Yakuza producer and head of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Did you expect Yakuza to become a series?
I hoped it would, but of course if the sales had been no good then it would have been over. That’s entertainment. I had a few vague ideas of what I would like to do in a sequel, but mainly I was focused on making a good game. The sequel was decided very soon after the sales figures came out for the first game.
Tie-ups with real-world brands and shops such as Suntory whisky and Don Quijote department stores have become a series staple. Where did the idea come from?
If you’re going to create an immersive environment based on a real place, then the more real-world locations and brands the better, so I wanted as much of that as possible. These days, the series is a hit, so it’s easy to negotiate these tie-ups, but at the start no one knew what kind of game we were making, so it was difficult to explain. Most companies turned us down.
The immersion and freedom of the game often draw comparisons with Shenmue, which you also worked on.
That’s simply because both games are set in modern-day Japan. I don’t think there’s any other reason. Maybe there are just too few games like that.
How close was the finished game to your original vision?
I had a general vision of how the drama and battle parts should be, but it was the staff who actually filled in the blanks and fleshed it out into a proper game. I think the final game was better than I’d hoped.