The Secrets to Localizing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

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The Secrets to Localizing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Who knew raising a baby could be so difficult?

Imagine the following scenario:

You are tasked with translating an epic, 50-hour adventure from one language to another — including visual cues and UI elements — with a massive story, while maintaining cultural relevance, jokes, and idioms for your new audience. All without compromising the intent, message, and drama of any given scene. This was essentially our task for Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and we wanted to share some of the hurdles (And joys!) of this process.

No Single Challenge

I wouldn’t classify any of Yakuza 6 as having a “single tough challenge” so much as having lots of little challenges that needed to be recognized early on, many of which stem from the fact that we very intentionally leave the Yakuza series in its native Japanese. For example: when baby Haruto is upset, as Kiryu, it’s your job to console him. The hints he gives you about how to do that are delivered via voice in the middle of a baby-comforting mini-game where the UI takes up the subtitle space, so we had to be creative about ensuring those hints were subtitled and displayed somewhere else on screen without conflicting with the UI.

Another huge challenge for us was the “Bar Conversation” minigame, in which Kiryu engages with a lively group of regulars at a bar and has to select from multiple dialog options to keep the conversation flowing naturally. We did a straight translation and edit on our first pass, but in this case, the unstructured nature of English makes canned responses like “Wow” “Oh really?” and “You don’t say!” all perfectly viable responses to any topic of conversation, while in Japanese, you would know exactly which one of those would carry the conversation forward. We ended up going back through this text to clarify which options were wrong, and as a result, due to the localization, this minigame will have a different feel in English than perhaps it did in Japanese.

The Balance Between Comedy and Drama

The developers and script writers have found this balance for us, and it’s really up to the localization team to ensure we maintain it in a way that Western players can appreciate.

While the main story’s dramatic twists and turns usually lean toward the serious side of things, the next moment you might find yourself rocking out at a karaoke bar or jumping off a fishing boat and punching a shark. I think our localization team really gets the dev team’s adult-oriented humor, and the substories in Yakuza 6 have some great social commentary about technology and the way people use it (or fail to use it) that’s universal around the world.

There’s one substory called, “Like, Comment, Subscribe” that has a little fun with the concept of social media influencers, and another finds Kiryu installing a digital “personal assistant” onto his phone, with hilarious results.

Want to Learn More?

If you’d like to learn more of these behind-the-scene tidbits, we do a weekly stream across our channels (we we will be making some special announcements you won’t see elsewhere), which you can find out more about on Facebook or following us on Twitter at @YakuzaGame.

Or if you need to catch up on the series, I highly recommend: 1.) you visit our Yakuza Experience site (featuring character maps, timelines, and a whole comic series dedicated to filling in the backstory between Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6). And 2.) just today, we released a video you can watch on our channels that will help newcomers better understand the relationship between Kiryu and Haruka. It’s also a great refresher for those who might not have played the games for a while.

Special Surprise!

Before signing off, I’ve been given the honor of revealing our cover art for Yakuza 6: The Song of Life! As Kiryu’s journey comes full circle, we wanted a throwback to the original Yakuza cover here, but with the additions of Haruka and Haruto, who are now the driving forces in Kiryu’s life. We hope you like it!

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – Essence of Art Edition

One more thing: For those of you wondering about the winners of our art contest, it has been a delightful challenge selecting the winners. We asked, ”How far will you go for family” and have seen some incredible submissions we can’t wait to show them off as part of our (very) limited Launch Edition.

As part of our first run, everyone who purchases the Launch Edition will receive a 24-page artbook, filled with art celebrating Yakuza fandom. We will begin contacting winners soon and will reveal the winning pieces through launch, so make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see this awesome art.

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  • Awesome work! This is no easy task but much appreciated. One of my favorite game series.

  • I’m really looking forward to this, but will there be more After Hours Premium Edition units on Amazon US? I’m waiting for it to show up. If it won’t happen I’ll gladly get the other version but I’m holding out til I find out otherwise.

    • Amazon is tapped out for now. I’d look to other retailers if you can (though I know those Prime deals are hard to pass up!)

  • I’m weirdly playing Kiwami and 5 at the same time right now, and so excited for this. Just need to stop punching bears in the face and beat 5 but… bear punching. Already have already have 6 super edition pre-ordered. Excited for some shark punching to happen.

  • Cheers to everyone on the localization team. I’ve played the whole series (except 6 of course!) and you all make it look so easy. Such tremendous writing. Thank you for all you do.

  • That baby mini-game… is that motion controlled? If so… that’s… not good for me…

  • please translate isshin for the playstation 4

  • Is there an alternative to the motion controls? As a physically disabled gamer forced motion controls are bad for me. It’s why it’s difficult to enjoy david cage’s games, and was a big hurdle in Mario Odyssey (You can beat the game without using them but several moons need them)

    • Well I have some good news on this for you…

      1. The motion controls are easy/simplistic. Mostly just moving the controller a little here and there. That said…
      2. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARY FOR PROGRESSION. You even get the trophy if you fail the mini game, and the mini game is only in the early part of the game.


    • Thank you for that info! At least it’s not absolutely necessary to progress.

      Now onto the positivity, this is by far my favorite current franchise, Sega should be proud both of what they deliver with each yakuza title, and with the faith of continuing to localize them despite earlier games not selling too hot overseas. These games are special and are literally the blueprint of my ideal video game. Love these games like no other.

      And thank you to the localization team, I know translating these games ain’t easy.

  • Just bought Kiwami so I’ve still gotta get through that one but I can’t wait to play Yakuza 6.

  • Any update on a digital version? I already have my After Hours edition preordered but would like to get digital as well.

  • I thank Sega wholeheartedly for keeping the Yakuza series going in the West. It’s obviously not an easy thing to translate, but your efforts make Kiryu-heads like me very happy.

  • I hope there’s a Kiwami 2 announcement at PSX and remasters of 3-5 in the future!

  • Hi,

    Thanks a lot for your great work and great localizations of my favourite series!

    Just two short questions…what about the sexy chat minigame?Will we get it in the English version or will it be cut?

    Thanks a lot for you answers and greetings from Hungary! :)

  • Thank you for localizing it. The Yakuza games are some of my favorites.

  • Looking forward to it! Had the After Hours edition pre-ordered since the day it went up!

  • I absolutely LOVE this game. Yakuza 6 was my first entry to the series when I got my hands on the Japanese version, and that got me to go back and buy all the games available on PS4 (even the Japanese historical spin-off).

    It also inspired me to start making videos to celebrate this game that I love. It’s my first video and there are tons of things to be improved upon, but I’d really appreciate it if you would check it out!

    Really excited to play it again in English!

  • March is still so far away.

  • wish you guys gave dubbing the series one more shot.

    • As someone who prefers dubbed to subbed 90% of the time, Yakuza is definitely in the 10% that should not be dubbed. It is a game that takes place in Japan, with Japanese characters. Why would they speaking English? Watching footage of the original Yakuza game on PS2, it totally throws me off to hear the English voices. The Japanese language not only works for this series, it enhances the feel of it.

  • I appreciate the time and effort you guys put in localizing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. I look forward to release day.

  • Looks absolutely amazing, I love that cover art! Can’t wait for this game, keep up the great work!

  • will we also see the NJPW wrestlers in this release too?

  • In Portuguese?

  • you doin a great job..thank you all

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