September was a great month for Yakuza news with several exciting reveals in RGG Studio’s annual live-streamed game announcements. I am a relatively new Yakuza fan, having started Yakuza 0 last May. Ever since then it’s been full steam ahead, and it took me just over a year to complete all eight mainline games. I didn’t stop there – I continued right along with the spin-off Judgement games which take place in the same Yakuza universe, but focus on detective-work and solving crime instead of actually being the crime. For the first time since last year, I had no idea what would be next for the franchise. I must wait, like all the other fans, instead of living the same on-demand, binging lifestyle I’ve been enjoying. It seems I won’t have to wait for long, however…
Like a Dragon 8
Before I go much further, I should mention something pretty small but also kind of important at the same time. Moving forward RGG will be titling all of their games as “Like a Dragon” instead of “Yakuza,” the titles given to the western releases of the series. RGG Studio, or Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, translates to “Like a Dragon” in Japanese and all of their games are titled as such in Japan. We could see a hint of this change with the latest entry to the series – Yakuza: Like a Dragon – which is also commonly referred to as Yakuza 7. These changes will only impact the title of the series, and might further reflect that, as of Yakuza 7, the two major Yakuza organizations – the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance – were disbanded. There could be other reasons, such as Japan not wanting to continue to romanticize organized crime. I, however, will probably continue to refer to them as “Yakuza” for simplicity.
Anyways, the teaser trailer released during the Summit was short but surprising. The scene opens with a view from the immediately recognizable entrance to Tenkaichi Street in Kamurocho, with the lit-up archway in full view. We can see Ichiban’s silhouette slowing walking towards the entrance, meanwhile we can hear the voices of those Ichi encountered in the last game, those he will meet in Yakuza 8, or both. He’s joined by the silhouette of a second man who is revealed to be Kiryu sporting a new haircut. This raises several questions about Kiryu since the supposed end to his story was in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Yakuza 8 will be the second game since 6 that Kiryu has appeared in. Although we don’t know his role, there are rumors that we will once again be playing as Kiryu as well as Ichi. I’m excited to see Kiryu again, especially since Yakuza 6 was not a satisfying ending for me, and left much to be desired. Kiryu can never truly be “gone” unless killed off, he’s too integral to the world of Yakuza. We also get clues that point towards Kiryu having trouble with the organization he made the agreement with on faking his own death – he mentions “The Fixer” who might be some kind of handler for Kiryu. All I know is that a story revolving around two old men with questionable hair choices sounds like a good time to me.
Like a Dragon: Ishin!
This game was heavily rumored to be announced, but it seems like longtime fans received even better news than they hoped for. Ishin is one of three Yakuza spin-off titles that never got localized in the West due to the series’ low popularity at the time. Not only is this game getting a localization, but a remaster as well! Another pleasant surprise is that RGG is updating some of the characters in Ishin with more recent favorites from Yakuza 7 – allow me to explain…
Ishin is a Samurai action spin-off game set in the Yakuza universe which takes place in 1860s Japan during the Bakumatsu era and the end of the Edo period, a prosperous time for Japan. Since this game takes place way before modern day dragon Kiryu punches his first thug, the series has some fun with its main characters. Many characters from across the Yakuza series make an appearance in Ishin, as well as the other spin-offs not released outside of Japan. For example, the main character is Kiryu in all but name. I don’t know what to expect with this game, other than it involves Samurai and katanas and looks like it’ll be a lot of fun to play. The Yakuza series is also known for its great attention to story, so I’m sure this one will be no exception.
Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Perhaps the most mysterious and unexpected game on this list, this one focuses on… Kiryu?! We sure are about to get a lot of new content centered around a guy who was supposed to have made his departure a couple games ago… Not that I’m complaining! This game serves as an interlude between Yakuza 6 and 7, and will give us some answers about what happens to Kiryu after he fakes his own death and agrees to go deep under cover. From the trailer, it seems like he’s being controlled by a person or organization which has not yet been revealed. Is his being forced to carry out orders, under threats of harming his family? Is this part of the agreement he made at the end of 6? Is this his idea of a retirement plan? I’m not sure, but this short(er) game will help fill in the gaps. I can’t help but smile whenever I see Kiryu, he’s always been my favorite and I’m glad he’s back – for now. My hope with this game and Yakuza 8 will be that he gets the ending and send-off that he’s earned.
Judgement & Lost Judgement PC Ports
Lastly, both Judgement games have been ported to PC! These games are spin-offs to the main series but amazing in their own right. They focus on solving murder mysteries and show the darker, dirtier side of the Yakuza. Where the main series paints the Yakuza in a more positive light, because Kiryu is always trying his best to set an honorable example, Judgement peers into the shadows to glimpse reality. Kiryu may be an honorable man but he doesn’t represent an entire organization, and, also, Kiryu really wasn’t a Yakuza for very long.
I just played these games on console, but I’m looking forward to buying them again to encourage RGG’s excellent decision.