Yakuza is one of Sega’s biggest franchises. Lately, it has been receiving lots of love with HD remasters and remakes while still bringing new games to people who don’t speak Japanese. We might argue that the Yakuza series has had better consistency than games featuring a certain speedy mammal.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the next new release, and it is looking great. The trailer tells a short synopsis of the events of Yakuza Kiwami and gives a setup for Yakuza 6. Kiryu departs to save his new family, and he will be beating down other guys with amazing dragon tattoos.
Translating a game made for Japanese audiences to something English speakers understand is even harder than retiring from the Yakuza. There are so many social cues that just don’t make sense or are vague. The UI requires changes to make sure the player can read text from others as well as hints to convince a baby to stop crying. You don’t want to have to miss hints to make a baby quiet.
In the bar conversations mini game, they had to completely rewrite the dialog due to the differing structures of the language. It changes the feel of the game. We do not know for certain, but we may also miss out on top Japanese pickup lines. That is the real tragedy.
The process of localization is difficult. The challenge and cost keeps some games from ever leaving the land of the rising sun. Understanding the intent of the writers and converting that to something other cultures will understand will always be a risk. Fortunately, more companies choose to bring their babies to us either digitally, or, in Yakuza’s case, with fancy premium editions.
Yakuza fans and those curious about localization can learn more in Sega’s weekly YouTube series. Two of the localization producers are streaming Yakuza 0 and commenting on what they did to make it work.
Ready to punch more sharks and bears? Yakuza 6: The Song of Life will release on March 20th, 2018.