Yakuza fans are once again debating the performance of longtime protagonist Kiryu Kazuma’s new voice actor Yong Yea after Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth clips were shared online.
While Yong Yea himself posted a clip of his English voice acting performance alongside the original Japanese version, it was a karaoke clip that really blew up in the Yakuza community. Many fans have shared their less than enthusiastic response to the performance while others have rushed to defend Yong Yea, and some have even called out developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio for not bringing in professional singers.
The song on blast is one of the most popular Yakuza karaoke tunes, Judgement. The voice actor and YouTuber is replacing Darryl Kurylo in Infinite Wealth and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name.
Come ON they could have just brought in a crazy professional rock’n roll singer to do this, instead of putting the dub cast through that. Nobody would have cared lol
— DreadknuX (@Dreadknux) November 10, 2023
“Oh my god it sounds horrible,” said @2005Dojima on X/Twitter. “My ears still hurt,” said RainBoyThatBoy on Reddit. “No way this s**t is real,” added another user, and plenty more shared similar sentiments. Many defended Yong Yea, however, acknowledging the difficult position he’s in, having to replace an actor who previously played Kiryu across seven mainline games plus remakes.
“Come on, they could have just brought in a crazy professional rock and roll singer to do this instead of putting the dub cast through that,” said DeadknuX on X/Twitter, above. “Nobody would have cared.”
SuperM0haned6 on Reddit also urged fans to remain respectful even if they dislike the voice over. “If you don’t like the dub you can say that all you want, it’s only right to express your opinions on the game,” they said. “But going to the voice actor himself and saying it’s ass, no. That’s just straight up extremely rude. Don’t you think he has feelings that can be damaged too? No one forced you to play on dub.”
Here is an official look at Kiryu in English. Did a side-by-side with J for those wanting to hear the difference. This is some of the first stuff we ever recorded a year ago, performance got more refined as we went further along. Excited for y’all to experience the full games! pic.twitter.com/xAzxdtXbHY
— Yong Yea 🐉 Eng Voice of Kiryu (@YongYea) November 8, 2023
Yong Yea’s clip, above, was also criticised, but the voice actor said this was “among the first stuff we ever recorded” and his performance has improved since. “Honestly, even for me it’s kinda strange hearing a voice that isn’t [Japanese voice actor] Kuroda’s come out of Kiryu’s mouth, especially one that I can recognize as my own,” Yong Yea added. “There’s gonna be an adjustment period for me as well, but I think having options is dope. Pick the one that’s right for you.”
One of the main criticisms of the voice is that it sounds too young. Kiryu is 51 years old in Like a Dragon Gaiden (where Yong Yea will likely play him for the first time), and 56 in Infinite Wealth, and fans are saying 28-year-old Yong Yea is too young for the part. Former voice actor Hughes is currently 57, though has also experienced vast age mismatches in the likes of prequel Yakuza 0, when Kiryu was just 20.
“I’m sorry but he sounds way too young for Kiryu. The acting is fine though,” said kornelius_III on Reddit. Legit, he’s not a bad voice actor, but isn’t Kiryu like 60 plus at this point?,” asked DeLoxley. “And some of the lines do sound a bit flat, I’ll admit. But this is far from bad voice work.”
The Yakuza Games In (Chronological) Order
This isn’t the first time the voice actor has been forced to defend his performance as Kiryu either. He premiered the voice at Anime Expo 2023 and fans immediately criticised it, forcing Yong Yea to make clear the performance wasn’t of a professional standard given the setting and say fans should wait for the final game to see how it all comes together.
While that official look was expected in Like a Dragon Gaiden, which launched November 9, the voice actor confirmed himself the spin-off game will only launch with Japanese audio and subtitles for English players. No release date for the English dub update has been shared yet, but IGN has asked SEGA for comment.
Like a Dragon Gaiden will reveal what Kiryu — who was the main protagonist of Yakuza 0 through 6 — has been up to since Ichiban Kasuga took over for Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which would be called Yakuza 7 under standard conventions RGG Studio does not subscribe to.
Kiryu returns again as a dual protagonist in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth (Yakuza 8), so Gaiden will serve as a side story taking place during but away from the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. If that’s not confusing enough, you can read about why developer RGG Studio renamed the series from Yakuza to Like a Dragon alongside its even more complicated naming conventions for Infinite Wealth.
Like a Dragon Gaiden will also come with a special trial version of the next full release, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, ahead of its launch on January 26.
In our 7/10 review, IGN said: “Like a Dragon Gaiden’s combat hits with flash and fury and its story is sharp, but its setting and side activities feel a bit on the stale side.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.