RGG Studio had no idea Like a Dragon side stories were seen as silly outside Japan

"There was no emphasis on the silliness of the side stories," said RGG Studio's Masayoshi Yokoyama.

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The Yakuza or Like a Dragon games have a reputation for having hilarious and silly side stories to contrast with their more serious main stories. But apparently, that the series’ developers over at RGG Studio had no idea that this was the case, at least in the West.

For all Like a Dragon fans, the side stories are major highlights of the games in the series. After all, each game is chock full of these often hilarious side quests, so much so that for many international fans, these side stories add to how silly and loveable the series is.

While there’s no denying that these side stories elicit a lot of laughs, it turns out that the developers over at RGG Studio didn’t intend them to be just silly diversions. So much so that it came as a surprise to the team that the side quests (and the games themselves) are viewed in a humorous light.

In a recent interview with members of the SEA gaming press, RGG Studio executive producer Masayoshi Yokoyama explained the team’s thoughts on the series’ “silly” perception in the West, as well as their approach to crafting the various side stories:

“It was noted that in the West for some of the players, the side stories are seen as silly, but we genuinely had no idea that that’s how it was perceived. To be honest with you, the side stories are a side piece where they build into the character development of the main character, Kiryu, and show the multiple facets of that character so that it can give a broader emphasis to the main story and [give] the story more depth.

To simplify, there was no emphasis on the silliness of the side stories.”

Ono-michio is a memorable character, though this Onomichi mascot’s misadventures reflects the struggles of the city to attract visitors.

Yokoyama’s explanation makes sense when you think about it. After all, if you think about the side stories of each Yakuza game, you’ll find that they often reflect the themes and setting of each game. For instance, Yakuza 5’s theme of dreams is something that’s apparent in the side stories. The excess of “the bubble” in 80s Japan is also clearly shown  in the Yakuza 0 stories.

Of course, there’s no denying that RGG Studio packed a lot of humorous scenarios in the side stories. While they didn’t set out to make them purely as funny diversions, they were made in such a way to complement what’s happening in the main story.

“When it comes to the side stories and the main stories, there is a lot of calculation that goes into it to make the story flow very well,” said Yokoyama. “If the main story is in a serious mood with very much high tension, we don’t want to have a silly side story that would remove that mood overall. We got to think about what the side story is going to do to the main story and vice versa so that everything fits together like puzzle pieces.”

For the studio, it’s important to get the balance of the main story and the side stories just right. Though aside from how these different stories flow, a lot of consideration is also given to how the side stories expand upon each game’s characters.

“When it comes to how the balance is taken, the [pace] of the main story, when it gets serious, it’s very serious,” added Yokoyama. “Then when you have the side stories that go a bit out of the main storyline, they’re there to bring more depth into the character.”

This development philosophy also extends to the often wacky mini-games that players can spend their time on. Though it might seem that these mini-games are added randomly, a lot of attention is given to how they fit into each game’s setting.

“Basically, when you have a story, the story itself gives you the stage that you can work out with, the town or the city, or the country where the story is set,” said Yokoyama. “From there, you can think of who the main characters of that story are and have that come into the game, including what era it is and what suitable, appropriate mini-games there would be within that setting and stage.”

Given how much thought goes into developing the side stories for the Like a Dragon games, fans should no doubt be excited for the various encounters that Kiryu and Ichiban will have in the next two titles in the series. And while these side stories aren’t made purely for comedy, we still expect to get a lot of hilarious moments.

Like a Dragon Gaiden will be released on November 9, 2023, on the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.

Meanwhile, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is set to release in early 2024 for the same platforms.

Aside from talking about the series’ side stories, Yokoyama also confirmed that Kaoru will not be in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth:

Kaoru Sayama will not return in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, says RGG Studio