While an international release date for the seventh installment of Sega’s Yakuza franchise has yet to be announced (other than it’ll be released in 2020), we’re still a month away from its Japanese launch. With Kazuma Kiryu—the previous franchise protagonist—now “retired,” the upcoming seventh game is going to introduce a new lead, Ichiban Kasuga.
In addition to a new main character, the series is getting another overhaul as it is forgoing its trademark combat system for a traditional turn-based J-RPG one. In addition to these new features, we’d like to share why we can’t wait for Ryu Ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue, otherwise known as Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
We know that Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 becoming a J-RPG has been a controversy amongst its hardcore fans, but after reading and watching some interviews with the developers about why they decided to make such drastic changes, we’re willing to give it a chance. As portrayed in its recent demo, not only do you get to play as Ichiban but also the other characters in his party! Under the old engine, there are times when Kiryu gets to fight alongside his allies but in those instances, players only fight as Kiryu.
Take for example, in the second Yakuza game, there are fights where Kiryu teams up with Kaoru, his love interest. Granted, players could do double teams against enemies, but they never get the option to play as Kaoru. We get that a good number of fans don’t mind that they didn’t have such options, but a J-RPG allows the opportunity to simultaneously control every character in the party, and exploit whatever skills they have throughout the battle.
In previous interviews, Nagoshi and other staff members have stated that they wanted to make the seventh game an RPG in order to connect with its themes of friendship. When players start Ichiban’s quest, he’s a bum who was betrayed by the people he cared about. In order to stop whatever evil plot is happening, Ichiban knows he’ll need all the help he can get. Through a turn-based RPG system where characters must have each other’s backs, it gives players better opportunities to immerse themselves with the intended themes.
Another theme that is expressed through the new RPG system is starting from the bottom and going to the top. Through grinding and leveling up, players can get a better feel of Ichiban’s journey as he becomes stronger to face whatever threats he has to stop and overcome his adversities.
In addition to Kamurocho (based on Kabukicho, one of Tokyo’s biggest red-light districts), other installments of Yakuza have also taken place in Osaka, Naha, Nagoya, Sapporo, Onomichi, and ancient Kyoto. As for the seventh game, it’s going to take our new heroes to Yokohama, which neighbors Tokyo. While Yokohama’s Chinatown has loosely been depicted in previous games through cutscenes, players are going to be treated to something a lot more comprehensive. For Ryu Ga Gotoku 7, players are going to get a virtual tour of downtown Yokohama as a whole!
As portrayed in the demo, players can explore Hinodecho (Yokohama’s red-light district), Isezaki-Chojamachi (a trendy shopping district) and Jinnai Station, which is inspired by Kannai Station. As seen in the trailers, our heroes will also get to see Yamashita Park and the Sakuragicho area of downtown Yokohama. Producers have stated that the map of Yokohama is going to be three times bigger than Kamurocho, so players are going to get to see Yokohama’s famous sights such as Landmark Tower, the Red Brick Warehouse, and the Cosmo World amusement park!
Traditional Themes are Refreshed
Naturally, the Yakuza franchise portrays a gruesome world of money, power, and women, but it has also done an unorthodox job of glorifying Japan’s most notorious criminal organizations by presenting themes of honor and loyalty in its world. Naturally, Ichiban’s story is bound to bring new twists to it. Unlike Kiryu who can dodge bazooka missiles and take on 500 gangsters, Ichiban isn’t much of a badass and because he has spent most of his adult life in prison, he never had any chance to find out who he really is. As portrayed in the trailers, Ichiban shows he is loyal to his gang and is willing to take the fall for a fellow member. As a result, he spends the next 18 years in prison only to be betrayed upon his release.
As a result, Ichiban has to start over with NOTHING, and how the player builds him up to becoming a (probable) savior by making new friends and finding legitimate ways to make money, helps refresh its themes. Through Ichiban’s viewpoint, who is more emotionally vulnerable than Kiryu, players are going to get a different idea of loyalty and brotherhood within the yakuza.
As we all know, Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 marks a new beginning of the series. However, as portrayed in recent trailers, certain characters are confirmed to come back so we know there’s a lot to look forward to. We understand that changes can be scary and unwanted, but sometimes, the things we don’t want can be better than what we were expecting. Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 isn’t ashamed to admit that it’s doing something different and after six games, a prequel, and four spin-offs, taking a different approach may help the franchise move forward and keep it fresh. If not, Sega has already admitted that it’s willing to go back to square one and bring back the old fighting engine. Other than that, we’re still excited about what Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 is bound to offer.