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Yakuza: Why you shouldn't miss the series in Xbox Game Pass

The Japanese game series Yakuza looks back on a long tradition. Unique characters, exciting stories and the diverse game world of Japan form the basis for a very special gaming experience. Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the latest part of the franchise, was recently released on Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One and Windows 10 PC - you can easily play almost all of the other offshoots via Xbox Game Pass. So the best time to join the fantastic series.

Yakuza games in Xbox Game Pass:

To celebrate the launch on Xbox, we spoke to Daisuke Sato, producer and head of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio in Japan. Daisuke Sato has accompanied the franchise since the first Yakuza title - back then as art director. He knows exactly how the franchise has changed in recent years and what makes Yakuza so unique.

Xbox Wire DACH: Yakuza has an impressive 15-year history - how has the series changed over the years?

Daisuke Sato: Above all, the gaming hardware has changed and with it game engines, graphics, game options and gameplay mechanics. In addition, the Yakuza series is always set in modern Japan - each game reflects current events and the Japanese zeitgeist of the year of publication. These include fashion trends or the evolution from clamshell cell phones to smartphones. Even secondary tasks pick up on current trends and topics. I would go as far as to say that the title has evolved and changed together with Japan.

Not to forget the protagonists: the past few years have left their mark on the characters in the game (laughs). Haruka, one of the main characters from the first part, is 9 years old at the beginning - in Yakuza 6, however, 20 years old. The realistic aging of the characters is also one of the reasons for the constant change of Yakuza.

Xbox Wire DACH: Not only in Japan, also internationally, Yakuza is one of the most iconic franchises - how do you explain this enormous success?

Daisuke Sato: I'm so happy that the show is getting so much attention around the world. When the first part of the Yakuza series was released in 2005, it was only intended to delight our home audience in Japan - especially adult men. Eventually the title became a huge hit in Japan, which in turn led to several sequels.

The first Yakuza title on PS2 was released in English for the western market a year or two later. Back then, however, the game was more likely to be adopted by a niche audience with an affinity for Japanese games. At the beginning we had a hard time finding a recipe for success for the West (laughs). But we stayed on course and continued to sell the localized sequels. Unfortunately, sales in the west did not come close to expectations - for example, Yakuza 5 was only available as a downloadable title on PS +, but was never officially released.

With Yakuza 0 everything changed. Two factors are the reason why Yakuza is a success story today: On the one hand, SEGA and Atlus West merged their sales activities. With their extensive experience with brands like Persona, they were well equipped to successfully sell Japanese IPs in the West as well. On the other hand, Yakuza 0 is very beginner-friendly as a prequel. At this point in time, the series was already a few years under its belt - so the entry barrier was relatively high. Yakuza 0 has been fantastically accepted by the community, which has contributed to the series' success in the west.

Xbox Wire DACH: What are the greatest strengths and special features of the Yakuza series?

Daisuke Sato: A very typical element of the Yakuza series is the profound and serious story that fills the game world with tension, action and a lot of secondary content. In addition, the setting around the Japanese underworld exudes a very special charm - as does the zeitgeist of Japan, which changes over the individual parts of the series.

Xbox Wire DACH: What makes the characters in the Yakuza series so unique and special?

Daisuke Sato: The setting in the Japanese underworld is unique, but the representation of the characters within this world is what makes the game extraordinary. All the dramatic stories - through all the series parts - depict the lives of characters who are all interwoven with the underworld in their own way.

Xbox Wire DACH: What kind of players do you recommend the Yakuza series to?

Daisuke Sato: I recommend the Yakuza series to every fan of the well-kept action adventure. Especially for those who are interested in Japanese culture and want to feel a little more connected to Japan through Yakuza.

Xbox Wire DACH: Why is the Yakuza series an absolute must - not just for Japan fans?

Daisuke Sato: The title is set in Japan and almost all of the characters, including the protagonist, are Japanese. That makes the title exciting for you if you are fundamentally interested in Japan and the country's culture. But even without this direct reference, a very entertaining gaming experience awaits you in Yakuza with a gripping story, exciting fights and a multitude of side quests and mini-games. Once you try yakuza, you will have a good time!

Xbox Wire DACH: Yakuza's combat system has received particular praise - what makes it so exceptionally good?

Daisuke Sato: The system is so popular because it offers you enough action as a beginner as well as advanced. We have always emphasized the importance of having a wide range of different moves in the combat system. Newbies and hardcore gamers alike should feel like they are masters of the fight.

Xbox Wire DACH: The Yakuza franchise is now almost entirely included in Xbox Game Pass - Why should gamers experience Yakuza as a cohesive franchise?

Daisuke Sato: If you are a newbie, I recommend Yakuza 0 or Yakuza Kiwami - the two are just perfect for starting the series. If you then sympathize with the protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, you should take a look at the other parts. If action games are not your cup of tea, the newest part, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, is worth it to get started. The latest part offers you a different game genre with a new protagonist.

Xbox Wire DACH: Why did you decide to bring Yakuza to Xbox?

Daisuke Sato: Initially, the series was aimed at adult Japanese men. At that time, it made the most sense to get the games out on PlayStation. However, as the series continued and became more popular in the West, there was an increasing demand for other platforms. Our goal at RGG Studio is to enable even more people to access our games - worldwide. Because of this, it was a must-have release on Xbox.

Xbox Wire DACH: Now that the new generation of consoles has been released, what are your plans for the future of the Yakuza series?

Daisuke Sato: (laughs) Unfortunately, I can't say much about that yet, but we can reveal that much: We're already working on the next project, so stay tuned!