2022 is a big year for the Like a Dragon series as the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio announced that it is bringing three new titles; Like A Dragon: Ishin, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, and Like A Dragon 8 to worldwide fans.
At Tokyo Game Show 2022, we had the opportunity to take part in an interview with the series producers Masayoshi Yokoyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto, who talk about the three recently announced titles, their production process as well as the studio’s future plan.
▍Like A Dragon: Ishin – A remake of a 2014 Japan-Exclusive Spin-Off Title
Q: Compare to the previous two remake titles, which are Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2, what is the difference when it comes to the production of Like A Dragon: Ishin?
Yokoyama: Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami focus more on the background story of Nishikiyama and Majima. Like A Dragon: Ishin has been upgraded with different content, such as side stories and mini-games. The battle system and character design have also been enhanced.
Q: What factors lead to your decision to remake Ishin, but not other titles from the Yakuza series?
Yokoyama: The original Ishin was released in Japan nine years ago (2014) and after that, we released a lot of new titles like Like A Dragon 6 and 7. But it was after the release of Like A Dragon Zero in 2017 when we aware that the series has been increasingly popular among the global audience. We know that a lot of international fans would have wanted to remake this title (Ishin), so that’s why we go along with it.
Before we announced the remake, not much attention has been put on Ishin. We are surprised that the game has regained global attention after the announcements.
Q: Like A Dragon: Ishin reimagined characters from the Yakuza series into members of the Shinsengumi police force and they all have different skills and abilities. Do you think that it is something that differentiates Ishin from other titles in the series?
Yokoyama: The original Ishin game was actually our first attempt to differentiate the characters into four different combat styles. In addition to this, the game is known to have a lot of RPG elements, such as ability enhancement, character growth, etc. The remake will enhance all these fans’ favorite elements while strengthening the combat system as a whole.
Q: Ishin features quite a lot of characters from the series, but we found that Ichiban Kasuga is not on the playable character list. As a fan, we would have wanted to see him in the Shinsengumi suit.
Yokoyama: We also hesitated about whether to bring Kasuga to the story. But as he shares the same voice actor with Okada Izō, which is a key character in the main story, so we decided to make Kasuga a member card.
Q: It must have been a busy year for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio with three new titles under the sleeves for the coming years. Are the three titles produced simultaneously? How is the studio manage to arrange such a tight schedule for development?
Yokoyama: The three games are produced separately. We only announced it once at a time to make us look like a super cool team (laugh). In fact, Ishin has been in progress for a long time, that’s why we have a demo at Tokyo Game Show 2022 for players to learn its charms before launch. We’ll gradually focus on Like a Dragon Gaiden and Like a Dragon 8 in the coming months.
▍A Series that Loved by Worldwide Players
Q: Like a Dragon has been increasingly popular worldwide in recent years. Does it affect how the development team portrays the game franchise in any way?
Yokoyama: I don’t think so. When it comes to game development, all we could think about is making an interesting game. We won’t cope with the tastes of the players from Japan or from other regions.
Q: The logo of Like A Dragon 8 is a bit different from the past games. Is there a particular purpose for such a design?
Yokoyama: We’ve always wanted to make a logo that would remind the series at a glance. We’ve even considered creating a character that is so impressive that the world would immediately know that it was us. Taking the logo of Like a Dragon 8 as an example, although the design is a bit different from those of the past games. We hope that it will leave the same impression as the essential of what the series represents. I guess the logo of 8 would have done a better job than 7 (laugh).
▍What the Studio Heads to in the Future…
Q: While Like a Dragon Gaiden tells Kiryu’s story between Yakuza 6 and 8, what makes you decide to create a standalone title for Kiryu, instead of putting his story in Like a Dragon 8?
Yokohama: Kiryu has a long history dating back from Yakuza 0 to 6 and he is also one of the key characters in Like a Dragon 8. It seems reasonable to tell his story alone If you want to know everything about him and his relationship to the main story.
Q: The RGG Summit is the first major presentation a year after the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio was revamped, what is the significance of the release of the three new titles for the studio?
Yokohama: I guess it offers the best opportunity for us to rebrand our studio. While we decided to revamp our studio last year, we’ve announced the production of Like a Dragon: Ishin. We could have announced the 8th installment, but we didn’t as we don’t have anything concrete back then. It only makes sense to announce a title when you have something for players to look forward to.
The revamp doesn’t really bring a lot of changes to the development team. We’ve always known how to work with each other. We know that fans were worried about the new system and the future of the series. And the three announcements well prove that the studio works just fine and we are working hard as usual.
Q: Last but not least, please give a message to worldwide fans.
Yokohama: We’ve been trying to release the game worldwide simultaneously so that global players will not feel that Japanese gamers always take the lead every time. Please stay tuned for more information on the Like a Dragon series.
Sakamoto: We are happy to announce that the series is getting three new titles with demos available at the Tokyo Game show 2022. We hope fans will continue to support our work and look forward to what we have to offer in Like A Dragon: Ishin, which will release in February next year.
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