Yakuza is a name that has become well-known in western territories like the U.S., 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 appears that the Yakuza name is being retired for good.
In a recent roundtable interview attended by IGN, RGG Studio boss Masayoshi Yokoyama discussed the move away from the Yakuza moniker, explaining that the move was essentially trialed with Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
“In [Yakuza 7], it was Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and so we figured if we release this game suddenly out of nowhere with no Yakuza in it, people would be like, ‘What's this game? What's going on with this?’… The response to the Like A Dragon name seemed pretty good, so it gave us the confidence to take out “Yakuza” and just go straight on with Like A Dragon,” Yokoyama said.
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]tory-wise too, we are talking about criminal underworld, but we're not talking about Yakuza, really,” Yokoyama said. “So it just makes sense for us not to include them in the name. If we carry through the accent, we'd be Yakuza: Ishin! It's not Yakuza: Ishin! That's not what it's about. So 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 U.S. Billed as “GTA in Japan,” it was initially a flop, but later found popularity thanks to Yakuza 0. To many fans, the Yakuza name had long ceased to be relevant, but it was entrenched enough that it managed to stick around.
The name change coincides with the dawn of a new era for RGG Studio as well, 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 shifting the series to Unreal Engine 5.
The next game due 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 the Like a Drago: Ishin here, with a release date set for February 2023.