Sega laughs in the face of the publishers who get criticised for their annual sequels and releases their 2nd Yakuza game of the year.
Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the very first Yakuza game which was released on the PS2 all the way back in 2005. Rather than just apply a bit of HD polish, Yakuza Kiwami has been rebuilt using the Yakuza 0 engine and includes some additional cut scenes and a bit of extra content too. And all for a lesser price than Yakuza 0.
The story in Kiwami starts off in 1995 and it doesn’t turn out to be a good year for Kazuma Kiryu. To protect a good friend, Kiryu takes the blame for the murder of a Yakuza family boss. This sees him get 10 years in the slammer and a severe haircut. On his release from jail Kiryu is straight back into the mix – one of Kiryu’s close friends is missing and there is some concern. Kiryu comes across a young orphan girl who just happens to be the niece of Kiryu’s missing friend. Being a Yakuza game, this isn’t a story about reuniting friends and family though. The Tojo clan suspect the girl’s aunt of involvement in the 10 billion Yen that is missing from their piggy bank and see the young girl as a means to getting that money back. Fortunately for the youngster, she met Kiryu.
The Yakuza games are heavily story based and as such, there are a lot of cut scenes to watch. This does tend to mean the beginning of the game can be a little slow as you watch more than play but it isn’t a chore. There are a lot of characters and it is easy to get a little lost in the different Yakuza families and all the internal politics and squabbles but none of that has any detrimental effect on enjoyment of the game or understanding the story.
The other predominant element to any Yakuza game is fighting. Kiryu is only ever a matter of seconds from finding someone who wants to fight him. Naturally the story missions often descend into some fisticuffs but the poor man doesn’t even get peace when he is just walking the streets minding his own business. At every street corner and anywhere in between there is someone who wants to fight whether than be the local thugs, a drunken person or the Yakuza themselves.
There are 4 different combat styles which you can swap between at will. You have the typical punch, kick and grab for attacks and a block for defence. The most interesting part of the combat is that anything that isn’t nailed down can be used as a weapon. In the streets you can use signs, traffic cones and even mountain bikes. Indoors you will find alternative uses for a chair and discover that even an ornamental statue can come in handy. The combat is rarely one on one and you will often be heavily outnumbered which means these additional aids can come in rather handy. There is a large skill tree for each of the combat styles which will allow you to open up new moves or improve existing skills.
The fighting in Yakuza isn’t quite as fluid or tidy as in the Batman Arkham games since you don’t have that handy counter attack/block games but it works very well. My main grumble is that I’m not the biggest fan of fighting games so there is just a bit more fighting than I’d ideally like.
A new addition to the game, for those that do like a fight, is ‘Majima Everywhere’. This sees Goro Majima appear at random and at some very interesting, peculiar and unexpected times to challenge Kiryu to a fight. If this is your first time meeting Majima then he will come across as a little insane and a bit of a pest in this game however Yakuza 0 will show him in a different light – well, it will at least show he isn’t always a pest. And there is at least a purpose to his stalking.
The setting and gameplay will all be familiar to those that have played Yakuza 0. The game is set in Kamurocho again and offers the same mini open world setup. It is all perhaps a bit familiar which is not a fault of the game itself but an unavoidable side effect of releasing both games a few months apart. Whilst the story is different, a lot of the things to do in town are all similar which might lessen the impact of just how much is on offer.
The quantity and variety of things to do in Yakuza is a big part of the appeal of the games. After one of your many battles you might want to pop into a restaurant for a health replenishing bite to eat. To prepare for the next battle you may want to stock up on health replenishing drinks from the convenience stores. A big time sink in Yakuza 0 for me was the Sega arcade and being able to play OutRun, Space Harrier and Super Hang-On. Sadly there are no arcade games this time round which makes it much less interesting. This disappointment is raised a little when you see non playable arcade cabinets with Virtua Fighter. Granted, the game didn’t originally have playable arcade games on its original release but the absence is noticeable if you have played Yakuza 0.
For those that like some female company a trip to the cabaret bars will be to your pleasing as well as clearing out your wallet out at the same time. Other forms of entertainment include the casino, darts, pocket car racing and traditional Japanese games like mah-jong. There is more than I have listed but familiarity does lessen the appeal of the content a little.
Yakuza Kiwami is a very good remaster and is still an enjoyable game today. It does ultimately suffer from being released in the same year as the superior Yakuza 0 but if Yakuza 0 left you wanting more, Kawami will definitely satisfy your cravings.