During our time at the Tokyo Game Show 2023, we got a chance for an interview session with Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (RGG Studio) Head, Masayoshi Yokoyama, Chief Producer Hiroyuki Sakamoto, and Chief Director Ryosuke Horii about Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth and the return of Kazuma Kiryu.
This interview was edited for clarity.
Masayoshi Yokoyama is the Head of RGG Studio and is best known for his works on Yakuza 0, Yakuza 5, and countless other titles in the series as a writer.
Meanwhile, Hiroyuki Sakamoto is the Chief Producer at RGG Studio and has worked as a director for Yakuza, Yakuza Kiwami 1 & 2, as well as Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.
Ryosuke Horii is the Chief Director at RGG Studio and has been involved in the Yakuza series of games since its third installment. He directed 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon and is currently directing Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
We have seen Ichiban has taken the lead, but what caused the decision to go back to Kiryu? Was it part of the plan all along or did the community play a part in bringing Kiryu back?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: Actually, it wasn’t related to the community’s voices. We just want to develop a game that is exactly what we wanted and we want to do a story with Kiryu again. So, that’s it.
We have a code, actually, a motto that we want to develop and create things, that is exactly what we want to do.
After the release of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and how it seemingly feels like the end of Kazuma Kiryu’s story. It is pretty surreal how fans will be able to keep enjoying his adventure soon in not only one but in two games. How do the developers make sure that his presence in the story is still relevant while also making sure that he won’t overshadow Kasuga Ichiban, the new protagonist?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: Actually, in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, although we have announced the duo characters of Kiryu and Ichiban, the main character is still Kasuga Ichiban. So in the story, actually, Kiryu appears as a supporting character who is helping Ichiban and you can see that in our key visuals. Thus at the very top is actually Ichiban rather than Kiryu.
Kiryu will, of course, be really relevant to the story, but he will not take over the main character’s position as Ichiban.
Since Yakuza 0, this is another time we are having 2 main characters. How often do we switch between the 2 characters in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: Actually, about the switching between controlling Ichiban or Kiryu in the latest two titles; it’s not up to the player’s will to switch them, so it’s about how, it’s about the storytelling, and it’s about the plot, and if you have proceeded to a certain point of the plot, you can play either Kiryu or Ichiban.
One more important thing is that the game genre for Yakuza 0 is actually a battle-action game, but this time Infinite Wealth is a totally different game genre. Regarding the exploration of the city map, it’s almost the same that you can control the characters and walk into many places.
How do you balance the turn-based gameplay in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth while also adding the action style of Kiryu Kazama into the game?
Ryosuke Horii: Basically, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth will be mainly an RPG-style game, and we have tried for the first time ever, developing a game with the RPG style, starting with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. And so in this latest entry, we would like to make the style more interesting and make improvements.
Masayoshi Yokoyama: It’s actually kind of difficult to adjust the balance between the turn-based RPG and the action gameplay because if you increase too much of the action proportion, it may lose its taste for turn-based RPG and vice versa.
Within the design for Like a Dragon’s battle, we have a bit of a design based on enhancing the quality for turn-based RPG, and then since we have the character Kiryu joining the battle, we will also be adding the things from the action style into the whole fight. So designs have changed a lot and adjusted a lot within the 3 years of development.
Ryosuke Horii: To elaborate more on the actual questions about the balance and the ratio between the turn-based RPG and the action. Basically, again, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is mainly a turn-based RPG, but when you are doing the Ultimate Arts, we will have the QTE sections that you can do, and then, you can play the action part.
But actually, that’s the normal gameplay that we want to offer, and you may notice that in the Tokyo Game Show demo, the action part may feel quite long. It’s actually like a fan service to everybody who came to try the game up. But in the real game, from the very beginning, it is going to be mainly a turn-based RPG. But as you proceed with the game and learn your skills, the action time may be extended.
Image Credit: SEGA & RGG Studio
Minigames have always been kind of a staple for RGG Studio’s games, and the amount of effort put into them is just mind-blowing compared to many games on the market. Even with such a huge task as designing the core game itself, this is something that feels like it never ends up being scrapped. So, what was the process like to keep the side content fresh for each title while also maintaining good quantity?
Ryosuke Horii: Speaking in the conditions in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Well, we’re taking the stories in Hawaii this time, right? So, we have carefully chosen the minigames that need to be suitable to the culture and also the real-world setting of Hawaii and to think about the design of the new minigames.
And also because, for all of the titles in the Yakuza series, we actually based the story in the real world’s time, right? For example, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth will launch in 2024, so we’re setting a world that actually happens in 2024.
So, we’re actually sort of picking a really trendy thing from everybody’s ordinary sense and then giving it a really nice packaging and thinking carefully about how to merge those trendy things that people are actually experiencing every day into the games.
Speaking more about the entertainment side and minigames for Like a Dragon Gaiden, which one, in particular, is your favorite and the most fun to develop?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: My favorite minigame is actually the golf from Yakuza 3.
Hiroyuki Sakamoto: So my favorite is actually the Japanese-style card game, Hanafuda, because, in real life, it’s kind of complicated to play those cards, but in the game, we have altered the rules to make it more suitable for beginners.
Ryosuke Horii: Crazy Delivery, a new minigame in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. First, you may feel it’s quite hard, but after you become familiar with all of the mechanics, it will become really fun and interesting. Please remember to try the Crazy Delviery minigame in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
The Cabaret Club, in particular, is certainly getting a lot of attention from fans, especially with Kson participating. Would you like to share the story of how Kson got into Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: For Kson, we have auditions for the Club Girls for Gaiden. So she submitted her resume from the very beginning and we had a lot of rounds of selections, and after all, she won the Grand Prix.
There’s been such a drastic evolution in RPGs over the last decade. How was the learning experience that the dev team managed to gain, specifically in trying to appeal to Western fans?
Hiroyuki Sakamoto: For the part regarding appealing to the Western audience, of course, we have a focus as we have to do the localization. Regarding the game itself, we did not change much actually, and even within SEGA and from our EMEA and US teams, they just keep giving us feedback. You don’t need to change the game’s style at all, and that is the unique point that will be accepted by Western audiences.
That is actually the feedback we are receiving right now. Of course, we have the localization part, and we also have voiceovers in English. We have put effort into that.
Do you have any messages to share with Like a Dragon fans?
Masayoshi Yokoyama: So thanks everyone for their support, and continue to support and love RGG Studio and the Yakuza series. So this time we have 2 new titles, and especially for Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, we have confidence that we are going to deliver everybody a masterpiece of RGG Studio.
We will also bring everyone a really unique experience that only RGG Studio can provide, so please look forward to that. Also, the story of Gaiden is actually deeply connected with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Please play those 2 titles together to get a better experience. Thank you.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
We would like to thank Masayoshi Yokoyama, Hiroyuki Sakamoto, and Ryosuke Horii of RGG Studio for taking the time to answer our questions regarding Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth and the Yakuza series as a whole.
Previously, we also got a chance to interview both Masayoshi Yokoyama-san and Hiroyuki Sakamoto-san, where they mentioned that actor Tom Cruise is also welcome to be part of the Like a Dragon series, which you can read here.
Follow the story of Kasuga Ichiban and Kazuma Kiryu in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, slated to launch on 26 January 2024 for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Seris X|S, Xbox One, and Windows PC via Steam.