Reading about Yakuza 4 is great, but you could also be playing it! And ... wearing it! We've got five copies of the game, and five t-shirts, to give away at the end of this interview.


March is typically a big month for the Yakuza series. In 2010, Yakuza 3 came out in the West in March, and Yakuza 4 in Japan. This year, Yakuza 4 hit North America and Europe, and Yakuza: Of the End almost came out in Japan (but was delayed to June 9 due to the earthquake). On the occasion of 4's Western release, we spoke to producer Yasuhiro Noguchi about the changes made between the last two games, and the significant step forward Sega made in localization.

Yakuza 4 changes the narrative structure of the series by focusing not on one badass wandering the streets of Kamurocho, but four. "The decision to take the multi-character narrative approach was to challenge ourselves with new storytelling devices to enhance our game design," Noguchi told Joystiq. In addition to breaking up the story, it also allows for varied combat mechanics, a benefit that will carry over into Of The End. "In the case of Ryu Ga Gotoku: Of The End, we have main characters who specialize in the use of certain types of weapons."

By the way, I'm not sure if you caught it, but I even changed the name of Haruka's dog back to the Japanese original.- Yasuhiro Noguchi

In addition to the storytelling structure, Sega made big changes to the localization plan for Yakuza 4. Fans complained about excised content in Yakuza 3, including minigames taking place at hostess clubs in which you interact with, and eventually date, the hostesses. The hostess clubs are intact in the Western release of Yakuza 4, and the localization is noticeably more thorough elsewhere, with the team even going so far as to translate ads for items and services that don't exist outside of Japan, like Mobage Town and Ameba Pigg.

"When I took on the project," Noguchi told us," I reviewed the Yakuza franchise history in the West as well as the valuable feedback we received from our fans on Yakuza 3. Based on consultations with the Yakuza team in Japan, we decided to bring a more complete localization that was more faithful to the source material."

Noguchi also took the opportunity to make some updates to the translation practices used throughout the whole series. Notably, where protagonist Kazuma Kiryu was referred to in the English-language Yakuzas 1, 2, and 3 as "Kazuma," here he's referred to by his surname, Kiryu. "It was a subtle change that I fought for to 'de-Westernize' certain aspects of the legacy localization changes from Yakuza 1," Noguchi explained. The other three all use their surnames exclusively in conversation, so "given the context, it would have been awkward if Kiryu was the only one that went by his first name." One NPC, an information broker, is known in the Japanese games as "Sai no Hanaya" (roughly "Florist of Purgatory") due to his habit of sending flowers along with information. He was renamed "Kage" (Shadow) in the American versions, but is mostly called "Florist" in the new game.

"By the way," Noguchi added, "I'm not sure if you caught it, but I even changed the name of Haruka's dog back to the Japanese original." And so "Rex" is now the much more Japanese-sounding "Mame." A dog's name is a minor detail compared the presence of glitzy clubs full of overly made-up hostesses or an effectively renamed main character, but it's evidence of care nonetheless.

So, you've read this far -- why leave empty-handed?

To enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment telling us your favorite dog name. (It's the least violent thing we could think of.)
  2. You must be 18 years or older and a resident of the U.S. or Canada (excluding Quebec).
  3. Limit 1 entry per person.
  4. This entry period ends at 6:00PM ET on Thursday, April 14.
  5. At that time, we'll randomly select five winners to receive a copy of Yakuza 4 for PS3 and a t-shirt.
  6. For a list of complete rules, click here.

What is Joyswag? Since we don't keep the games and merchandise we receive for review or promotional purposes, it becomes "Joyswag," which is passed along to our readers. Please note that Joyswag may be in "used" condition.

For more info on our policy, click here.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.