For those of you who missed it the guys from SEGA did an awesome Yakuza AMA on reddit a couple of days ago. Almost no topic was off the table and we got a chance to get some great insite in to what it was like localizing the Yakuza series and how they managed to bring it back from the dead. PR guys William Chan (@SirWillshire) and Jacob Nahin (@JacobNahin) with our Yakuza localization pros, Sam Mullen (/u/SEGA_SamMullen, @sam_mullen) and Scott Strichart (/u/SEGA_ScottStrichart, @TriggerRedd)
You can read the whole thing over here or below I’ve gone through the entire AMA and threaded the best questions for you to browse.
- Can we expect Kiwami 2 to release sooner in the West, compared to its predecessors? (0, Kiwami and 6)
- Is the Fist of the North Star game being considered as a Yakuza spin-off? Is the game an open world title in the same vein as Yakuza? Can we expect the game to come out in the West? And what could be the English title of this game?
- Why wasn’t Ishin localized? And are there plans to localize the game anytime in the near future?
- What is your strategy with the Yakuza series on the PS4? Based on the sudden resurgence of the Yakuza franchise in 2017, thanks to the incredible critical success of 0 and Kiwami, are you performing a soft reboot of the entire Yakuza series for a new generation of PlayStation gamers? (People are suggesting newcomers to start off with 0 rather than Kiwami, and eventually hop onto Kiwami, then Kiwami 2, watch walkthroughs of 3, 4 and 5 and finally hop onto 6)
- How impressed are you with the sales of 0 and Kiwami so far? And how do you think the Yakuza franchise will stand out from the rest of the amazing titles on the PS4?
- You revealed a brand new protagonist who will take the mantle from Kiryu in the upcoming Yakuza games, but you never outright revealed a new installment. When can we hear about the next major installment in the Yakuza franchise?
When it comes to the titles that RGG Studios recently announced (Kiwami 2, North Star, Yakuza Online), we don’t have anything to announce at this time for the West.
That said, we did open a survey to measure the Western response to these titles, and we gained some very interesting insights from that. So these are on our radar, we know there’s fans out there who want this content, but again, nothing to announce at this time.
Regarding your soft-reboot comment, yes correct, we have renewed our approach to these series and even internally, we consider this a sort of reboot as well. The fact that this is coming across to you, the fans, means our master plan working, MWAHAHAHA! However, there are a number of challenges to bringing new fans in and bridging that gap from Kiwami to Y6. Like you said, where’s the best place to start!? To that end, we are creating a “as spoiler free as possible” way to get caught up through our Yakuza Experience site (http://yakuza.sega.com/experience/), with Comics and Timeline updates for users who are new to the series.
Regarding the upcoming Yakuza games that were announced in Japan, I don’t have any additional information outside what has already been revealed. We are fans as well, and are excited to hear announcements from RGG Studios regarding their future plans for the series.
As far as favorite games… I’ve been playing games since Atari 2600, so it’s really hard to say. I would say recently… huge Dark Souls fan, LOVE me some Rocket League, Horizon: Zero Dawn blew me away, and I’m currently working through Dragon Quest 11 in Japanese.
Question: English version was released a year and a half later than the Japanese one. Besides translation, what took so long? Were there any unexpected problems or bumps?
So if you look at the time frames we’ve been releasing the games in, Yakuza 0 was just under 2 years, Kiwami was at a year and a half, and Y6 is just over a year… We are firing on all cylinders to get caught up, but we can only ask you to buy Yakuza games so fast…
- Why were Kenzan and Ishin never localized?
- What is the localization process like?
- What was your favorite Yakuza game you worked on?
- Why was the HD Collection never localized?
1) Why were Kenzan and Ishin never localized?
Starting with the hard hitters 🙂
Kenzan was in a period that was before my time, so I honestly can’t really state why that never came over. If I had to venture a guess, it was that it was going to be complicated and the expectations were not high at the time. But like I said, I wasn’t there.
For Ishin, the situation is actually quite complicated and multifaceted, but let me explain it from the point of view of focus and lineup.
