Earlier today, SEGA announced the seventh installment of their flagship Yakuza series. This new game, featuring a completely different protagonist, is also a massive shift in direction for the franchise. Yakuza 7 will not be an action game like its predecessors, but instead a turn based RPG. Understandably, reactions to this change in direction have been mixed. Some fans are willing to give the developers the benefit of the doubt, while others are concerned that it has strayed too far from what makes the series good to begin with.
I am not very familiar with the Yakuza series, but I know someone who is. My friend, let’s call him “Joe”, is a very passionate fan. He is not only well versed in the Yakuza series, but plenty of other gaming related subjects as well. These include Visual Novels, Survival Horror, Point and Click Adventure and Action games. What draws me to him are his passionate opinions and insight into these varied subjects. So when I heard the news of Yakuza’s new direction, I knew I had to ask him about it.
DISCLAIMER: This conversation has been edited to correct grammar mistakes and other issues that could make it harder to read.
Alright, so why don’t you introduce yourself first. What’s your relationship with the Yakuza series? Like, how did you get into it and why? What was so appealing about it from the beginning and what has made you stick with it all this time?
Yo. I’m a local hack who really loves video games. My relationship with Yakuza has been both loving and messy at the same time, but I have no issues.
I love the series thanks to the cast, gameplay, and all the little details they add on each game. The dialogue, with constant callbacks that reward those who play since the start, including the samurai spin-offs, is like having a dedicated team building a series from their heart and referencing like that nostalgic thing you did years prior.
They keep experimenting and trying something just to see if it’s fun and lands. Zero was a complete overhaul to the combat and people consider it the peak of the series. Yakuza 6 was another big overhaul, experimenting with their new engine that allowed them to use as many physics as possible during combat, even if the result is much more slower than Zero. Yakuza 7 is not that different from what they usually do, but it is the most extreme approach yet.
What would you say to fans who prefer the original style of combat though?
The combat is not completely gone either way. Judge Eyes will carry on with it and the game already proved itself to be the best Dragon Engine game combat-wise. We know its going to continue because it was a surprise hit. A little off-topic, but I believe the JRPG take is a way to make it clear than this is a game about a new protagonist, not about Kiryu. Even if Yakuza 6 made Kiryu more sluggish than he was, but maybe that was just representing him getting old…
Something I noticed is that a lot of fans, both old and new, have voiced their disappointment with the new direction of the franchise. Some have even gone as far to say that it has gone stale. What’s your take on all this? Why do you think you’re more optimistic about this new direction? Or rather, why do you think people are disappointed by this change?
I don’t know what to say about that. If I was rushing through the main story and nothing else, then I would believe it got stale. But Yakuza is a sandbox with lots of interesting side activities to mix it from the combat. I guess if you’re into that jam and just want to kick n’ punch, I suppose there’s a point. I’m optimistic about 7 because I’ve been dissatisfied with the Dragon Engine combat outside of Judge Eyes. A different take with unique characters and gameplay makes me think it would be just like the very first game. If they follow the same philosophy as the rest of the series, we’re in for something great.