Yakuza Kiwami is a complete remake of the original Yakuza game from ye olde PS2 era. It is bursting with more action, story, mini-games, and general wackiness than the original. Although it never reaches the heights found in Yakuza 0, fans won’t be disappointed by this bargain-priced title.
Since the incredible series introduction in Yakuza 0 (my personal game of the year), I had a fever, and the only cure was more Yakuza.
Yakuza Kiwami takes the original game from 2005, and makes substantial updates. The game features Japanese-only dialogue, and some, if not all of it, has been re-recorded for the game. Mini-games and side stories have been added, and the story has been increased with almost a half hour of additional cinematics.
The story is my favorite thing in the game, and it starts in 1995. Kiryu is about to climb another rung on the criminal career ladder, he has his eye on a lovely lady, and he has good, loyal friends. Life is good.
Through a series of events, he takes the fall for a murder and serves ten years in jail. During that time, Kamurocho changes, and he has been left behind. He has been expelled from his family, his love interest is gone, and 10 billion yen is missing from the Tojo clan’s accounts. To make matters more complicated, he is now the protector of a little girl who seems to be at the center of a building war between yakuza clans.
Since you are Kazuma Kiryu, yakuza extraordinaire, you go knocking on doors or just knocking them down. The combat is mostly familiar to anyone who played Yakuza 0, and it is still a lot of fun, even for a button masher like me. You have the same four styles with their own strengths, and you can switch on the fly. Environmental objects can be grabbed and used to bludgeon thugs, goons, yakuza, and anyone foolish enough to pick a fight with you.
Heat actions are back, and they are just as satisfying as ever. As you build the heat meter, you can unleash horrific punishments on you opponents once you see the indicator on screen. This a very stylish and effective way to batter your enemies into submission, and each style has its own triggers and attacks.
The newest heat action is called Kiwami, which means extreme. As you face a boss, they will glow with a certain color. If you switch to that combat style, you have a chance to perform an extreme heat action that will take a huge chunk of health. They are pretty brutal too.
- Developer: SEGA
- Release Date: August 29th, 2017 (Worldwide)
- Price: $29.99/£29.99/€29.99
For all the similarities, the upgrade system is a slight change from Yakuza 0. As you fight and complete chapters, you earn points to spend in one of three categories. You can improve your health and attack power, give yourself new moves to dominate the streets, or you can increase your heat gauge and actions.
The fourth upgrade category is for your “Dragon Style” combat, and it is only upgraded by winning fights against Majima. The Majima Everywhere system helps you regain your former edge and toughness by having everyone’s favorite eye-patched wild man randomly challenge you to fights anywhere in the city. It’s a fun mechanic, and I was always happy to see one of my favorite characters running down an alleyway to try to cave in my skull.
Fighting is not the only thing to enjoy in Kamurocho. The arcades and claw games, pocket racing, collectibles, and side stories are there for you to ignore or enjoy. The side stories are not only a great place to earn extra experience, but they are great content with some crazy characters.
Yakuza Kiwami has different places, characters, and activities that you might not even see if you solely stick to the main story. I just happened to walk down a street and met a kid who introduced me to MesuKing. That is a strange paper/rock/scissors game where women dress up like bugs and fight each other while a group of insects watch. It’s another example of how Yakuza is full of strange surprises for you to find.
The sound and video have been lovingly updated for the PS4, and I could not believe this was once a PS2 game. This is not a quick uprezzing. Everything is in 1080p and 60fps, and it looks amazing. The sounds and streets of Kamurocho are alive again, and they are both slightly improved over Yakuza 0.
You have to watch footage from the PS2 version to truly appreciate the work that Sega has done with the sound and visuals. Everything has a crispness with better models and textures that would not have been possible during that time. Even though character faces can still look a touch doughy outside cutscenes, this is a benchmark for future remakes.
Even though I had fun with Yakuza Kiwami, some of the events and story were a little shallower than its prequel. The added story helped to round out some of the characters, but parts of it just felt rushed and some loose ends were very conveniently tied up. Even though it is not my biggest priority for a Yakuza game, the romance felt non-existent, causing a lack of impact for future events.
I realize this is unfair, but it shared a few pivotal moments and scenes with Yakuza 0. I know that it came first, but there were scenes that were slightly modified versions of the same game. That may be on purpose to emphasize some greater meaning and cycle to the lifestyle, but that concept was never examined in the game. It would have felt out-of-place if they did.
To the writer’s credit, they did successfully navigate keeping a cute child from derailing the story. Kiryu is a Japanese gangster, and, even though there are missions where you escort a child through the streets to nightspots, we never have a story consumed by moments where we say “ahhhhhh” at everything she does like some 90s family sitcom with a generic laugh track. I appreciate them keeping Kiryu’s character consistent, while still showing he cares.
Even with my minor nitpicks with the story, fans should not hesitate to grab this game after playing Yakuza 0. It is a true update of the original with many improvements and additions and not a cheap cash grab. The world is filled with interesting things to do and an endless stream of bad people to punch. The combat system is solid, and the game runs without any problems at all.
If you love the Yakuza series and the ability to rip off your suit jacket and shirt with one hand right before you fight, I recommend you grab the bargain-priced Yakuza Kiwami and make the streets of Kamurocho yours once again.
Yakuza Kiwami PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8.0/108.0/10
Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original Yakuza game on the PS2. It is an improvement on every aspect of the game with more story and cutscenes, more mini-games, and a visual improvement that makes other remakes hide their textures in shame.
Although the story seems to share some moments from Yakuza 0, it is still well worth experiencing, exploring, and fighting your way through the streets of Kamurocho. If you like the Yakuza series, you will not be disappointed by Yakuza Kiwami.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a retail version of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.