When we restarted our whole Yakuza approach coming off the end of Y5, one of the over-arching goal was to get to bring the English releases of Y0, Kiwami, and Y6 as close to the Japanese releases as possible. This means we have had a very aggressive production and release schedule, as you guys might have noticed.
Ishin is a very large and complicated game from a localization perspective, one. Two, there just has been no where to slot it for release to ensure the game gets the attention and exposure it needs without posing a risk to itself and other franchise titles.
We do know that the fanbase has their eyes on these titles, but we just don’t have anything to announce about theme at this time.
EDIT: 4) I wasn’t involved with decisions about the HD Collection as well, so I’m not sure about the background on that. I suspect the situation was similar to Kenzan.
2) This one’s pretty broad, but I guess I’ll say that we approach the localization of Yakuza in a way that strives to find the perfect balance between authenticity and clarity. After the translators give us the direct meaning of every line, me and my team of editors actually “ear-ball” every line, crafting the final English line as close as possible to the Japanese in terms of style and length while ensuring it still reads like something you’d actually say in English. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty tough, but I think this kind of attention to detail is what really takes that localization to that next level.
Can you tell us anything about the (extremely) long gap between Yakuza Dead Souls and Yakuza 5, and/or any behind the scenes on how the Yakuza 5 localization finally got started years after the fact? I personally thought the series was completely dead in the west after the very low sales Dead Souls got, would love to hear anything you’re allowed to share about this revival. Also, knowing that Yakuza 0 really started this recent Yakuza hype train, I would love to hear about how its reception affected the team.
Yakuza 5 hit SEGA at a pretty rough time, as they were literally moving their localization operation from their San Francisco office to Atlus down here in Irvine. We’re eternally grateful to Sony for coming to bat on that title and helping us get it out the door, and I don’t blame you at all for thinking the series was on its last legs! But SEGA’s faith in the series should be pretty evident through the fact that Sam and I are completely dedicated to this franchise and with the releases of Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and 6, and we’re starting to see the fruits of our (and the whole team’s!) labors. We couldn’t be happier with the fans rallying behind the series and giving it the love it totally deserves.
Deekman (It’s us!)
- Why is it so difficult to get the music rights for the vocal songs in each localization? Are they cut to keep the localization cost down or is there some other reason they need to be removed?
- Obviously the higher ups and Nagoshi see the increased sales in the west. What is the team’s general reaction to sudden increase in popularity in the west?
- When the popularity of Yakuza began to grow in other asian markets they introduced location specific cameos and actors (the hitman in Yakuza 0 for example). Is this something we can expect to see in the west?
At our most core policy, we don’t cut content. We just don’t do it.
But here we are with the music. Japanese music licensing is really tough, and long story short, it’s simply not worth it for our audience. It’s worth it for Japan because these artists have brand recognition and they bring new eyes to the franchise. These people are famous in that market! But for the Western market, it’s just a localization thing. I know that’s not ideal, but that’s the reality.
Does that mean we don’t care? No, of course it doesn’t! We hate it! Does that mean we aren’t trying? No! We thoroughly investigate music rights for every game, but every time, the result is the same: It just won’t work. Do we give up? Hell no! We will look into it every single time. But when it comes down to hard-lining on the music, or actually releasing the game, we are going to choose releasing the game every time.
2) Team Reaction
They are very pleased.
You know, this has actually been tossed around, but nothing has come of it as of yet. Honestly, its sort of a weird thing because if we replace something with Western version, then some people call that censorship, so it’s a bit of a double edged sword (see 1) ).
Kazuma Kiryu talks and behaves noticeably different from his stoic/blunt dialogue in 3-5 to his more witty dialogue in 0-Kiwami. Was this an intentional part of re-evaluating the translation of the character or was it to show a more distinctive personality traits and growth between each of the games?
