Toshihiro Nagoshi on Troubles Developing Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza: Like a Dragon was the first, large-scale RPG developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, so they expectedly ran into a lot of trouble.

By Iyane Agossah

January 15, 2020

Yakuza: Like a Dragon, known in Japan as Ryu Ga Gotoku 7: Hikari to Yami no Yukue, just released over there, seeing it’s already January 16 up there as I’m writing this. The game is a huge change for the series, going from action gameplay to turn-based RPG battles. 4Gamer published an interview with Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi, who most notably explained the various problems Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio encountered during development.

Toshihiro Nagoshi first mentioned how one of the hurdles the studio encountered while developing Yakuza: Like a Dragon is balancing the players’ leveling and the enemies’ strength, and how this is a much harder task than it seems. A small mistake can absolutely break the game. Nagoshi mentioned: “this made me realize once more that developers who make RPGs are really awesome”.

Yakuza: Like a dragon also includes many parodies and homages to famous JRPG series. Toshihiro Nagoshi explained Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio most notably focused references in Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. However, seeing how beloved these franchises are, finding the right balance between hilarious parodical elements and respect ended up putting a lot of pressure on the development team. Furthermore, Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio contacted Square Enix during the game’s development, most notably asking permission to use the name Dragon Quest in the dialogues.

Moreover, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is themed around friendship. Ichiban’s party members have their own stories, which concludes together with the main story’s ending. Toshihiro Nagoshi mentioned that was a really hard thing to do. He jokingly mentioned how mid-way through development, he regretted the studio’s decision to theme the game around friends. Nagoshi explained how “making an RPG’s game systems and writing its story is really fun at first, but as you keep going there are countless times when you just reach a dead end.” Then again, he didn’t feel pressured about it, as it was obvious they would find such obstacles on the road, seeing it was the team’s first time making an RPG. Toshihiro Nagoshi mentioned it was the first time in years he struggled this much during development, and it reminded him of how to deal with such mental walls. Some of the younger staff on the team had much more trouble overcoming these walls, as it was their first time dealing with this despair-like feeling. But at the end of the day, it was a good experience for everyone at the studio.

Lastly, Toshihiro Nagoshi mentioned how his hospitalization and heart surgery in August 2019, which he mentioned in the past, affected development. Or rather, how it didn’t affect the studio much. Everyone on the project properly was doing what they had to do, so Nagoshi jokingly mentioned he was indeed worried, but he was “dying just fine” back then. He explained how the one thing that would have been different if he didn’t make it, was that Yakuza: Like a Dragon wouldn’t have had a theme song.

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Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s theme song is Ichiban Uta, by Shōnan no Kaze and Yasutaka Nakata. The theme song wasn’t set in stone yet back then, and the meeting for it was held when Nagoshi was still hospitalized.

PlayStation 4 exclusive Yakuza: Like a Dragon will launch in the west sometime in 2020. You can read more on the game through our previous coverage. We have details on the story, on returning characters, on the Final Fantasy summons-like system and on the Pokemon parodying Sujimon system, how the game parodies Dragon Quest‘s Puff Puff,  some mid-game gameplay, details on the Persona-like friendship system, comments from the producers, and lastly how the series will go back to action if this game doesn’t sell. You can also check out our playthrough of the demo.

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Iyane Agossah

Living near Paris, Iyane is the head of Japanese content at DualShockers. He speaks Japanese, has been watching anime for over 25 years, and plays Genshin Impact mainly for its story. You can reach him on Twitter at @A_iyane07.

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