The Last Thing Yakuza: Like a Dragon Needs Is an English Dub

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

I adore the Yakuza games. In fact, I might go so far as to put Yakuza 0 on a list of the ten best video games ever made. The series manages an exceptional balance between emotional depth and absurdity. This is a game where you’ll spend hours doing bad karaoke and playing crane machines for cheap toys before heading into a story scene that will leave you absolutely wrecked emotionally.

This becomes a precarious tightrope walk. If the series leans just a hair to the left, it will topple over, becoming a shlocky parody of itself. If it leans just a smidge in the other direction, it will lose a good deal of its charm. I’m always stunned by how well the Yakuza series, now seven mainline entries deep, has managed to walk this tightrope so perfectly for so long.

One of the secrets, I think, is the Japanese audio tracks. I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m dependent on subtitles. However, from my perspective of ignorance, every voice actor in the Japanese-language Yakuza games (the first game did have an English dub, starring Mark Hamill of all people) is at the absolute top of their game. I wouldn’t know, of course, but not speaking the language allows me to imagine that this is top-tier voicework.

And maybe it really is. I can’t say. But if it’s actually kind of phoned in, I wouldn’t be able to tell. In my imagination, the Japanese voice acting is pure artistry.

With the Yakuza: Like a Dragon English dub, though, these voiceovers are kind of hokey, and because they’re in English, I can tell right away that this is the case. The illusion of mastery (if it is indeed an illusion) has been broken.

Check out this Japanese-language Yakuza: Like a Dragon English trailer:

Now check out the trailer for the English dub.

While the first one has a bit of goofiness to it, there’s also a dramatic seriousness that underpins the story moments. The latter trailer just sounds like it’s some bargain-bin action game that’s trying a little too hard.

Now, we do get some voice work by George Takei here, and I admit that’s pretty cool. But come on, Sega, was any of this really necessary?

What really makes me nervous is that I can’t find any concrete answers on whether or not their will be a Japanese audio option here. The sources I’ve read thus far call this dub an “English language option,” which suggests the existence of other options. I just hope this is a deliberate choice of phrasing and not a misunderstanding, because I certainly don’t want to play a Yakuza game in English.

With all due respect to Mark Hamill and George Takei, both brilliant and talented actors, I don’t want any of this. Until I can confirm there will be a Japanese-language audio track with absolutely certainty, I’m going to have to pretend Yakuza: Like a Dragon doesn’t exist.

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