During gamescom, the Yakuza Remastered Collection was finally announced for the West; a digital bundle including Yakuza 3, 4 and 5, with the third entry releasing on the same day. Shortly after the announcement, we also had a chance to sit down with series producer Daisuke Sato to discuss this long-awaited collection, and what to expect from RGG Studio.
There was quite a bit of controversy with the Western release of Yakuza 3 when people found out content had been cut like hostess clubs and other mini-games. How does it feel to be able to re-release the game in its original form?
So back when the PS3 version was released, there was a lot of concern about games like Mahjong or Shoji that are not so popular in Europe. In the end, we decided to cut it because we thought European players won't be able to enjoy these games because they don't know the rules as well. But after release, a lot of people complained content had been cut [laughs]. So we made the decision that this time we should put all the content in, and we added a small tutorial to make sure that everybody can enjoy it.
Of course, simply put, cutting something out is more work than just releasing it. From that point of view, I'm very happy that I can just release the whole game to the Western market.
The PS4 remasters seem to have taken their time (the Yakuza 3 remaster released in Japan in August 2018) - was there a reason for the long wait or did it seem like a better idea to release Yakuza 3, 4, and 5 as a bundle?
Bringing Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 to the PS4 was a project that originally started for the Asian countries, because Yakuza 1-5 were never localised for the Asian countries. So the first localisation for Asian countries was actually Yakuza 0 - then it was Kiwami, 6, and Kiwami 2. So the Asian countries only had these titles localised. So the biggest priority was to release a version that's localised for Asian countries so that they can have the whole storyline, while in European countries, localised versions of 1 to 6 were already available.
So the main focus was to do the Asian localisation, while of course the Japan remaster was also a top priority. Then we thought we would also want to release it in the Western territories. There were some parts that were cut out like in Yakuza 3 that needed new localisation anyway. And while we were considering to localise these parts, we also decided to rework the whole localisation with the Atlus team, which took time. So, at this stage, we figured releasing the same time in Asia, Japan, and Western countries would not be possible. Due to this delay that would take longer due to better quality localisation, the decision was made to do a kind of box set for the European countries.
The Yakuza Remastered Collection essentially brings the entire Kiryu saga onto PS4. However, after over a decade, Kiryu casts a long shadow over the series. So are you concerned with how fans will respond to a new protagonist or a new direction the series will be taking next? [Note: this interview was taken before the official announcement of Yakuza 7]
Of course, I'm pretty worried about it [laughs]. I'm very worried about how people will react to new main character because Kiryu Kazuma has been established as the main character for so long, and he's very loved by the fans. And of course switching this is kind of risky. And so I'm worried not only about the new main character but also other new changes in the game.
On one side I'm concerned how hardcore fans will react to these changes. But on the other hand, there's a certain merit on changing the main character because if you keep on numbering a game, it kind of makes it hard for new fans or players to get into the game because they're like, ‘okay, I missed the first whole part, it doesn't make sense to go in now’, or ‘will I get the story at all?’ So with a new story, a new main character in a new series, there's a new chance to re-enter the brand at a fresh point with a fresh perspective, and get to know the whole series from a new starting point.
Of course, I'm very concerned about existing fans, but I'm doing everything I can, and I'm very confident that the new characters will also be as much loved by the community as Kiryu.
That said, we’re not completely done with the Kiryu saga as there’s still a couple spin-offs that were never localised for the West. Given the resurgent popularity of Japanese-themed games like Nioh, Sekiro, and Ghost of Tsushima, are there any considerations of localising the Kenzan and Ishin samurai spin-offs?
Personally, I would love to do that, because I mean, we are in a world where samurai or ninja are very popular, and very accepted in the Western world. But there's another hurdle because Ishin and Kenzan are based on real Japanese historical events. So the question is that there's this Japanese history and on top there's this slight fictional storyline in the games, and we really have to consider whether someone who doesn't know the history behind it is able to enjoy the complex storyline that's been put into this fictional layer of Japanese history. So that's something that has to be reconsidered again and we’ve discussed it - but we can't comment on whether it's coming or not.
Of course, RGG Studio has also developed other games besides Yakuza including Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, and Binary Domain, which you directed. Could we expect a remaster of Binary Domain in the future?
I would really love to do that. But Binary Domain wasn't as successful in sales, so every time I say Binary Domain, corporate is like ‘shush, shush!’ [laughs]. As a game creator, Binary Domain is like the biggest game that I made, so I would really like to like bring it back again as a remaster and see if it works.