Kazuhiro Nakaya, the voice actor of Ichiban Kasuga in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, has addressed the future of the Yakuza series, confirming Ichiban is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
In an interview with Famitsu, Nakaya sat down with Takaya Kuroda, the voice actor for previous Yakuza protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, to discuss their roles in the series. Kuroda says that, in regards to Kiryu, “the gravity of Yakuza began to decrease” for him when the series switched main characters after Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. “However, I think that Kiryu will continue to live a cool and sophisticated life even outside of the events of the games … I think your own humanity shows up in your performances so I, Takaya Kuroda, have to maintain a level of sophistication in my life so as not to embarrass Kiriyu if I were to be called upon going forward.”
Nakaya says he was able to play Ichiban to the best of his abilities in part thanks to Kuroda’s support with the transition. This is why he hopes he and Kasuga can follow in Kuroda and Kiryu’s footsteps and grow with each new title.
In the beginning, he says Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi told him, “Nakaya, you’re gonna help me make my living for the next 10 years.” One day, he’d like to see “Kiryu and Ichiban Kasuga standing side by side.”
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The eighth mainline entry in the Yakuza series, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, was released worldwide on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on Nov. 13. The game will be making its way to PlayStation 5 next year on March 2. The change in the protagonist isn’t the only notable change with this game. Compared to past titles, which were action-based, this is the first turn-based game in the series.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t originally turn-based. On April 1, 2019, Yakuza developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio pranked fans by releasing a trailer with turn-based combat. At the time, Yakuza: Like a Dragon was an action-based game; this was merely a joke to celebrate April Fools. But the developers saw just how much the audience loved the fake turn-based gameplay. So, they upended the battle system, shifting the new title from an action game to a turn-based battler. And they somehow made and implemented the change in the time between when the prank first aired and January 16, 2020, when Yakuza: Like a Dragon was released for the PlayStation 4 in Japan. Nagoshi says that “hurrying to make things is sort of a characteristic of the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.”
Much like Ichiban, the changes have been very welcome. In their review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Managing Editor Steven Strom expressed their appreciation for Ichiban, a scruffy soldier for the Tojo Clan who grew up as an orphan raised by sex workers. As someone who wants and needs support, “it makes sense, then, that the central character more directly surrounds himself with friends to form his JRPG party.” And that party consists of the kind of people Japanese society tends to forget, much like him. Overall, “Yakuza: Like a Dragon captures the soul of seven all-time great games in an almost entirely new shell. It’s both a new beginning and everything that entails.”
Needless to say: we look forward to seeing more of Ichiban in the exciting future of the rejuvenated Yakuza series.