There’s two answers here. Y0 Kiryu is actually written (in both languages) as a younger, more brash, and quite frankly, naive guy, and we absolutely kept that. But the thing about Kiryu is that as the Player Character, there’s a certain flexibility his writing has to have in order to make the batshit crazy substories he finds himself in work – he plays the role of straight man when it comes to comedy, or the sage when it comes to hostess clubs, or the fool when it comes to scams. If our current-day writing of Kiryu is a bit more lively, I think that’s because the situations he’s in have gotten more lively too.
This all said, Kiryu’s personality does change between the games too, although it’s subtle. Y1 Kiryu is angry, and rightfully so. Y2 Kiryu seeks redemption. Y3 Kiryu is the happiest he’s ever been, and Y4 Kiryu is practically a zen master. Y5 Kiryu is midlife crisis Kiryu, and Y6… Kiryu is in his late 40s, and he’s out of ****s to give when it comes to these damn yakuza.
With the current success of Yakuza 0, Kiwami being well received and Kiwami 2 on it’s way, the chances of Yakuza 3, 4 or 5 getting re-released on the PS4 or maybe Steam can be considered “better than none” now?
Can’t really speculate about upcoming product, but hypothetically, if there was a re-release of Yakuza 3, 4, and/or 5, what would that be worth to you? Digital, $30 a game? Packaged bundle for $80? What’s that look like in your mind’s eye?
You tell us!
How Did Yakuza Kiwami sell in the west?
We’re seeing great reception, but we can always do better. We’re honestly relying a lot on you guys to get the word out about how awesome these games are. – Jacob
1) It’s been a fresh start at Sega of America it merging with Atlus USA. How does that change the approach in comparision to Yakuza localization in the past?
2) Can you tell us how satisfied you are with the sales thus far, and can you assure fans that they will reliably get more games in the future?
3) Is Sega of America/Atlus USA theoretically able to localize and consistenly support an online game like the newly announced Yakuza Online? Previous Sega offerings in that realm had shortcomings.
1) The approach to localization for the Yakuza series from many many moons ago was to partner with our friends at Inbound Games to do the localization. SEGA of America didn’t have a internal localization team at the time, and most if not all titles were outsourced.
Yakuza 0 was also handled by Inbound, but received additional polish afterwards by Scott himself and other internal team members. Kiwami, however, was handled completely internally by Atlus localization staff.
Scott can probably better articulate the key differences between the Pre- and Post- Y0 styling.
2) We are happy that there has been a groundswell in support for the series, and the performance so far has been meeting expectations. But there’s more work to be done, and with the support of you the fans, we think we can go even bigger!!!
3) I can’t really go into theoretical capabilities of our business units, so I’m gonna have to Essence of Godspeed here and dodge this one 🙂
is this why some of the names were changed for earlier releases (“fuma” instead of “kazama” for example, or “nishikiyama” having his name shortened to just “nishiki”) but then in later games the actual names started getting used? was it just a difference in style where the company you were outsourcing to wanted to heavily localize everything but then you guys wanted to be more true to the original?
I don’t think Yakuza 1 was handled by Inbound. Inbound started at Y2, if I recall correctly. They had to pick and choose what to update. Y1 localization happened long before my time, and I’m not sure why certain choices were made, though the fact they had to VO the game probably had an impact. ‘Nishikiyama’ is not something that rolls off the tongue if you aren’t familiar with Japanese.
As a newcomer who started with Yakuza 0 I wanted to thank you: I was interested in the series for years but didn’t want to begin with the 3rd game (as 1/2 are pretty rare/expensive), so the releases of 0/Kiwami were a blessing. I will now carry on to be up to date for March 20th.
1) I know it may be a controversial topic when it comes to translation, but why have you guys decided to keep the japanese honorifics in the english translation? Westerners may know them nowadays but it still seems weird to me.
2) Aren’t you afraid that Yakuza 6 will not sell well in the west as many people started the series with 0/Kiwami and may not want to play all the remaining games in a few months?
Thanks a lot for what you guys did all these years and good luck for the future!
1) Japanese Honorifics
Great question! Japanese localization and familiarity with the Japanese language in general has changed massively over the past decade. With easy access to Japanese content through services like Crunchyroll and dual language titles, there has been a increase in awareness with some of the subtleties of the Japanese language.
In games like Yakuza that are so steeped in Japanese culture, the relationships between characters are critically important to understanding the context behind characters actions and motivations. Honorifics are crucial linguistic components that express this, and more often than not, there are no natural English equivalents. There is so much context immediately delivered when a character adds -kun to another characters name.
We believe that context is important, and should be carried over into the subtitles, even if it initially seems strange.
2) Bridging the Gap
We are confident that Y6 delivers a powerful, emotional experience, and will draw the attention it deserves. But you are right, jumping from Kiwami to Y6 is a tall order! So to that end, we are building out a Yakuza Experience site (http://yakuza.sega.com/experience/), which will see updates going forward with comics and timelines that enables you to bridge that gap as spoiler free as possible. Scott is directly involved in the writing and creation of the content to make sure that it hits the major emotional high points of the series, without actually spoiling the content, so you can read them and go into Y6 fully understanding the context of the events that will transpire.
Oh yes 🙂 You guys have made it very clear. But actually, I put in 30+ hours on it when it originally came out.
Will the Yakuza games ever get European languages subtitles? As a French video game journalist/Yakuza fan, I try to write about the games as often as possible. Lots of European gamers would love to try the series but don’t do it because they don’t speak English.
Two easier questions:
-What’s your favorite karaoke song from the Yakuza games. I love Machinegun Kiss and Bakamitai.
-What would it take for you to partner with Funko to release Yakuza Funko Pops?
By the way, hi Scott, you gave me my Yakuza 6 demo at E3 and we follow each other on Twitter.
As a European user, if some of the games had localization and others did not, do you feel that would create issues within those communities? For example, only new releases get EU subtitles, but previous games don’t, would that not create frustration within those communities?
Would love to hear what you think!
For the others: – Bakamitai, hands down… DAME! DAME YO! DAME NA NO YO! – LOL, I’ll talk to licensing. No promises.
How far ahead of time do you get the games?
How long have you worked on the series? Having played all of the games, I imagine the localisation team for the earlier games isn’t the same one as now, just based off of wording, font choices, etc.
How far ahead of time do you get the games?
Do you mean how far ahead do we get to see the game in development? We see things pretty early on, but it’s often just framework and its hard to get a idea what the moment to moment experience is that early in.
How long have you worked on the series?
My first hands on with Yakuza development was during the final stages of Y5, just a couple months before the overseas release.
That said, I was the North American Producer for Binary Domain, if that counts.
yakuza kiwami is selling for half the price of yakuza 0. why?
do you agree with this pricing? personally i feel that this makes the decision to buy a game i played on the ps2 much easier so i hope sega will sell kiwami 2 at the same price.
also the transformation of majima from 0 to 1 is…extreme..personally i don’t understand how he turned out so obsessed with kiryuu and a little bit insane after playing 0, but it seemed reasonable when i played yakuza without 0…what are your thoughts of the transformation of majima?
the yakuza series also later on introduces more playable characters besides majima and kiryuu, which is your favorite character?
the last question, the lack of backwards compatibility (on the ps4) has allowed for tons of remakes to sell well, would you rather make sequels/new IP or see more remakes?
Yes, Kiwami is a great deal, and that was always the intention.
ALRIGHT, I’ve always wanted to take a stab at the Majima question, so this is gonna get epic, as well as contain mad SPOILERS for Yakuza 0, Y4, and Y5. And I have to preface that this is my “localization guy” interpretation of the character, and only some of this has been confirmed with the actual writers.
First, you need to understand Majima’s primary motivation – Saejima. Ever since he missed participating in that hit, Majima’s singular, driving goal is to give Saejima the opportunity to confront him and exact whatever punishment he feels is appropriate.
So Majima sets out from square -1 to get back into the Tojo Clan and gain enough power and position to do that. But as you know, in Y0, he discovers that some costs are too great, which throws his entire life’s purpose into question: How do I balance my own sense of right and wrong with the tenacity I must have in order get back into the clan and to Saejima?
That answer comes in the shape of three different dudes who give him three different answers to how one is “tenacious” – Lee, who would go to ANY length to protect the ones he loves, Nishitani, who throws his entire self into his pursuit of pleasure, and even Sagawa, who as Majima tells him, is “practically immortal.”
But what happens to his three paragons of tenacity? Well, you know that answer if you’ve played Y0. What happens when Majima attempts to take the moral high ground? What happens when he dares to show some modicum of emotion?
At the end of Y0, contrary to popular belief that he “goes insane,” the bombshell reveal is that Majima tells you that he’s going to flip a switch. Live crazier than any one by adopting a new persona. You LITERALLY SEE THIS SWITCH GET FLIPPED in the post credit scene with Kiryu.
Between Y0 and Kiwami, some more shit happens to Majima. MASSIVE Y5 SPOILER INCOMING. His wife gets an abortion without his knowledge. He hits her. He leaves her.
And the evidence of Majima’s mindset in Kiwami is right in the first few lines when you meet him: What’s the point of doing the right thing? “Doing things that way is going to break you.” But no… that’s just a projection. Majima is the one who got broken.
And if you’ve played Y2 through Y5, you see the facade slowly start to fade. It’s a really interesting growth of the character.
…My favorite character is Majima.
Few general questions, whichever you can answer 🙂
- Hardest part about localizing games or something interesting about the process the general gamer doesn’t realize?
- Funniest bugs/glitches encountered while developing/localizing Yakuza (Can be any)?
Love the series, can’t wait for 6 and 2 to come out! Playing Kiwami now as we speak!
Hardest part about localizing games or something interesting about the process the general gamer doesn’t realize?
There’s blogs and posts that outline this and the list is very long, and each game has its own unique challenges. For Yakuza, I think the hardest part is simply finding that balance between accuracy and delivering the emotional punch in English. That just doesn’t come out with a straight translation, you have to craft that.
Funniest bugs/glitches encountered while developing/localizing Yakuza (Can be any)?
You may have heard of that “dudes missing from the scene” issue that was discovered in Kiwami and patched out in 1.01. That was really weird. There was also some trouble during Yakuza 5’s localization where the game would hard crash near the end of the first Kiryu section and it took forever for us to figure out why and it held up QA quite a bit (I believe it was a text parsing issue).
Thanks for being a fan!
Do you guys have an extended dialogue with the Yakuza/RGG team in Japan? I know that you put a lot of effort into making sure that text is localized to be appealing to western audiences while still keeping the context intact, but do you ever run into situations where you need to ask the team what they meant by certain phrases or emotions the characters are feeling? Thank you again for all your hard work, these games are some of my favorites of all time.
P.S. Blink once if Yakuza 3-5 HD Collection is coming anytime soon
We absolutely seek confirmation on anything we’re even lightly confused about with the writers. Things like standing rank, spelling of their English names, and character relationships with each other are the most frequently asked, I’d say.
I am a new player to the series. I just finished Yakuza 0 and enjoyed so much, I immediately started Kiwami. Yet one thing that has confused me is the naming conventions of the characters. Kiryu’s full name is Kazama Kiryu, named from Shintaro Kazama. Why did he take Shintaro’s given name as his family name? Is Shintaro’s name supposed to be Kazama Shintaro but was switched in localization? If so, why? Does this also have anything to do with why the yakuza families are named after the leader’s given name as well?
Kazuma Kiryu is not Shintaro Kazama’s blood. He was an orphan that Kazama brought into his orphanage. The “closeness” of their names is completely coincidental, and “Kazuma” was not taken from “Kazama”. No localization mistakes have been made here, and in fact, we corrected them, because the oldest localizations completely changed “Kazama” to “Fuma”.
With the Hostess Clubs being so well done and a large part of Zero. Do you guys look back and wish you could of pushed hard in the past to keep the content in Yakuza 3?
Neither myself or Sam was a SEGA employee at the time, so we don’t really even have the ability to say, man I wish we could have done that better. That said, as a direct result of what happened to Y3, we’re both dedicated to ensuring that something like that never happens again, and that all the content is preserved as faithfully as we can make it. (I mean, JAV stars…)
1) What was the main reason that made you guys decide to keep localizing the Yakuza games?
