27 September 2017

Interview with Devilleon7 | Youtube's Rising Dragon

If you’re a fan of the Yakuza series - known as Ryū ga Gotoku (龍が如く, Like a Dragon) in Japan - then Youtuber Devilleon7 is getting harder and harder to avoid! Offering a Youtube-channel nearly exclusively focused on the series it is a haven for those wanting Yakuza related content. For a brief moment he offered to put down his controller and ram out some answers to Stingers questions.

Welcome Devilleon7! Let’s start off easy, the name: what’s the story behind it? Big Resident Evil fan I take it?
Once you see the "leon" in that nickname, Leon S. Kennedy from the Resident Evil series would most likely be the first thing that comes to your mind, and I will tell you that you are right in assuming so - and in assuming that I'm a big Resident Evil fan as well! It was around 2007 when I first made my YouTube account which makes it about 10 years ago now, and naturally as a kid, you wanna come up with a really cool-sounding name but obviously it becomes nothing but embarrassing and funny to think back on now. The "Devil" part comes from Devil Kazuya from Tekken and "leon" from the Resident Evil series as I had just mentioned, and really, all I did was just slap them together into one name and added a 7 because I love that number. This reminds me of an instance where I spoke to one of my viewers and he said something along the lines of "Oh... I thought your name was one word; Devilleon instead of Devil-Leon, the former sounds much cooler" and I'm really not one to say he's wrong because I agree, hahaha!

Alright, so a big fan of Resident Evil, I can get behind that! Speaking off, the first few videos on your channel were on that very series. A short video here and there, one with Resident Evil 4’s “Mercenaries Mode” in the spotlight. What triggered you to record and upload these?
When I first created my YouTube channel I never would have imagined that I would advance to where I am today; a channel mainly about Yakuza and anything related to it. Therefore I would upload random videos of, really, whatever I felt like. Whether it was Resident Evil videos seeing as I was a fan of that series ever since my childhood, or other unusual content such as half an episode of a show that used to air on Nickelodeon called Kappa Mikey with a huge watermark in the middle that somehow managed to accumulate over 100,000 views! I deleted that video long ago but looking back on it I regret doing so because that's basically memories deleted. Other random I content included was what is called YouTube poops; I used to make some of these of things that I liked at the time. In short, I used to upload videos of games and other forms of entertainment that I liked because I never thought I would get to where I am now and I didn't really have any specific kind of content to stick with. But with that said, I still do upload videos of other games from time to time such as a complete walkthrough of an underrated Playstation 1 gem Countdown Vampires, which I loved a lot as a Resident Evil fan due to its similarity - but that's a topic for another time.

It wasn’t long after though that your channel transformed into one fully focused on Yakuza content. Protagonist Kiryu has since then become your staple together with Majima. What triggered this?
An interesting question which I have never thought in detail about, so thank you for asking me about it. Let's see... if I had to go back to where it absolutely all began and describe it to you in one word, it would probably be "Inspiration". To elaborate on that: I was one of those kids who used to look at so many walkthroughs, playthroughs, gameplay videos of games that I loved during the 2006&2007 YouTube days and wished I had what it took to record my own videos in a quality that would provide an enjoyable experience to the viewers. Eventually I got into Yakuza and would look up videos of those a LOT. There were several great uploaders of Yakuza content such as CaptainEpic3 also known as KHHSubs, Patrick Coffman and StrikeArranges and I will tell you right now that they've greatly inspired me. They used to upload so many videos of this franchise that I couldn't help but get motivated to upload my own videos of these games. Around 2012 or so when Yakuza 4 was released in the west, I'd gotten my hands on a super cheap capture card with which I recorded some videos. But I was strongly displeased with the quality, so I ended up deleting almost all of the videos recorded by it, except for around 4 videos of Yakuza: Dead Souls. It was only in September 2014 - according to my first HD upload - that I got my hands on an Elgato Game Capture HD. And at the time I still haven't set out to exclusively upload Yakuza content just yet, this is evident by the fact that my first video was of a specific challenge in a mode called “Ultimate Skill” in Yakuza 3, so I was still just uploading videos of random moments and fights. My Yakuza-related uploading formula started to take shape when I started uploading videos of the Japanese version of Yakuza 5, but it was still very rough around the edges. Meaning I would upload boss battles but I didn't really have anything else that I would specifically upload. I slowly started getting regulars who would watch my videos and it felt great having fellow fans discussing what they thought about this boss or that battle with me, and gradually my desire to upload Yakuza videos specifically over other games or other kinds of content kept growing. Eventually I began another series of videos with these games which is the “Long Battles” that the games have, then I included more and more things such as story battles - which are battles that aren't necessarily boss fights or long fights but still interesting nonetheless -and then there's videos of mini-games, substories, guides and so on. I suppose you can say the fact that I started getting a lot of Yakuza fans watching my videos; them having discussions among themselves or with me, and obviously the fact that these games are so damn fun are probably what made me set out to have a big focus on Yakuza. Another vital reason is that after Dead Souls, the series almost hit a dead end with its localizations. We thought Yakuza 5 was never going to be released in English and that this was it for us, so I was doing what I can to spread the love of Yakuza and get more people to know about it, and I can only hope I've had at the very least a minuscule impact.

It being such a focus, how did you get into the series to begin with? Was the language barrier an issue at first?
How I got into this series is a funny little coincidence. I had just returned from a holiday with the family back in 2006 if I remember right and my father surprised my brothers and I with a new Playstation 2 along with some games for it, one of those games happened to be the English release of the first Yakuza. So I didn't have to deal with the language barrier just yet until around 2010 which was when I imported my first Ryu Ga Gotoku game, the fourth entry to be exact. Surprisingly, I do not remember having a hard time with it at all but come to think of it, I wonder if I had ever used that one specific walkthrough of the game - unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the person who uploaded it. Other than that entry I imported Ryu Ga Gotoku 5 as well as Kenzan, Ishin, Zero, Kiwami, 1&2 HD and 6. Playing through these games is usually not a problem, there's only a select few parts in them where you absolutely need to ask around or look for a guide to tell you what you need to do. What I do, if I fail to find an English guide for any of those games, is to resort to google-translated Japanese guides, which aren't perfect as you'd expect, but they do the job.


That’s a lot of Yakuza haha! Your avatar on Twitter and Youtube is the ink on Majima Goro’s back. Would that mean that he is your favorite character out of the bunch?
With an avatar like that, it's only natural for anyone to assume that Majima Goro is my favorite character, and you're probably right on the mark. Prior to Yakuza Zero, I don't think Majima was quite that high on my favorite character list but Zero really showed everyone a whole new side of Majima that we never knew and explored it thoroughly. His appearance and personality in that game along with how crazily entertaining his gameplay was had him rise very quickly as my top favorite character. Not only do I like the character himself, but I also like his tattoo design the most out of every tattooed character in the series. That's not to say I don't like some of the other tattoos, I think Kiryu has a divinely beautiful tattoo himself, but there's something about that hannya on Majima's back that gives off an intimidating vibe that most other tattoos don't come close to emanating; the snakes on his shoulders are also great. Then there's also the eerie backstory behind the hannya creature itself in the Japanese folklore, it goes like this: This same terrifying face originally belonged to a human female who was betrayed by her lover, and that betrayal had her infuriated with jealousy and rage, eventually turning into a demon.

Nearly every game - even the Dead Souls spin-off - is featured on your channel. If you really take a cold hard look back, which Yakuza title is your favorite and why?
If I had to choose just one Yakuza title that I think has just about everything you'd want and expect in a Yakuza game including an amazing story adorned with extremely entertaining gameplay with over hundreds of hours of content, I would most likely choose Yakuza Zero. If you ask most fans they’ll tell you this same thing: Yakuza Zero is the peak of this series. It took what previous games had built up in terms of gameplay and enhanced it to a degree that really made you feel the improvements and effort put into making it a unique and smooth experience. Each of the two characters, Kiryu and Majima, have three different fighting styles with an additional secret style for both. Such versatility in combat is unprecedented in this series and the 60 frames per second makes all the difference in making the combat that much more colorful and slick. There's a business side-story for each of the two characters which is already an insane amount of hours by itself, a hundred substories, a galore of other mini-games that you could enjoy such as my personal favorite: the disco, as well as karaoke, then there's arcade games, gambling, fishing and the list goes on! To say nothing of the game's engaging masterpiece of a story which has captivated the hearts of many who played it, including myself. Yakuza Zero really is the total package.

If you could go back in time and change one element of that beloved favorite, what would it be?
Nothing in particular comes to mind, to be honest. Yakuza Zero is outstanding the way it is. The only thing that I could hope for is more Heat Actions for Majima's hidden fighting style: The Mad Dog of Shimano.

That said, unlike other series, Yakuza is rife with change; not afraid to change whole core gameplay-mechanics with each new title. The mechanics of Heat Actions, the combat itself, character selection, fighting styles - it all changes constantly. Do you like the way this is handled or would you like to see a more singular approach across all the titles?
Honestly, I prefer it the way it is. All these new additions and/or changes to combat only serve to make the gameplay that much more fun and I definitely welcome all of them. I'm the kind of person that likes a game so long I get entertainment out of its gameplay; the story and graphics may be lacking but if it has great content and fun gameplay, then i'm all for it, and the Yakuza games always manage to do that well enough for me.

Is there a certain gameplay-mechanic you’d love to see implemented in future games in the series?
Hmm, I don't think there's anything specific that I'd like to see. The developers behind this series always manage to surprise me with things that I didn't know I wanted to see which is one reason why I love these games.

Combat-wise the series pulls heavy inspiration from old beat ‘m up games, but also takes a good hard look at contemporary action titles like Devil May Cry and even the cult hit God Hand. What is your experience with those games and how do you feel Yakuza holds up compared to these specialistic games?
While not one of the games I actively follow, I love the Devil May Cry series. It's another series that I've known for a long time, not as long as Resident Evil but it’s still up there. The last Devil May Cry game I played was the Special Edition of 4 and I had fun with that one, I haven't played as the extra characters much but it was still an enjoyable experience. What enchants me the most about this series is the first game. I can't help but recall that entry's superior atmosphere, its incredible build-up and the focus on ambiguous background details that really gave you an immersive experience. I would like to go back to that entry one day and enjoy it thoroughly. I can't say much about Devil May Cry 2 or 3 as I haven't played much of those, and I have never played the reboot either. As for God Hand, I've only seen videos of the game but it's been recommended to me more in the past and it does look pretty fun. Now, the Yakuza games heavily revolve around hand-to-hand combat rather than armed combat, I mean, weapons do exist too and in abundance, but there's a satisfaction that you can never find by using weapons especially with the existence of so many Heat Actions that are outside the use of weapons. Devil May Cry puts a focus on two things in combat when it comes to your arsenal: a melee weapon and a ranged weapon. If I remember right there was something like a divine glove in Devil May Cry 1, but even then it's mostly swords as your melee weapon. So I think where Yakuza and Devil May Cry coincide most is in the fact that you're able to make your gameplay look stylish. There are countless strategies and techniques in the Yakuza games especially as you go on with its entries, and while I'm not very well-versed in the Devil May Cry combat, I know enough to say that it's the same with Devil May Cry. Both games have very fluid and smooth combat as well as a plethora of moves and combos that you could use to make your fights look very elegant and appealing, and you can feel this especially when you're uploading videos of such a game or if you compare between gameplay videos of one of these games. I go through some of my videos and I sometimes compare my performance between one fight and another and it really occurs to you when you do that.

One core difficulty modes of the Yakuza series going forward is “EX-Hard/ Legend”, a mode that removes checkpoints and relies solely on saves. This difficulty setting has been met with harsh criticism from fans as it feels poorly implemented. Do you agree? How would you design the highest difficulty setting if you could?
Ah, “EX-Hard/Legend”, the one difficulty that causes a ruckus among the fans especially during specific parts. The most problematic instance with this difficulty is probably in Yakuza Kiwami’s chapter 9 where you go through an entire chapter with no saving point whatsoever, and this chapter is pretty much one huge combat sequence. You go from a Long Battle to a Boss Fight to another Long Battle but this one is different in that it's a car chase... and boy will it give you a run for your money on this difficulty. Losing there will mean you have to go through the entire chapter again, starting from that first Long Battle and possibly taking you at the very least 20 minutes - that's if you're quick enough - to get back on the car chase battle again. When I tried to record this particular car chase for my YouTube channel for the English release, it took me about 3 to 4 good hours of retrying the entire chapter until I successfully managed to get through it. For others, they've been trying for days. I'm pretty sure one person in my comment section was so fed up that he ended up uninstalling the game entirely because of this one small part in a game so big. The only entry that makes this difficulty more lenient through making retries an option is Yakuza 6; I know this because I played the Japanese version of it, and thankfully in this entry you won't have to worry about no checkpoints on the hardest difficulty which will undoubtedly set a lot of people at ease, especially beginners. But with that said, I think this is the highest difficulty for a reason. As such, being unforgiving is only expected when you choose the highest difficulty there is in any game. I know for a fact that it's far from impossible to overcome any Yakuza game on Ex-Hard because if I can do it, then so can anyone, really. But even so, I think 6 giving players a retry option on Ex-Hard is a good move especially since a lot of new people are jumping into this series. In other words, I think I would've designed the highest difficulty similarly to how the people behind these games have done them, especially with how they've handled it in 6.

Due to the plethora of cutscenes and sometimes unskippable dialogue, Yakuza hasn’t had a big following with Speedrunners or Handicap Runners. Are you interested in exploring this side of the series in the future of your channel?
Not particularly, but it's possible. The concept of speedrunning Yakuza games has been thrown around more than once from what I've seen and it might amount to something one day.

Speaking of your channel, you’re nearing 7000 subscribers! Do subscriber and view numbers matter to you?
There's no denying that both of those matter to me. There's so much I could say about this but let me start off by saying that I made dozens of wonderful online friends through making all these videos. One of the best parts about having this many followers is my interactions with them and getting to know those who enjoy my content. I'd go as far as to say that these guys that I've gotten to know personally through my videos played an important part in shaping who I am today, all because the concept of a Yakuza fan groupchat came to fruition. So before I move onto the next point, I wanted to give a shout-out to these guys for sticking by for this long and I hope nothing separates us. Now, I've mentioned previously how I wanted to spread the word about this criminally underrated series as much as I could through my videos and I think that getting more people whether it's subscribers or even just viewers, then I think I'm achieving some sort of progress at the very least. I love Yakuza with all that I am, so seeing the growth that it attained after the release of Yakuza Zero really relieved me to an extent, and I can only hope it continues to gain more popularity. Another thing that I enjoy about my subscribers is seeing all the different reactions to all kinds of moments from the games; whether we're talking about a badass shirtless manly fight between two burly men and it's even better when we're talking about reactions of something like, say, the gorgeous Goromi from Yakuza Kiwami. Things like that really make you appreciate your subscribers that much more, and especially if you start recognizing all of the regulars that keep commenting on just about every video that you upload. It's a satisfying unique feeling that you can scarcely get elsewhere.

When making videos what is your general goal? To Entertain? Help? Guide?
I'd say it's all three things that you've mentioned. Videos like boss fights or demonstrations of mini-games are there to entertain people. Sometimes on, say, the more difficult fights like the infamous car chase in Yakuza Kiwami, I would type down some tips in the description so that anyone having a hard time could go through that and it would hopefully prove useful to them. As for guides, I do make these from time to time. One of my most recent ones are the Majima Everywhere E-mail guide as well as the Climax Battles guide for Yakuza Kiwami. Heck, sometimes I'm not the one providing the help, there's many instances where someone asks for help in the comment section of a video and then someone else comes to their rescue. So I would say that my main goal is to provide entertainment for fellow fans, while at the same time having fun doing all of these videos myself as well as helping out those who are in need with some guide videos or tips to ensure all of us can have a rich and enjoyable experience playing these games as a cooperative, tight little community.

Where do you want to go with the channel? Stay in the niche you are in now or expand with other types of content?
I've been slowly expanding my content to appeal to people who aren't necessarily fans of the series, but can still enjoy some of the videos. A notable example is the recent chain of videos that are compilations of funny moments in these games accompanied by commentary provided by myself. I aim to make a lot more Yakuza content for a while, perhaps sidetracking from time to time to upload videos of games that I like, but for the most part I intend to remain a Yakuza database and I'll try expanding on that.


If you had the opportunity to make Youtube your job, would you take it? Or is it more a fun hobby for you? 
It started out as a fun hobby for me seeing as I always wanted to make videos of games that I loved, so I kept uploading and uploading like it was Christmas morning. But if I had the chance to make uploading these videos as my job, I'd take it in a heartbeat. I think anyone wouldn't mind getting paid to do something they're genuinely passionate about.

Like any Youtuber, the comment section is a … special kind of place. What’s the favorite comment you ever read on one of your videos?
Oh man, you're giving me a hard time with this particular question, hahaha! As you said, the comment section is undoubtedly a special kind of place where I get to see what everyone thinks of all these moments that i'm sharing with them and I either laugh at their amusing comments or interact with them. I haven't really ever picked one specific comment as my all-time favorite because there are simply too many hilarious responses for so many occasions. But usually, the comments that I love the most are those that make me feel like my efforts are not going to waste, they would either be brief or long-winded about how much they appreciate me uploading these Yakuza videos, but in the end the idea behind them is the same and I can't help but feel very delighted and happy to read such supportive comments. Other than that, any comment that makes me smile or burst out laughing are all amazing, and it's one reason why I love all those who continue to support my channel.

Most of your content is without any form of commentary, do you prefer it this way?

Speaking of commentary, it's something that I started doing not too long ago by demand, and surprisingly, people were liking it. As time went on I felt my commentary skills surely improved which is why I'm grateful to any person that has thrown around the suggestion of me taking up on commentary. At first, I was more the no-commentary kind of person because I like letting my gameplay speak for me. So what I try to do now is retain a balance between the two. For people who enjoy commentary, I would upload some of those from time to time, but I also know for a fact that I have a lot of people who don't want their gameplay distorted with any kind of commentary, including myself. Especially when it comes to the boss fight videos where it's all about letting the fists do the talking. I remember getting one whole private message talking about how much they appreciate my videos that are without commentary, and lemme tell you, that was such a pleasant read.


That’s a fine balance you are providing! But what about yourself, do you prefer watching videos with commentary?
When i'm looking for something specific, like say, guides or a particular part of a game that I want to relive, then I definitely prefer no commentary. Other times though, I like watching what YouTubers think about these moments, and that's when I look for videos with commentary, or if it's a YouTuber that I like in general.


Speaking of, who do you watch? Are there any channels or people that you look up to?

Unfortunately, I’m having trouble keeping up with my favorite channels as much as I used to due to having to upload videos of my own now and focusing on the content I'm creating on top of making time for my own leisure. But one channel that I absolutely love is
SomeOrdinaryGamers. I fell in love with his creepypasta videos and I would enjoy those from time to time, and I also used to watch some playthroughs of silly games such as that one Mega Man RPG game. Another YouTuber that I admire is AlphaOmegaSin for many reasons. He has an impressive collection of video games for one, and I watched his rant videos from time to time which I found amusing to watch due to his humor. There's no one specific that I look up to, but as I mentioned before, my start with Yakuza videos was inspired by people who create Yakuza content such as CaptainEpic3, Patrick Coffman and StrikeArranges and I'm grateful to them for all the videos that they've done for the Ryu Ga Gotoku/Yakuza series.

Going back to Yakuza, it was recently announced that protagonist Kiryu would make way for a new one: Kazuma Ichiban. Where would you like to see his adventures go in terms of gameplay?  
I'd like to see RGG Studios surprise me as they always do, and their surprises are always ones that I end up enjoying. We didn't get much info about him yet but Ichiban looks like a pretty laid back guy with a lot of potential and I'm very much interested in seeing how his journey and his first game unfold.

