: You know, the Japanese title of the saga is “Ryu Ga Gotoku,” which means “like a dragon.” Fifteen years ago, we were told that if we translated the title directly, it wouldn’t be very classy… But today, water has flowed under the bridge and we took advantage of the change of main character to unify the title all over the world. Until now, we’ve never launched a game in the series simultaneously all over the world, but this time it’s all about having a global vision, and this title change also allows us to show that determination. We are now in a state of mind where we are making our games for the whole world and not just for Japan.
XWF: Are you happy to see different episodes of Yakuza arrive in Xbox Game Pass?
M.Y.: Business people would be interested in the number of copies sold first, but for us, the creators, what’s important is to have as many players as possible entertained by our games. When we get on Xbox Game Pass, we multiply the chances that people will discover them and that makes us happy.
Thanks to Masayoshi Yokohama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto for their answers, and to Grégoire Hellot, our interpreter, for this interview. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is now available on Xbox One, Windows 10 PC and as Xbox Series X|S next-generation console exclusive for a limited time.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon