There will be far fewer content cuts in the Western release of Yakuza 4 than in the previous overseas release of the Japanese video game crime series, a Sega of America representative told Kotaku yesterday.
Hostesses will be back as will be a hostess dress-up minigames, elements that are sure to please non-Japanese gamers who like their Yakuza games pure and populated by signature elements of Tokyo culture.
In real life and in the game, hostess clubs are frequented by men who wish to pay female workers there to hang out with them for a while: to talk, share drinks, not necessarily have sex. Their presence was cut from the western release of Yakuza 3 in order to get the game translated speedily, a Sega spokesperson had told Kotaku earlier this year.
The Yakuza games are blockbusters in Japan, where the series is on the verge of its seventh release in six years. They're hard-boiled games heavy in story and interactive brawling, usually set in authentic recreations of Tokyo neighbourhoods and filled with quotidian diversions. In the West, the games have a smaller cult following, a loud portion of it fans who play the games because of the Japanese voice acting and because you can walk the game's hero into realistic recreations of Japanese convenience stores. Such fans in the US and elsewhere don't like when content is cut.
Sega wants Westerners looking forward to Yakuza 4, a PlayStation 3 exclusive, to worry less. Not only with hostess clubs survive the game's US localisation. So too will Mah-Jong which also had been excised from Yakzua 3, according to Sega's Aaron Webber, who showed Kotaku the new game yesterday and was the community manager who had to settle down rowdy Yakuza 3 fans when they complained about the prior game's cuts. Webber said all of the game's side-quests "will pretty much be in there". Pressed about that qualified statement, Webber said he was unaware of any cut sidequests and said any cuts will be "nothing like Yakuza 3".
The one part of Yakuza 4 definitely dropped from the Western release is Answer X Answer, an interactive Japanese game show. Japanese trivia had been cut from Yakuza 3 because it was considered something that might be too exotic for Western gamers, but Webber said the content was not the concern this time. The technology was. Answer X Answer is comprised of 16-bit-style, old-school graphics, much of its text rendered in custom-animated fonts. The labour involved in redoing all of Answer's text in English would keep Yakuza 4 from making its spring 2011 release date.
Webber argued that it is preferable for Yakuza 4 to be out in America by early next year so that the Western releases can catch up to Japan, where Yakuza 4 was released in March 2010.
Yakuza 4's main path puts players successively in the shoes of four characters each with their own personality, crime-filled storyline and fighting style. The game's design implies that the Yakuza series' fighting mechanics, an arguably underdeveloped part of the package, have been improved. If deep cuts aren't made and the story is as strong as its predecessors, than Yakuza 4 will be a case of Sega finally getting it right.