Yakuza is a name that has become widely known in Western countries such as the United States, but in Japan it was traditionally called “Ryu ga Gotoku”, which means “like a dragon”. Now, with the announcement of three new His Like a Dragon games, the Yakuza name seems to have been dropped entirely.
In a recent roundtable interview attended by IGN, RGG Studio boss Masayoshi Yokoyama spoke about moving away from the Yakuza moniker, explaining that the move was essentially put to the test in Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
“of [Yakuza 7], it was Yakuza: Like a Dragon, so when you suddenly release this game out of nowhere with no Yakuza in it, people are like, “What is this game?” “The response to the Like a Dragon name was pretty good, and it gave me the confidence to take out ‘Yakuza’ and go straight with Like a Dragon,” Yokoyama said.
Asked if there was a thematic reason behind the change, Yokoyama replied that the name doesn’t make much sense in a game like Ishin, which is set in the 19th century.
“[S]In general, we’re talking about the underworld, but we’re not talking about the yakuza,” Yokoyama said. “So it makes sense not to include them in the name. Yakuza: Ishin! Not Yakuza: Ishin! That’s not what it is. Thor Like a Dragon: Ishin! makes more sense.”
The Yakuza name is a holdover from when the PS2 version of the series first arrived in the US. Billed as “GTA in Japan”. It was a flop at first, but later became popular thanks to Yakuza 0. For many fans, the Yakuza name has long ceased to be relevant, but it stuck well enough that it managed to stick.
The name change also coincides with the dawn of a new era for RGG Studio. Recently, Toshihiro Nagoshi and several senior his leaders retired. Now fully in charge of Yokoyama, his RGG Studio is preparing to release his three new games in the series. Among them is Like a Dragon 8 and a spin-off titled Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which focuses on Kazuma Kiryu. In addition to the name change, RGG Studio is also looking into the possibility of moving the series to his Unreal Engine 5.
The next game in the series is Like a Dragon: Ishin, a samurai-themed remake of the spin-off set 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.