Yakuza: Like A Dragon Wasn’t Going To Be An RPG Until 11 Months Before Launch

Sega’s Yakuza series has been known for providing some of the best beat-em-up action around, but the latest entry is a bit different. Yakuza: Like a Dragon released last week and shifted the gameplay style from action combat to turn based RPG fighting. It’s a pretty stark change and many were puzzled why developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios would fiddle with something that worked so well.

In an interview with YouTuber Archipel, series producer Toshihiro Nagoshi revealed that Like a Dragon didn’t initially start life as an RPG. Pitched as yet another installment in the vein of its predecessors, an April Fool’s joke last year caused the team to switch gears after immense fan reception a mere 11 months before release. Many were pleasantly surprised at how well Yakuza looked as a traditional JRPG and the team simply went for it.

Nagoshi even remarks, “hurrying to make things is sort of a characteristic of the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.” For more than a decade now, the team has churned out an installment in the Yakuza series each year. While some are spin-offs or diversions (such as Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise), the studio is constantly working to perfect its formula and write new stories. It wasn’t such a huge task to change Like a Dragon at seemingly the last minute.

Shifting the mechanics to a different genre in such a short span is a tremendous task, even for a talented studio like Ryu Ga Gotoku. That it stuck the landing is sort of a happy miracle now that we know the background. I guess we can also stop making assumptions of how Sega wanted to appeal to Japanese gamers, too.

I’ve been saying it for over a year now, but Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios deserved this chance to do something different. While I fell in love with the Yakuza series because of its arcade roots, the developers are exceptionally talented people that deserve a chance to branch out. There’s nothing worse than stagnating in a creative field and I’m happy Like a Dragon exists to give us something unique.

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