For some reason, casting directors for movies and games can't seem to understand that acting, like many trades, is comprised of a number of skills. For example, just because someone can act on screen doesn't mean they can convincingly voice act. Mortal Komat 1 proved that with Megan Fox as Nitara, not that she's known for her acting skills anyway. Now the Like a Dragon series, AKA Yakuza, has proved that not all voice actors can sing, either.
In the original Japanese dubs of the series, legendary ex-con daddy Kiryu has been voiced by Takaya Kuroda, whose gravelly voice is synonymous with swinging bicycles into thugs on the mean streets of Tokyo. Kuroda happens to be an accomplished singer in his own right, and has shown off his pipes in the karaoke minigame, one of the best parts of the series, since Yakuza 3 in 2009.
While Kuroda and Kiryu are almost inseperable, he wasn't the only voice actor in Kiryu's white leather shoes. The original Yakuza on PS2 was released in the west with only an English dub, which had its share of issues, but people tend to agree that Darryl Kurylo did a decent job considering the direction the dub went for. Kurylo reprised his role in 2020's Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which had an English dub as well as a Japanese option. But there wasn't an option to make Kiryu sing in either of those games, which may have been for the best.
The most recent game in the franchise, Like a Dragon Gaiden, is different. It may be shorter than msot games in the series (which are generally long as hell), but still has the open world and activities it's famous for. It also comes with a demo for Infinite Wealth, the eighth mainline game in the series, where you can do a bit or karaoke. In these, Kuroda is Kiryu once again (or Joryu, as he's going by here), but there's also an optional English dub where the Dragon of Dojima is no longer voiced by Darryl Kurylo, but YouTuber YongYea. YongYea previously voiced Shirakaba, an important character in the Kaito Files DLC in Lost Judgement, so he's no stranger to the series.
Now I've not seen any of YongYea's videos and I'm not trying to hate on the guy. I have heard him as Pucci in the English dub of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and thought he did a decent job. But man, Sega really shouldnt've let him sing in Infinite Wealth. Bro was so bad they had to use autotune to try and fix his attempt, and even then it sounds terrible. Compare Kuroda's version to his; it's practically night and day.
Itfucking love karaoke, both in Yakuza and IRL, and using autotune totally defeats the purpose of it. Karaoke is about having a few drinks and letting loose with your friends. Even if you're awful at singing, the important thing is you're vibing and having a good time together. The use of autotune just makes it so much more cringey, and it would've been much better if they didn't bother at all. In some of the older Yakuza titles where you could date hostesses voiced by and based on gravure and AV idols, there were a few that straight up sucked at karaoke, but none of them needed autotune to try and cover it up.
The good thing is the English dub is completely optional, and while we still have Kiryu on our screens we can always hear Kuroda's iconic baritone. I know there are reasons people would prefer a dub to sub, but no one deserves to listen to that godawful singing.
What do you guys think? Have you played Like a Dragon Gaiden yet? How have you found the dub? Let us know below!