There was a good reason that, starting with SCE, console makers had been toughening up on depictions of violence: violent games had become a social issue.
The trigger for this was the foreign game Grand Theft Auto 3. It is an adventure game in which the protagonist roams about town freely, fulfilling objectives. In the game, the player can steal cars, hit innocent people, kill people, and perform other antisocial acts.
The game, which had also become a big hit in Japan, was socially criticised, and its sale was banned to under 18s in Kanagawa as being potentially harmful. Watching the situation unfold, CERO, a review organisation, used the game's release to create the new classification of "sale to under 18s prohibited".
The contents of Ryu ga Gotoku, as planned by Nagoshi, differed hugely from that of Grand Theft Auto. The game was not set up so that the player who could kill whomever they wanted. But as long as society was sensitive to representations of violence, they could not escape a harsh review.
Even still, Nagoshi could not allow the scene in which Kazuma Kiryu and Haruka meet to be deleted, no matter what.
Nagoshi bowed his head to Kitagawa.
"I didn't create this scene because I wanted to show violence. I need it to show their story."
"I'm making this game with the readiness to quit my job. Please."
To the pleading Nagoshi, Kitagawa asked with a sigh, "Why do you want to make it so badly?"
All along, Kitagawa had wanted to revise Nagoshi's plan to something safer. Although working as a Sony employee, Kitagawa was a fan of Sega's games. She loved brawlers like Virtua Fighter and games with cute characters such as Sakura Wars. Naturally, she also enjoyed games from a wide range of genres. Even still, this game contained many depictions that made her brow crease. It showed a side of present day Japan which had as yet not appeared in a consumer game. The protagonist was a yakuza. Not only this, but the story also had an air rich with violence. It was only natural to wonder if it was a good idea to release the game at a time when the public were sensitive to expressions of violence.
Nagoshi told Kitagawa that he wanted to make a new kind of game that would be satisfying even for adults. He told her that he absolutely wanted to make a game depicting human drama that would stay with the player. He explained passionately to her that he didn't put in the violence in order to draw the players' interest.
"It's true that stimulating games are becoming more and more common. There are so many games coming out that I'm sure some makers put in extreme imagery to catch people's attention. But I don't want to do that. I just use the violent scenes to make a human drama in a red light district seem more realistic."
Kitagawa listened to him in silence.
At the next review, Kitagawa's pointers were as tough as ever.
But still, Nagoshi noticed something: he began to see changes in her face as she watched the screen.
At first, all Kitagawa saw were the risks of such a challenging game, like none yet seen, being questioned by the public. But now, the expression on her face was different. It was the look of someone considering how to release the game, leaving its quality intact.
―This game had a strange power to move people emotionally.
That was what Nagoshi believed.