2) Do you guys get any help from Nagoshi and his team when working on the games?
3) Can I ever be as stylish as Kiryu?
1) What was the main reason that made you guys decide to keep localizing the Yakuza games?
‘Cuz y’all won’t leave it alone XD
2) Do you guys get any help from Nagoshi and his team when working on the games?
Oh yeah, absolutely. We have to report progress directly to the man himself. We are in constant communication with the dev team.
3) Can I ever be as stylish as Kiryu?
I like to believe there is a little bit of Kiryu in all of us.
Hi guys, fantastic job with this series! I especially love how the games balance serious, emotional plot lines with the humor of sidequests and other hilarity.
My question is, if I want to join a team like Sega to work on amazing games like Yakuza Kiwami, what do I need to learn in school? Thanks!!
It depends on where you want to go. From the PR perspective, it ultimately comes down to meeting people in the industry who will give you a chance and being a good communicator. I’ve seen people in gaming PR who have comms backgrounds, journalism backgrounds, philosophy backgrounds, you name it. I don’t look at a degree so much as I look at what they know of the industry, who they know and what they’ve already done. Scott’s degree is in English (creative writing). Sam’s is Comp Sci with a minor in Japanese. – Jacob
If you were theoretically given the task to localise a future Yakuza game (i.e. 6) by having to produce/cast English dialogue in addition to the translation, how would you approach this and what fundamental principles would you set for the VO performers? <3
We have discussed this internally, just throwing ideas around, and we all agree it would be very difficult.
The challenge is that while a lot of Japanese games can get away with a sort of Anime-like dubbing presentation, the real-world style of Yakuza makes it so that style of dubbing just wouldn’t fly. It has to really deliver that emotion, or why bother?
Personally, before we would even attempt this, I’d ask our production team to demonstrate that it was actually possible to deliver an authentic dubbed experience before committing to it. I think you’d actually have to rework the facial expressions and lipflap to sell an English performance, and that’s EXTREMELY expensive to do, especially since we would have to have both Japanese and English on disc, so that’s basically like two sets of performances.
Simple and short question: Has Sega ever considered a PS4 Remaster of 3-5? And if yes, will the localization team “fix” some of the things from the older localizations? Like changing Fuma to Kazama, modernizing the terms for combat/heat moves for consistency?
While there’s no plans for anything like this at this time, but you raise an interesting question.
If there was a HD remake or port of those titles to modern platforms, would you want the original text left as is, or have all the text updated by Scott and the team to align with the post Y0 styling?
Would love to hear your thoughts!
Hey folks :D. Thanks a lot for doing this AMA. If you can, then please answer some of the questions I have.
1) For someone who doesn’t own a PS3, what’s your recommendation for the proper way to experience the Yakuza story till Yakuza 6, which comes out next year?
2) Several gaming related websites have stated that Yakuza 6 has some frame rate and Aliasing related issues. Can we expect to get some patches/updates after Yakuza 6 comes out in the Western Markets?
These are all the questions I have. Thank you for so much for bringing us such a brilliant video game series :). I hope more and more people get to experience this amazing game.
Edit: Forgot to mention something. Give the person a nice pat on the back who made the most recent Yakuza related survey. I usually hate doing surveys, but this one was really funny and organized.
1) Honestly, you can start with either game and visit our Yakuza Experience site (http://yakuza.sega.com/experience/) to catch up on story.
2) It’s a localization of an existing title. This was the first time they built an engine from the ground up specifically for the PS4. Of course, when working with a new engine, there might be some kinks here and there, but folks here have enjoyed their playthroughs.
Bonus: Sam did that survey! – Jacob
- Favorite karaoke song?
- Hardest sub-story to localize? ( To me the hardest to complete was Haruka’s comedy routine)
1) 24 Hour Cinderella by a country mile. 2) We didn’t get to work on Haruka’s comedy routine, but man, that “Pizza/Visa” one in Y0 was tough, because we had to make sure her (lack of) pronunciation was consistent and…. believable enough, I guess. Haha.
