How Did Zombies Invade Sega's Japanese Gangster Game?

Sega's ultra-popular (in Japan) Yakuza series is going completely bananas with its next console-based entry, Yakuza: Of The End. Sega is taking the crime-culture Japanese gangster series and throwing a zombie invasion into the mix. Huh?

According to Masayoshi Kikuchi, producer of the Yakuza games, it was his inspired idea to introduce the hordes of undead to the beat 'em up crime drama. But a zombie invasion of a fictionalized Tokyo does not spell the end of Sega's yakuza-powered cash cow.

"We don't want to stop the Yakuza franchise. In terms of making entertainment, we're deadly serious," Kikuchi said of the bizarre addition. "We want to have the ability to branch out and create new game experiences [with Yakuza.] We've done it in the past with Yakuza Kenzan, a samurai themed game. Making differently themed games is our challenge to create new types of entertainment."

Yakuza series lead Toshihiro Nagoshi had previously remarked that series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu might travel to space and fight zombies. At least one of those things is true.

"For all we know, Kiriyu might become a kindergarten teacher in the next game," Kikuchi joked.

"We want to continually challenge [ourselves] to make improvements to the series," he added. "We want to spread the Yakuza franchise into different genres." As for Yakuza: Of The End, Kikuchi wouldn't say if the game is canon or if this spin-off exists outside the standard Yakuza universe.

With Kiryu and crew starring in regularly flowing sequels and, now, expanding into new genres, does that mean Sega could have a new leading mascot on its hands, a replacement for Sonic the Hedgehog?

"We definitely are trying to make that happen," Kikuchi said. "But I'm not the company president. I'm not sure if Kiriyu will ever replace Sonic."