Yakuza: Like a Dragon switched to RPG combat after the April Fool’s video in 2019

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It turns out that when Yakuza developers pranked the world with a turn-based gameplay reveal of Yakuza: Like a Dragon last April, the game was actually still action-based.

If you're unfamiliar with the story, it's a wild one. On April 1, 2019, the video below premiered from Yakuza developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, giving the world a look at the turn-based gameplay of the next game in the series. As you can see, protagonist Ichiban Kasuga steps up to confront some street thugs with a brand new RPG-based gameplay system.

Thing is, it was all a prank from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. As was revealed afterwards, the gameplay reveal above was never meant to be anything more than a joke. So how come it actually ended up representing the final product, when Yakuza: Like a Dragon would release months later in Japan?

It turns out that the audience loved the fake gameplay reveal so much that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio changed Yakuza: Like a Dragon, switching it from an action game to a turn-based battler. So from April 2019, when the prank first aired, to January 2020, when Like a Dragon launched in Japan, the developer was actually busy retooling their entire gameplay system because the prank went down way better than anyone could've anticipated. All of this is revealed in the brilliant interview below with Yakuza series producer Toshihiro Nagoshi, by Archipel on YouTube.

As Nagoshi reveals in the interview, many people somehow assumed they were already making a turn-based RPG when the April Fool's video was released. After the video though, the team pivoted immediately to the RPG formula, with Nagoshi remarking with a wry smile that "hurrying to make things is sort of a characteristic of the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio."

There are some game development stories that just make your jaw drop, and this is very much one of them. To think that the entire team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio abandoned the established gameplay that they spent nearly two decades refining, to chase something entirely new in less than a year is mind-boggling.

But, it paid off. Yakuza: Like a Dragon has generally been received very well by critics and fans alike, acting as a major launch title for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in the west. Having spent well over 60 hours with Ichiban Kasuga and company, I can firmly say Like a Dragon is fantastic. If you're after some more elaborate thoughts, head over to our Yakuza: Like a Dragon review.

If you're still working your way through the brand new RPG adventure from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, check out our Yakuza: Like a Dragon tips for essential info.

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.