Editor’s note (9/27/2022): A minor change was made to the headline to more accurately reflect the intention behind the comments made by RGG Studio’s Masayoshi Yokoyama. The original article, published on September 15, 2022, can be found below.
Though Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin was praised heavily by Japanese fans when it released in 2014, Sega and RGG Studio were not exactly confident it would do well in the west. It was, to begin with, a massive localization task for a series where even the mainline titles weren’t doing gangbusters. That it was a spinoff complicated the situation more and that the spinoff was about a historical Japanese time and place, which the developers assumed would seem alien outside of the country, was enough for Sega to focus their attention more on the upcoming Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 0 localizations instead.
In an interview with Masayoshi Yokoyama, the RGG Studio chief and Executive Producer told Fanbyte that there were a number of factors involved with finally bringing the game to the west. One surprising key, however, was the 2020 open-world samurai title Ghost of Tsushima from PlayStation studio Sucker Punch.
“We saw how well Ghost of Tsushima did, and how it was about this very Japanese setting made by Americans, so that gave us confidence Ishin could do well in America too,” Yokoyama said.
It may seem easy enough to think that of course the Edo-period setting of Like A Dragon: Ishin would do well in America, which has never really shied away from swordfights and drama, but the Yakuza series was in a very tenuous place at the time. It took PlayStation’s intervention to even bring Yakuza 5 —a mainline title — to the west in English, Ishin might have seemed like a bridge way too far at the time.
Ghost of Tsushima was not the only factor, of course. Yokoyama also said the timing was simply right, with Yakuza: Like a Dragon opening up the audience to many new fans who never got a chance to play the critically-acclaimed Ishin. The game, much like its protagonist Sakamoto Ryoma, has simply been lying in wait and waiting for its chance to strike.