When Sega announced "Project K" at the Ryu ga Gotoku 4 (aka Yakuza 4) completion ceremony last month, no one was surprised that a new Gotoku game was in the works, but many were surprised that Sega was announcing it before part 4 had even hit shelves. The timing of the announcement may not seem so odd, though, once you've read Famitsu's new feature, where it's revealed that "Ryu ga Gotoku" may not even be in the game's final name.
The magazine scored first details and screenshots for Project K in its latest issue. In addition to confirming that the game is being developed for PSP, the magazine managed to get in a few questions with Gotoku series director Toshihiro Nagoshi.
As suggested by the trailer that debuted at the press conference, Project K will, like the main Ryu ga Gotoku series, take place in the fictitious (but inspired by Tokyo's Shinjuku) city of Kamurocho. Many speculated that the "K" in "Project K" stands for Kamurocho. Asked about the name by Famitsu, Nagoshi wouldn't say what the K stands for, but did promise that this would be cleared up in the future.
Project K is just a placeholder name, of course. Nagoshi said that, because the content of the game will have a different image from the rest of the series, the final name will likely not have "Ryu ga Gotoku" in the title. It is possible, however, that "Ryu ga Gotoku" could be included in the subtitle.
Regardless of what the name turns out to be, the big surprise with Project K is that it's on the PSP, Following the PS2-based Yakuza 2, all three Yakuza games have been for PS3.
Asked about this, Nagoshi explained that the Gotoku series has, until now, reached adult game fans. For this game, they wanted to reach younger audiences, including high school kids. Additionally, they wanted to add some gameplay that one would expect of a portable system. He not elaborate on this latter area.
The reason Nagoshi wants younger players to play Project K is that he wants to deliver a message about being more aggressive -- both physically and mentally. This is something he feels kids today lack. While he doesn't want to encourage kids to go out and fight, he hopes that players will relate to how the game's characters live, and come to understand the importance of living strongly.
The idea for Project K was around from the time of the original Ryu ga Gotoku, said Nagoshi. However, he was unable to get time away from the main series. Additionally, he was a bit hesitant because he planned on more directly tackling the idea of violence with Project K.
This does seem to be Nagoshi's project, even more so than past Yakuza games. The script for the Yakuza series has thus far been written by Masayoshi Yokoyama. This time, Nagoshi himself is writing the entire script.
That's not the only staff change. Nagoshi also revealed that Project K is being developed by a different team from the regular Gotoku series.
The different team comment should be somewhat of a hint, but Famitsu also asked Nagoshi if Project K's development will have an effect on the main Gotoku series. The answer appears to be no. Fans of the series have no need to be concerned, said Nagoshi, although due to the proximity of the Yakuza 4 release, he doesn't feel it's the right time to announce anything yet.
Moving on to Project K specifics, Nagoshi shared a bit about the main character, revealed in the magazine to be the 18-year-old Tatsuya Ukyou. "Pure but Immature" is the phrase Nagoshi used to describe the character. Different from the Yakuza series hero Kazuma Kiryu, who is part of the dark underside of society, Ukyou is just a street tough -- a delinquent. He unabashedly shows off his rebellious nature and rage.
The magazine noted that the game's event movie images leave quite the impression. Nagoshi's response to this was that rather than going after beautiful graphics, they're aiming to tell a human drama. After much trial and error, they ended up with the current unique visual form for the event scenes. These will consist of still frames made to animate. The game will still be fully voiced. Nagoshi believes they've been able to give the feeling of reading a manga or viewing a drama.
The event scenes are being done by a Tokyo-based animation studio called Spooky Graphics. The magazine says there will be a large amount of volume in this area of the game.
While the event scenes look different from past Yakuza games, the gameplay screens look like one might expect of a Yakuza game. Environmental images of the new Kamurocho show the familiar landmarks, including the corner Don Quixoti and that immediately recognizable red neon entrance sign. Battle screens show Ukyou using what appears to be the heat action system of past Yakuza games.
Nagoshi hinted at some differences from the combat. As violence is a major theme for the game, it's natural that the staff is putting a lot of effort into the battle system, he said. While not willing to share specifics, he said the combat will have a more in-your-face feel than in past Yakuza games.
Sega's timing with Project K appears to be different from Yakuza 4. Yakuza 4's first reveal consisted of high level textual details from Nagoshi without a single screenshot in sight. This first screen-filled preview for Project K suggests that the game may be far along in development, and possibly closer to release than many initially expected.