For the localization crew, I would love to hear about the thought process that went/goes into changing established localized names from earlier entries in the series, eschewing what fans are used to for something more faithful to the Japanese. For instance, changing Kage the Florist back into The Florist of Sai, or (possibly? dunno if you went through with this or not) renaming Kiryu’s orphanage in 6 from Sunshine Orphanage into Morning Glory.
Personally after so long I would have rather stuck with what’s been established for over a decade at this point. I was fine back when they retconned Nishiki into Nishikiyama, and Fuma back to Kazama, but Kage and Sunshine aren’t mentioned nearly as much and made it through all of the PS3 era games. Plus Morning Glory is a little… y’know.
Bonus question for both the PR guys and the loc. crew: Who is your favorite character in the entire series, OTHER than Majima since he’s obviously everyone’s idol.
With Yakuza 0 being the prequel that it is, we knew we had a golden opportunity to set in motion the changes that should have been there all along. The names are a given; “Fuma” was never correct, “Kage” was just throw in to give the man a name, and yes, we corrected “Sunflower” to “Morning Glory” in Y6, which sounds like it’s your major sticking point.
It’s tough on the fans when we correct mistakes, I know. But they ARE mistakes, and I’m more inclined to correct them than to just throw my hands up and live with them because they’re consistent mistakes.
The “localization butterfly effect” has in fact never been more evident than with “Sunshine Orphanage.” As you know, Kiryu grows up in Sunflower (Himawari) orphanage… a flower. In Y3, he names his own orphanage Morning Glory (Asago) after a flower. So we lost that already. THEN, adding fuel to the fire, we move to Osaka in Y0 and lo and behold, Majima’s cabaret is literally called SUNSHINE. My jaw about hit the floor when I saw that in the game.
While maybe the biggest fans would know that “oh, Sunshine orphanage is just just a localized mistake” people just getting into the series could now assume that both Kiryu and Majima have some kind of fascination with sunshine, or worse, that Kiryu named his orphanage for a cabaret in Sotenbori. I think that implication would be harder to live with than us going in and saying, actually, we’re going to make this right, and I hope that despite how weird it will be for all you returning players, that you understand the reasoning behind it.
If I’m not allowed to pick Majima, my second fave is Nagumo, who you probably haven’t met yet, but I think people are going to like. He’s a lovable dumbass, but he wears his heart on his sleeve and he brings a lot to Y6’s story.
Hello guys! What determines if the game will be localised or not?
Edit: Also Yakuza Dancing all night soon?
It starts with you guys. When we hear how much you want our games, that is a huge factor. I can’t state this enough. We are at the end of the day a business, and when we see that a whole group of people in the West want games localized, it influences the business decision.
That said, there are other factors, such as internal resourcing and external market trends, that also determine this at the end of the day. – Jacob
What degree path would you recommend to get a job in localization production? I’m going for a business major with Japanese as a minor (or JLPT 2 equivalent)
I met you in person once Sam, and you mentioned that you taught English for a year when you were done before landing a job. Would you recommend the same for me? I’ve been considering it for a while now. It seems like a good way to get into an internship from within Japan.
I actually did the JET Programme for 3 years, incidentally near Onomichi Hiroshima, the setting for Yakuza 6 (totally coincidental).
For any kind of Japanese related production work, you definitely need to have a working grasp of the language, and be able to express yourself clearly and communicate in a professional way, at least at the start. You can only do that if you spend some extended time in Japan working.
I’ve met a number of people in industry who went to Kansai Kaidai and did a stint in patent translation before transitioning into the industry. There’s a lot of ways to get in, you just have to discover your own path.
What were a couple of the hardest things to translate / transliterate from Japanese, both in terms of language and cultural literacy?
How fluent did you need to be in rough/gangster Japanese to perform the translation, and how did you learn / who coached you?
What’s the craziest detail or story in the Yakuza games that’s actually true, and exists or existed in real-world Japan?
To what degree did you interact with actual yakuza members? Do you know if the games are popular among them, and to what degree?
