Sega has confirmed Like a Dragon: Ishin! will not have an English voiceover dub, unlike Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
The news was confirmed by producer Masayoshi Yokoyama that the upcoming remaster will not be getting an English dub. Instead, there will only be a Japanese voiceover with English subtitles.
This is not new for the Yakuza series, of which Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a spin off of. As the franchise was always considered niche before the launch of Yakuza 0, so therefore they didn’t add in an English voiceover as a cost saving measure.
“In our recent games we’ve been auditioning local voice actors that have similar voices to the original Japanese actors and hiring them to do voice overs.” Yokoyama said in a new interview (via Tojo Dojo). “Starting with Yakuza 7 we’ve even been able to change the characters facial movement so they’re moving along with the English dialogue. It’s different than a foreign film dub.”
He added, “We fix their mouths so that they look like they’re properly speaking English. That’s where we’re at now. You can do that kind of thing with CG so in that way it’s actually better than live action. After we’ve changed the language to English we can change the characters faces to fit that as well. Japanese people are used to reading subtitles because we watch lots of Hollywood movies.”
Yokoyama noted foreigners “don’t really watch subtitled content,” and that this phenomenon is “especially in English speaking countries.” As such, those audiences tend to prefer voiceovers. The producer noted they didn’t do voiceovers for Yakuza 0, and it was wildly popular.
“The fans overseas who’ve been playing since that era still play the games like that even now,” he said. “In Japanese with English subtitles. They like Nakano and Kuroda’s voices so they want to hear their voices while they play.” Yokoyama noted the historical period would also make an English dub very difficult.
“For the Ishin remake we’re using subtitles. We’re not dubbing voice overs,” he said. “We’re translating the game into English, but the specialized vocabulary and the way people talked during the Bakumatsu era would make the lines incredibly long so it just wouldn’t work. So this time we’re doing subtitles.”
In essence, it’s a choice by design due to the setting of Like a Dragon: Ishin! being set in the past. Language changes over time and putting it into English, especially the challenges of putting it into voice with all the acting and other requirements appears to be too much in this case.
Also judging from his words, it seems that this could just be a one-off decision. So while future Yakuza titles will most assuredly receive English dubs, the developers may make decisions against it based on if they see how it fits.