Yakuza fans are living in a time of prosperity right now. All the recent Yakuza games have been released in the west, and older games are being remade under the "Kiwami" banner and getting English releases as well. But one game in the Yakuza franchise continues to elude fans: Yakuza: Kenzan. But a recent interview gives hope that this might not be the case for much longer.
Yakuza Kenzan is a spinoff game in the Yakuza series set in the samurai era. The game centers around historical characters, though the protagonist shares a likeness to Yakuza main character Kazuma Kiryuu. It was released in Japan in 2008 for the PlayStation 3, but never received an English release.
Speaking at a fan event in Taipei, Taiwan to celebrate the release of Yakuza 5 in the Chinese language, Yakuza series producer Daisuke Sato gave an update on Yakuza: Kenzan's prospects for a wider release. When asked if fans could expect any new Kiwami remakes, Sato responded that Kenzan could be a good candidate.
"Personally, Yakuza: Kenzan is quite suitable to get a 'Kiwami' makeover," Sato says. "Kenzan was the first Yakuza game on the PlayStation 3, and only released in Japan. A lot of Western players mentioned that they want to play this game in English, and Asian players also want the game to release in Chinese. And because Kenzan was an early PS3 game, if it were to receive a simple HD remaster it would feel like it's missing something. So in my opinion a 'Kiwami' version would be better."
So far, only the first two Yakuza games in the franchise have received Kiwami versions. Which are remakes with new models, some added content, and better UI and controls. What's more, because Kiwami titles are a redone version of the older games, they can recast characters and their likeness, clearing the licensing issues that have prevented Kenzan from being released outside of Japan. "If we were able to create a 'Kiwami' version, we could possibly find new actors to contract and swap the models out," Sato says.
This golden era of Yakuza games could finally be what's needed to get the Yakuza Kenzan games to the west. Even the upcoming Yakuza spinoff Judgement is coming to the west this week. So it might not be too long before we see Kenzan finally leave Japan, either.
Editor's Note: The header image is from Yakuza: Kenzan's sequel, Yakuza: Ishin, another spinoff set in the historical period.