With
Yakuza Zero and Kiwami the series has dabbled into the realm of 60 frames per second, but with 6 and Kiwami 2 it will go back to the fabled 30 frames of legend to offer stronger graphical fidelity and a more seamless open world. Do you agree with this choice? 
I'm more of a 60 fps & lower graphics kinda guy than a 30 fps & higher graphics one because 60 fps provides you with such a fluid experience that 30 frames gameplay will never come close to providing. But with that said, I don't mind the jump from 60 frames to 30 frames from Kiwami/ Zero to 6/ Kiwami 2 because even with what I said, the graphics really do look gorgeous in comparison to before and you can still have a lot of fun with the game. If you look back at the comment sections of trailers for entries like Yakuza 4 or 5, you'd see a galore of comments dissing the game for looking like a "PS2" game and whatnot. These people care too much about graphics that they forget the immense fun gameplay could provide, so at the very least, they won't have that problem with 6 and Kiwami 2.

Outside of providing a constant flow of Yakuza content, do you play any other games off-camera?
Definitely. There are so many games that I enjoy playing other than
Yakuza, there's the famed Resident Evil series, Tekken, The Legend of Heroes games, Silent Hill, Dead or Alive, The Elder Scrolls games, Fallout, Left 4 Dead, and even weebish games such as Hyperdimention Neptunia, hahaha. The list just drags on.

When starting a new game, what difficulty level do you start out with?

Hard, always. I used to feel like there were next to no differences between the difficulties so I would always choose Hard, rush through the story to unlock Ex-Hard, and then I do every side thing there is to do on that difficulty, and I still do that. But now I realize that difficulties such as Normal and Easy are ones you could beat with your eyes closed compared to Hard.

I
s this different compared to when you were young? 

It's been the same for as long as I remember.

Compared to those younger years, gaming-time is limited these days. How do you balance it? 
To be completely honest, thanks to how relatively easy university is where I live - which is Bahrain - in comparison to universities in Europe or North America, I have more free time than your average student from those continents especially since I don't even need to get a job yet, but even then, if I feel like university is placing pressure on me, I could go for some days without uploading videos and just spend them doing assignments or homework and then just relax on the internet. Uploading videos also depends on the latest released game, if I feel like I uploaded enough videos of one Yakuza game, or to be even more honest, if I feel too lazy to upload any more content of a Yakuza game, I would sometimes go for a week or more without uploading anything. But when a new Yakuza game hits the stores? You bet I'll be dishing out multitudes of videos. 

What title currently holds your attention and why? 
Currently, I'm looking forward to the remake of the second game; Ryu Ga Gotoku Kiwami 2 quite eagerly. This remake is pretty much every fan's wet dream. Yakuza 2 is a fan favorite and a remake of it, especially with the addition of a playable Majima scenario, is something that I'm eager to play. I had a lot of fun with Yakuza 6's engine so them reusing it for Kiwami 2 will be yet another enjoyable experience. I'm also looking forward to the new karaoke songs for both of the characters as well on top of all the other new additions in this entry. 

Is there a certain game you’d like to see released in the future?
If we're talking about games that aren't Yakuza, then one release I would really love to see becoming a reality is a remaster of the classic title Resident Evil: Outbreak. That game has so much potential, but being a multiplayer PS2 game, it never really got the love it deserved due to how obscure network play was during the PS2 era. But now? Online play is practically everywhere, and playing an online game that plays out like the classic Resident Evils is sure to be fun as hell, especially with your friends, and this game allows you to play with up to 3 other friends at a time. 

What about old favorites? If you could revive one title, which would it be? 
Oh man. One title I think that had considerable potential is PS1 classic Countdown Vampires. The game was dubbed as a rip-off of Resident Evil many times, but if it ever receives a remake with today's hardware capabilities, it would no doubt be a mind-blowing experience. I enjoyed that game immensely and a remake would be something I'd definitely buy day one. 

Last question, right now: your #04 in your Top 10 favorite games? Ikuzo! 
If this isn't a random question, I don't know what is, haha. Man, this is a tough one especially since I've never particularly listed my favorite games from best and below. Let's see... Yakuza, then The Legend of Heroes, then Resident Evil.. fourth would probably be Tekken. 

Thank you so much for your time. Before we call it quits, if people would like to contact you or enjoy your content: where do they go? 
No, thank you! Without this interview, I don't think I would've specifically thought about several points and questions that you brought up, so thank you so much for that! As for contacting me, people can either do that on my twitter or even on my comment section seeing as I read almost every comment that passes. As for my content, you can find it on my channel here! It was fun answering all these questions, thank you for having me!


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