Many were skeptical as to whether Yakuza 3 would ever come to the west after the disappointing sales of Yakuza 1 & 2. But Sega have spent a year localising the Japanese version ready for a March 12 release though not all of the original made it through. Hostess bars and a historical Japanese minigame now sit on the cutting room floor in order for Sega to meet its release schedule: “The content between Yakuza 3 US/UK and Yakuza JP is a little different in that we took out certain bits in order to bring the game to the west in the time alloted for us to do so. The parts we ended up taking out were parts that we felt wouldn’t make sense (like a Japanese history quiz game) or wouldn’t resonate as much (such as the concept of a hostess club).”
Hostess bars are a huge part of Japanese culture and the removal is saddening for those looking forward to a full eastern experience. Since the Yakuza franchise is so heavily fueled by the ideas of Japan, fans would know exactly what to expect when entering one of these bars, even more so thanks to their inclusion in Yakuza 2 where you could eventually run and own one. If cutting them was purely down to time then I’m sure anyone eager to play a English version of the game would have waited those few extra months in order to get the job done. It may not alter the main storyline drastically and the Sega rep said gamers can still date a hostess – just not interact with them in a bar where they work.
It may seem like such a trivial edit when the rest of the game offers so much immersion but is appears that Sega are misjudging their audience who could be the difference between a western success or failure. After spending some time with the PSN demo, the best part about it was the journeys between locations where I was able to explore the streets of Shinjuku (Tokyo) at my leisure and play a game or two at the arcade. If this oriental absorption is to be watered down in anyway, it would be damaging the only truly entertaining part of the game.
UPDATE: Kotaku had a response from Sega about their actions: “Regarding Yakuza 3, we had a tight schedule to abide by for localizing and releasing Yakuza 3 in the west. Due to the limited time we were given we had to leave certain bits of the game out and we chose portions we felt didn’t resonate with western culture i.e. a Japanese history quiz show and the concept of hostess clubs. We understand that this is not the optimum thing to do, but given the options of releasing the next chapter of a beloved game so that our fans can experience the story of Yakuza vs. not releasing it at all, we felt it was worth it to release it with 99% of the content intact. We made sure that the story in no way, shape or form changed from the lack of the quiz show or hostess clubs. You can still go into Cabarets and on dates with the ladies in the game and Kazuma still kicks major ass.”
Yakuza 3 would have been out in Japan for over a year when it hits western shores so it’s not as if Sega haven’t had the luxury of time to localise the game. Even if the decision to do so wasn’t made a year ago, I still believe that fans wanting a pure Yakuza experience would have waited those extra few months in order for Sega to make it happen.