Since its introduction in 2016, the Dragon Engine has been crucial to defining the look and feel of the series. However, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio [RGG Studio] and series executive producer Masayoshi Yokoyama acknowledges that it’s time for a “major update.”
“The Dragon Engine at this point is kind of a bit of an old engine. We have made a lot of minor updates over the years for it, or we’ve made a lot of minor updates over it, but we haven’t made any major updates. So probably next what’s coming for would be a major update if we had to do anything,” Yokoyama says.
First introduced with Yakuza 6, the Dragon Engine has since driven Yakuza Kiwami 2, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and the Judgment series. Like a Dragon: Ishin is notable in that it is being built on Unreal Engine 4. Does that mean a full shift to Unreal Engine 5 is in the cards?
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“So, regarding [Unreal Engine 5], yes, we are researching it,” Yokoyama said in response to a question asked by IGN during a roundtable interview. “We are kind of looking at it and saying, what are the merits of each? What’s the merit of the Dragon Engine? What’s the merit of the Unreal Engine? And when it comes down to it, the Dragon Engine…it’s really perfectly designed to represent a city at night. The nighttime city. Whereas Unreal, it’s better at showing nature and daytime and that sort of feel.”
Talking about the challenges of modern console technology, Yokoyama says that he’s not as worried about graphics, which he considers to have taken less of a leap than than in the PS3 era. Instead, Yokoyama worries more about the sheer number of available platforms.
“[R]ather than adjusting in terms of the challenge of adjusting to a new generation, much stronger technology, the main challenge is that now, we have so many platforms,” Yokoyama says. “We have PC, we have Steam, we have Xbox, we have all sorts of things from which our game can be a part of, and so making a game that can be on all these platforms and using the chance to share our game with people all around the world is the major challenge that we think we want to face going forward. And because of all these different pieces of technology, we want to maybe try doing something unique as well. Whether or not we’re doing it is a little bit of a secret though.”
Just don’t expect a Yakuza game on the Nintendo Switch anytime soon, which Yokoyama described during the interview as “kind of a system for a younger audience,” at least in Japan.
Whatever the case, there are several Yakuza games in the pipeline now, including the Like a Dragon: Ishin remake, Like a Dragon 8, and a new sidestory featuring Kazuma Kiryu. Ishin is the first in line, with a release date set for February 21, 2023.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.