What can be said about Yakuza that hasn’t already been said? The series is known for updating from its’ prior versions whilst still retaining the original vision and spirit intact; so far I believe that every game I’ve played in this series has done this successfully, both with the original versions of these titles and their remakes.
Ever since I’ve been reviewing this series I’ve eaten up every game with enthusiasm… But now I know the curse of the Yakuza games. They’re the sort of games that you need a really long time away from after you’ve beaten one to almost regain a sense of normalcy and to fully absorb the plot and characters of the game you’ve just completed – So, it goes to say that I’m finally feeling fatigued from this series for the time being. I believe a lot of it is because when it comes to the most recent Yakuza game, Yakuza 6, the gameplay was what brought it down.
Now Yakuza 6 was not a bad game at all – Rather it was a very good one (You can check out my review here), but when it comes down to it the gameplay took a huge dive for the sake of a more dynamic engine. It’s not like a lot of the changes made were bad, but when it comes down to it I believe that the Yakuza series strives on having tight combat, an interesting story and fun side missions and mini-games to indulge in during your downtime.
This is the same thing that happens with Yakuza Kiwami 2 as it also utilises the new Dragon Engine, this time around there are some notable changes. The framerate (Playing on a base PS4) is way more stable than before – There are some new additions in combat among other things, but it really doesn’t help that in the end, the combat remains mostly the same. I could forgive Yakuza 6 for having somewhat lesser combat focus because it was the first time they used the engine in a game and it was pretty decent for what it was… But little to no improvements for the next game is what really disappoints me. It seems that the rising popularity of this series is a blessing and a curse as they’re pumping out Yakuza games faster than ever before to capitalise on the market, but they’re also reusing a lot more because of it. The Yakuza series is known for reusing a lot of stuff, yes, but what splits a title like Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 5 is that, at least outside of Kiwami 2 and 6, the Yakuza series has always been improving and adding upon these assets, concepts and gameplay mechanics further.
So now that my rant about the Dragon Engine is out of the way, I want to say that even though I am a little tired of the engine and maybe need a break or a game with improved combat for me to have a second wind, I can still say I enjoyed my time with Yakuza Kiwami 2 – It’s a lot like Yakuza 6 but I still liked Yakuza 6! It’s simply that I wish they had improved upon it further by taking on board more community feedback to 6.
Once again I feel like the story of Yakuza is always the shining star above all. It’s thrilling, interesting, a little predictable but all around it’s a damn good time. I won’t really go into the story in this review as now I’ve learned that Yakuza is really formulaic with its stories (And also to avoid spoilers) so it’s just better than you see it for yourself. If I were to just give the synopsis again, a lot of you might go, “Wasn’t that the story of the last game?”, and yeah, pretty much! However the game has such a strong grasp on it’s presentation and dialogue that it’s still great through to the end.
I want to say that once again the dynamic boss intros are still one of my favorite things a game has ever done – They just have the perfect level of fast movement, cool stuff happening on screen and interesting shots to make my brain fire on all cylinders and make me howl like a monkey out of pure hype – Alongside the fact that boss fights still remain the hypest shit known to man, they’ve added this cool little mechanic that allows for story-specific Heat actions on a boss; after you mash square a whole lot white text flashes on your screen saying, “FEEL THE HEAT” – Now if that doesn’t get your tatas in a twist and makes you clench out of excitement, I don’t know what will.
Now, with the mini-games, a staple of the Yakuza series, we’ve still got the classics – Karaoke, the SEGA Arcade, and the batting cages. Then we’ve got a different version of that camgirl show game in 6, but instead you’re just taking photos of Japanese porn stars which… Y’know. I did (For the review! Definitely just for the review…). On top of this, you have a whole lot more, but once again Yakuza has way too much side content to handle and it’s admittedly great. The best thing though is that everybody’s favorite mini-game is back; the Hostess Club from Yakuza 0. Now with a new story and new stuff to do, this awesome little minigame shines through the rest – I will always love this mini-game till the end of time… But another returning mini-game is also here, the god damn Clan Creator. I hate this thing and that’s about it; you can’t spin it in any way, you can’t even slap Majima all over it because it’s still boring and stupid. Through these mini-games, you get EXP in different categories so you can upgrade your moves and all that fun stuff, but this system was trash in Yakuza 6 and it’s trash now. The way you levelled up in the first Yakuza Kiwami was far better than this stuff, and 0’s was still my favorite implementation of this minigame, but it was far more contextual to the story and setting of the game.
Now the side-missions are still great, so there’s not much to talk about there (As most side-missions in the Yakuza games are amazing), but some of them can still be pretty darn lame admittedly – Then again, some make me cackle like a damn witch because they’re so funny. If a random guy walks up to you and asks if you can be a model for a photo shoot, do that one immediately. Promise me. You’ll love it.
…But then we have the biggest addition that Yakuza Kiwami 2 introduces. We have a completely new story-line for Majima where you see what he’s been up to, and it’s pretty fantastic. You unlock chapters of his story as you go along Kiryu’s, so I’d suggest just finishing Kiryu’s story chapters, then jumping straight into Majima’s because it’s a truly wild time. Majima’s combat is still less than great though, which is a shame.
The fact that Heat moves are so few and far between now also kinda sucks because you could pull off Heat moves every other minute in the other game – However now that they’re so scarce it makes combat a lot less satisfying as you’re not working your way towards a big cinematic finisher anymore. I mean the new ones that are context sensitive to your location and what NPC’s are around you are still great, but you barely get to see those too. It feels a lot less dynamic than, say, Yakuza 0’s Heat moves.
In the end, I’d say that Yakuza Kiwami 2 is still a decent game that has a lot going for it, but I really hope that for the next remake or entry in the series they improve upon everything about the Dragon Engine if they plan on keeping it around, as well as changing up the design choices regarding how you level up and improve your character.
I give Yakuza Kiwami 2 a: