There are many entries in Sega’s Yakuza video game franchise, otherwise known as Like a Dragon, including numerous spin-offs, retellings, and more. You may have played them all, you may think you knew everything, but here are 20 facts that you definitely did not know about Yakuza.
#1 — Sega loves it when you call it a Japanese rip-off of Grand Theft Auto
Granted this happens less and less these days, but for a long time, people would pitch these games as “Grand Theft Auto, but totally Japanese!” Which is something that the team at Sega reportedly loves to hear.
#2 — You don’t need a pinky to play it
In some circles, disrespecting the Yakuza will result in getting your pinky cut off. Just in case, for anyone who has dealt with such a circumstance, developers at Sega made sure that disgraced former members will still be able to enjoy their games.
#3 — Trained apes did the motion capture for every character
Chimps, apes, and monkeys did all of the motion capture work for the iconic characters from the Yakuza video games. You’d never guess it though, because everyone involved in the ape motion side of the project was killed to keep the secrets of the craft safe.
#4 — It was inspired by The Sopranos
In 1999, HBO released The Sopranos, which was not only a watershed moment for serialized TV dramas, but video games as well. Producers at Sega were big fans and clearly took careful notes, because just several years later, the inaugural game in the Yakuza series was released.
#5 — Real-life Japan is full of mini-games and side quests
Japan was originally invented as a real life Mario Party board. Roll the dice, walk three steps, bam– time to help a kid find his lost kitten, or become super engrossed in slot car racing for longer than you meant to.
#6 — That one zombie game is canon
Yakuza: Dead Souls is a spin-off game that shamelessly cashes in on the zombie fad of the late 2000s. Unbeknownst to many, however, is that the events from this game are canon. Once the zombie outbreak ended, everybody just went back to their normal lives by picking fights with strangers on the street for no reason.
#7 — The Sopranos: Road to Respect was inspired by Yakuza
Art often comes full circle, as they say, and there is no better example of this than the PS2 classic The Sopranos: Road to Respect, which was originally slated to be a HD remaster of Yakuza.
#8 — Takeshi Kitano is fictional
Despite being an alleged filmmaker and comedian, Kitano’s appearance in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life confirms that he isn’t real, and is merely a figment of our imaginations. Hana-bi was great, but I’m definitely looking at it a little differently now!
#9 — Exists in the same universe as Sonic
Crossovers are all the rage now, so Sega confirmed recently that the Yakuza games do in fact exist within the same universe as Sonic, or more specifically, the Sonic Adventure games. Look forward to seeing Kiryu prowl the streets of Station Square, duking it out with Big the Cat!
#10 — Exists in the same universe as Super Monkey Ball
Kiryu is playable in the latest game. What more proof could you possibly need?
#11 — Sega considered changing Kiryu’s name to “The Baka Mitai Guy”
Thanks to the meme which brought a lot of eyes to the series, Sega was at one point heavily considering changing Kiryu’s in-game name to “The Baka Mitai Guy” because that’s what people on twitter kept calling him after a karaoke clip had gone viral. They thought this would push sales, but ultimately made the decision not to do it and just introduced a new protagonist instead: Ichiban, “the Dragon Quest guy”.
#12 — The switch to an RPG format was a happy accident
Initially they were going to change the genre to “falling puzzle game” like Tetris or Puyo Puyo, but accidentally came up with an RPG instead and they just went with it! Some pencils don’t need erasers.
#13 — There’s a fake image floating around online of Mark Hamill not remembering voicing Majima
The original Yakuza game was dubbed over in English and Mark Hamill voiced series regular Goro Majima. There is a long debunked image where it is purported that he doesn’t remember it. It’s a fake.
#14 — There will be a new game once a year, every year, until the heat death of the universe
Scientists report that it will very likely outlast humanity itself.
#15 — Ichiban will be the hero of the new Dragon Quest
Ichiban is a lovable protagonist, one of the best in gaming. So in a collaborative effort between both Sega and Square Enix, he will be taking on the role of the hero in Dragon Quest XII, immersion be damned.
#16 — The Judgment series of video games are totally a thing too
You know, just in case you forgot. Sega wants you to know that you can buy them and play them, just in case you had a spare moment to stop and think about a different video game besides Yakuza, which is also set in the same world.
#17 — Kiryu is the highlander
Seriously, how many times has this guy “retired”? He just got his own spin-off game, and he’s back in the eighth game in the series? I’m convinced: this mother fucker is the Highlander. There can only be one Kiryu.
#18 — Those samurai games are also canon
Bet you thought it was weird how a bunch of people hundreds of years ago just so happen to look like the cast of the Yakuza games, huh? Well, that’s because it’s canon, and their lineage is just really, really fucking strong. Those are some good genes!
#19 — Cabaret clubs a great way to grind EXP in real life too
Seriously, if you show up and buy presents for the employees, don’t overstay your welcome, and treat your conversations like quicktime event mini-games, you can earn tons of EXP which can in turn be used to learn awesome fighting moves.
#20 — Kiryu is LITERALLY you
You may have thought it at some point, or maybe even wished it were true, but yes, Kiryu is literally you! I spoke to someone at Sega, told them your name, showed them your picture, and they couldn’t believe it– the person who inspired Kiryu was right there before their very eyes!