During a recent interview with Red Bull France, Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi was asked about the common request for series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu to appear in a fighting game. Nagoshi is hesitant, he said, because he doesn’t want Kiryu fighting women.
“We do get this request a lot,” Nagoshi told interviewer Grégory de Meyer, who published English translations of his French interview on gaming forum Resetera. “Of course there are exceptions, but fighting games generally have female characters, and personally I don’t really want to see Kiryu beating up women.”
Apart from playing arcade games and helping a hostess channel her inner dominatrix, Kiryu spends much of the Yakuza franchise beating down enemies in the underground world of Japanese crime. That alone makes him a great candidate for guesting in fighting games like Tekken or Virtua Fighter (the latter of which, it should be pointed out, is also developed by Sega). But in almost 15 years, the noble gangster and his creators at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have yet to even flirt with that sort of cameo.
Nagoshi’s hesitance makes sense. Kiryu practices an old-school style of chivalry, which puts honour and respect at the forefront even as the larger criminal family to which he belongs broadly makes its money through violence and extortion. While in the real world the image of the noble Yakuza may be an idealised myth built up in part by classic Japanese cinema, in the fictional Yakuza series, Kiryu very much wouldn’t lay a finger on a woman.
I’ve wanted to see Kiryu guest in fighting games in the past, but Nagoshi’s misgivings have led me to rethink my position. Much like my dissatisfaction with how Mortal Kombat 11 handled characters like RoboCop and Rambo, seeing Kiryu beat down Nina Williams and Pai Chan would definitely feel like a betrayal of his moral compass. Sure, treating those strong women as delicate flowers might be considered a different kind of sexism, but Kiryu would probably find a way to avoid those fights all the same. He’s just that kind of guy.