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RGG Studio Boss Explains Why The Yakuza Series Has Been Retitled As A Dragon In The West

Yakuza is a name that has become well known in Western territories like the US, but in Japan it has traditionally been titled 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 for good.

In a recent roundtable interview attended by IGN, RGG Studio boss Masayoshi Yokoyama discussed moving away from the Yakuza moniker, explaining that the move was essentially tested with Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

“In [Yakuza 7], it was Yakuza: Like A Dragon, so we thought if we suddenly released this game out of the blue without Yakuza, people would be like, ‘What is this game? What’s going on with this?’… The response to Like A Dragon’s name seemed pretty good, so it gave us the confidence to take out ‘Yakuza’ and go ahead with Like A Dragon,” Yokoyama said.

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

“[S]Story-wise too, we’re talking about the criminal underworld, but we’re not talking about yakuza, really,” Yokoyama said. “So it makes sense that we don’t include them in the name. If we keep the accent, we would be Yakuza: Ishin! It’s not Yakuza: Ishin! It’s not about that. So like a dragon: Ishin! makes more sense.”

The name Yakuza is a holdover from when the PS2 version of the series first came to the US. Billed as “GTA in Japan”, it was initially a flop but then found popularity thanks to Yakuza 0. It was no longer relevant for a long time, but it was entrenched enough to stick around.

The name change coincides with the beginning of a new era for RGG Studio, which recently saw the departure of Toshihiro Nagoshi and several senior leaders. With Yokoyama now fully in charge, RGG Studio is preparing to release three new games in the series, including Like a Dragon 8 and a Kazuma Kiryu-focused spin-off 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 switching the series to Unreal Engine 5.

The next game to come out for the series is Like a Dragon: Ishin, a samurai-themed remake of the spin-off set in 19th-century Japan. You can read our full impressions of Like a Drago: Ishin here, with a release date set for February 2023.

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