EDIT: I’ve been playing since the very first game, and own every one of them released in the US. THANK YOU!
Let me take that first question:
The hardest thing to get over are the cultural subtleties and subtexts that are implicit to a Japanese user, but really need to be explicitly stated for non-Japanese speakers. Things like inter-character relationships, social duty, and shared responsibility. There’s tons of things in these games that’s really hard to get across fully and accurately, while keeping it short and aligned with subtitle timings.
A great example is the relationship between Kiryu and Mayumi in Yakuza 5. I feel like many Western players completely misunderstand that relationship.
Can you walk me through a regular day in your job?
Pretty sure you don’t mean us PR people, but just in case…Lots of planning meetings and emails each day. First, when I wake up, I start by answering the emails that came in while I was sleeping. When I get in the office, I first read the headlines of various gaming news outlets, see if we show up, and if we don’t, select a few articles to read through. Normally I will be 4 cups of coffee in by this point. Then, I start any writing I have on the docket. We have some breaks scattered throughout the day where we will play games that I will sometimes use for exercise. Email and call media. Plan launches. Write reports. Add in the aforementioned meetings and you have my day. – Jacob
Was the localization team surprised with the reception Yakuza 0 and Kiwami got from the Media and Youtube community ?
I think it’s fair to say we were surprised, but both games have such great, shareable moments, maybe we shouldn’t have been? We owe a lot to our main chicken, Nugget, AngryJoe’s review was hilarious and well-thought out, and I’d like to remind everyone who’s home alone tonight to remember these yakuza.
Do you think newcomers to the series should start out with playing Kiwami or Zero?
Tbh, both games are great to start with. Currently, I’m working through Yakuza 0 before Kiwami. – Will
Actually, both games feed into each other in different ways. It’s incredible to go from Kiwami back to 0 and have all the context for what these guys will become, but it’s also great to catch all the subtle nods to Y0 in Kiwami. But if you play them in succession, either way you win. Your perception of the characters will be different depending on which one you start with, but at the end, you’ve got a really great story with some incredible character arcs either way!
Is there a chance we’ll see the Yakuza series on other consoles? I remember hearing about the Yakuza 1/2 HD ports for Wii U, so I was curious if we could get something like that for other consoles (S W I T C H)?
We all love the Switch. I always have mine. We’ve done quite a bit on the platform this year as a company. That said, we can’t announce anything new here :(. We are listening to you though! – Jacob
I’m a new Yakuza player so I don’t know how deep this river runs, but I notice a pattern of transphobia and homophobia in both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. I’ve also been told this holds up in other games, but like I said I can’t attest to those.
In Kiwami, there is a brief substory that involves Kiryu attacking a trans man and a trans woman with Kiryu only commenting that he “shouldn’t be so gullible”, and in Zero there’s the entire Pleasure King line in the real estate subquest, which also ends in Kiryu attacking the Pleasure King. Along with this, there’s a couple scenes in Kiwami with Majima using trans panic or gay panic to incite fights with Kiryu (i.e. the Goromi and bikini bar scenes).
While I understand that localization makes handling these quests very difficult (possibility of censorship criticisms from series fans, etc.) is there any amount of discussion that happens surrounding these quests? I know that for me personally as a queer player, it’s a real bummer to see it encourage or at the very least not condemn these behaviors.
tl;dr: How does the team approach substories that involve ignorant viewpoints re: LGBT+ issues? Would the team or Sega be open to changing this content so as not to ostracize LGBT+ fans?
And don’t get me wrong– I’m not writing this to just blast the games. I still really like both Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, and will probably continue to buy future titles. But I’d feel much better recommending them to friends if these topics were handled in a different manner.
Thank you for bringing this up. There is a lot to unpack here. First, you are right: when we localize a title, we try really hard to balance sensitivity with accuracy. I think this came through really well with the character Rina. Still, we have seen how some of the community, like yourself, feels about how transgender characters are portrayed in the game. When we see issues like this, we bring it to the dev team. It is an ongoing conversation. – Jacob