Yakuza Kiwami is the latest game in the Yakuza series to be released to the west. The game is a remake of the original Yakuza game on the PlayStation 2. It’s a great way for newcomers to get into the series. Like many people, I’m a newbie when it comes to the series but after playing Yakuza 0, I could not wait to see what Kiwami had in store for me.
This review comes from the perspective of someone who just got into the series and whose first game has been Yakuza 0, so keep that in mind since there will be many comparisons.
The story takes place in 2005 a long while after the events of Yakuza 0. The story centers around the series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu who takes the blame for a murder carried out by his best friend Nishiki. 10 years after these events, he is released to find out that a lot has changed. The Yakuza families are fighting for a missing 10 billion Yen, Kiryu and Nishiki’s childhood friend Yumi has gone missing, and Nishiki has become a changed man. Kiryu takes it upon himself to figure out what is going on and put an end to all of it.
When it comes to story, Yakuza always ends up telling a gripping one. It’s fast paced, tense and always keeps you guessing.. Alongside the dramatic main story you have sub-stories which basically just act as side-quests. They’re small, wildly humorous little bits of extra content that’ll help you get more experience and Completion Points, but benefits aside they stand on their own merits as they are just all kinds of entertaining.
The main gameplay focus in the Yakuza series is beat em’ up combat. A type gameplay you don’t see very often these days, or at least done this certain way. Yakuza kicks it up to 11 by having awesome “Heat” moves that allow you to do stylish, brutal and powerful moves. “Heat” is a resource that you build up in combat that allows you to do more damage and perform these specific moves. Heat usually depletes when you are hit. You can upgrade your moves and learn new ones for each style, and you have 3 styles. One thing I want to address is how great the heat moves really are. They are probably the reason why I never got bored of the combat even one bit as these heat moves were always satisfying to pull off. Some of the harder to execute heat moves are context sensitive so setting them up for a powerful and cool looking move always feels extremely rewarding.
Another thing I have to say is that the combat system is taken directly from Yakuza 0 with some slight tweaks that make it much better and fun to play. A lot of the same heat moves return but new ones are also included to spice things up.
Mini-Games are always prevalent in this series and it seems like all of the mini-games in Kiwami have been borrowed from a bunch of other games in series. So nothing really new, but still some really fun stuff to have around.
Goro Majima, one of the playable characters from Yakuza 0 and a series favorite has a bigger role to play. While he was simply a villain in the original Yakuza, he is now a unique gameplay element where he can show up out of nowhere and challenge you to a fight. Fighting him will in turn improve your “Legend” fighting style. So you can kind of consider Majima like the businesses in Yakuza 0, as both allow you to get and in Kiwami’s case improve your 4th fighting style. But just like Yakuza 0, get ready to fight Majima over and over because if you want to max out your 4th style you’re gonna have to spend a lot of time doing so.
Another cool thing about this series is that it’s mostly set in the same place each time, Kamurocho. Seeing the people and city change from the bustling 80’s in Yakuza 0 and now the modern 2000’s here is a pretty remarkable experience, you can catch up with old side story characters, and some of them might have even opened a business. And because of the relatively small scale of the open world, this gave the developers the chance to really make the city feel alive. Even insignificant places that you can’t interact with are frequently dolled up like you were meant to go in there.
Presentation & Music
I don’t really have anything to say about the presentation other than the fact that it’s an absolutely gorgeous looking game and the music is also fantastic. The game runs on the Yakuza 0 engine, so it looks and feels exactly like it. I suppose it could benefit from more apparent improvements rather than just a better fighting system but it’s nothing I would lose sleep over.
One of the best things about Yakuza’s presentation is the use of sound effects and visual effects to make scenes, QTE’s, boss fights and combat in general more effective. The game wouldn’t be as hype as it is without these effects as they make the game all the more satisfying to play
The Yakuza series is infamous for reusing assets when it comes to the non-cinematic cutscenes, – and there really isn’t anything too wrong about that except the fact that seeing models that sometimes look like they belong on the PS3 can be kind of jarring. Besides that, the cinematic cutscenes look fantastic and are directed beautifully.
The game runs at an almost rock solid 60fps on a standard PS4 with the occasional frame drop here and there. Nothing too noticeable so you’ll be having a fun time with a consistent frame rate through and through.
Yakuza Kiwami has been another great addition to a series with nothing but great games. While I would say that its high notes aren’t as good as Yakuza 0’s, this can be excused for the most part as it technically is the first game of the series. Either way this game will please fans new and old so don’t miss out on it!
I’d give Yakuza Kiwami an 8/10