Since its inception, the Yakuza name has had different names in Japan and Western markets, with its original Japanese name being Like a Dragon (or Ryu Ga Gotoku, which is where the developer, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, gets its name as well). Going forward, however, the series is dropping the Yakuza title entirely, and will be called Like a Dragon in the West as well.
Why exactly has that change been made though? Speaking in an interview with IGN, RGG Studio boss Masayoshi Yokoyama talked about the same, and explained that the Western title of the last mainline Yakuza game – Yakuza: Like a Dragon (which was called Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 in Japan) was essentially a trial run for the change.
“In [Yakuza 7], it was Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and so we figured if we release this game suddenly out of nowhere with no Yakuza in it, people would be like, ‘What’s this game? What’s going on with this?’” Yokoyama said. “The response to the Like a Dragon name seemed pretty good, so it gave us the confidence to take out ‘Yakuza’ and just go straight on with Like a Dragon.”
Yokoyama went on to explain that the series isn’t necessarily focused on the Yakuza anymore, even though it does still focus on underground crime, which also explains why the developer decided to change its Western name.
“Story-wise too, we are talking about criminal underworld, but we’re not talking about Yakuza, really,” he said. “So it just makes sense for us not to include them in the name. If we carry through the accent, we’d be Yakuza: Ishin! It’s not Yakuza: Ishin! That’s not what it’s about. So Like a Dragon: Ishin! makes more sense.”
The franchise has a number of games launching in the next couple of years, with Like a Dragon: Ishin! and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name launching in 2023 and Like a Dragon 8 due out in 2024.