Yakuza had its moments, but the recognizable actors skewed the experience. Luke Skywalker’s voice jilted the illusion of exploring Japan. Sega rectified the issue in Yakuza 2 which includes the original Japanese voice acting with subtitles and no English voiceovers – a rare move. We spoke to Kevin Frane, Associate Producer at Sega, about the decision and discussed Yakuza 2’s other new features like visiting Zuboraya in Osaka for a plate of poisonous blowfish.
How does Yakuza 2 continue the story from the first game?
Kevin Frane, Associate Producer at Sega: Without giving too much away about the story of the first game, Yakuza 2 takes place a year after the events in Yakuza, and involves Kazuma Kiryu being called upon once again by the Tojo Clan to help strike a truce with the Omi Alliance, a powerful underworld group based out of Osaka.
What about people who missed out on Yakuza? Does the sequel catch players up on past events?
At the beginning of the game, the user is given the chance to “reminisce” about the events of Yakuza, which gives a very detailed summary of what took place in the first game. This is an optional sequence, so players who are already familiar with the storyline can skip it and get right into the action of the sequel.
Which parts of Japan do we get to explore in this game?
Yakuza 2 takes place in both Kamurocho (a fictional part of Tokyo that is nevertheless heavily inspired by real life) and also in Osaka. Within Japan, Tokyo and Osaka are actually very different places, and this is one of the central themes of the game.
Will the US version of Yakuza 2 retain Japanese landmarks like Don Quijote and brands like Suntory from the original Japanese release?
Yes, all licensed retailers and Japanese products from the original have been maintained for the U.S. release.
We also heard licensed restaurants will be in the game? Should I expect to visit Mos Burger?
There are no “big name” restaurant franchises that Westerners are likely to be familiar with, but there are in fact licensed restaurants, such as Zuboraya (a restaurant chain in Osaka that specializes in fugu) and Fugetsu (an okonomiyaki restaurant).
Did the combat evolve from Yakuza? More specifically, what has been done to help Kazuma Kiryu fight against multiple enemies?
Accounting for fights against multiple opponents was actually one of the most important things that were considered when improving the fighting engine for Yakuza 2. It is now much easier, for instance, to attack foes that come at you from multiple directions, and to switch targets in the middle of a combo in order to quickly take out someone who may have snuck up on your flank.
When you played through Yakuza 2 what skills did you pick for Kazuma?
I personally focused mainly on improvements to the HEAT Gauge and on skills that involved different HEAT Actions, since I found those to be not only quite useful in important fights, but it also allowed for more variety and more hard-hitting visceral fun in combat.
What kind of mini games are included in Yakuza 2?
All of the mini games from the first Yakuza are back for the sequel, and there are also quite a number of additions. There are now several new mini games, including a driving range, the ability to manage a hostess bar, to option to work as a host in a club, arcade games to try your hand at, licensed pachinko machines, and many more.
I’m still surprised Sega chose to release the game with Japanese voiceovers and English subtitles. Why did Sega decide to do this? Are you concerned that not having an English voiceover track will make Yakuza 2 less appealing to fans that enjoyed the Hollywood talent doing the voices from the first game?
When Yakuza was released in the U.S. without a Japanese voice track, there was actually a significant fan outcry. Obviously, this is a very Japanese game, set in Japan and dealing heavily with Japanese culture, and quite a lot of people thought that not having the original Japanese dialogue affected the game’s sense of authenticity. When definitely took that fan reaction into account when making the ultimate decision to go ahead with the Japanese voice track for Yakuza 2.
Was it difficult to program the code and time the subtitles?
Actually, it wasn’t too difficult at all. Since there was already a system in place for Japanese subtitles in the original Japanese release, we simply worked with a modified version of this to implement English subtitles.
Just looking at the reaction on Siliconera my readers who are fans of the Yakuza games are happy about the decision. Did Sega listen to or implement any other fan feedback into the game?
We definitely considered fan input when making the decision regarding the voice options for the game. Also, lots of people felt like the combat system in the original needed to be polished and tightened, and we hope we’ve succeeded in that, as well.
Are there any other differences between the US version and the Japanese release?
The Japanese version was originally released on two DVDs, while the U.S. version will be released on a single, dual-layer DVD. In terms of actual content, however, nothing has been cut from the original Japanese version.
There are already two other Yakuza PlayStation 3 games announced in Japan. How do you feel about releasing Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! or Ryu ga Gotoku 3 in the USA?
Right now, we are fully focused on successfully launching Yakuza 2 for the PlayStation 2. We would like to bring these types of games to the American gamers but we cannot confirm if these games will be coming to North America.
Images courtesy of Sega.