Review by Andy
While It was only a few months ago we bid farewell to Kiryu in Yakuza 6, SEGA has now dropped a complete remake of the second game in the acclaimed Yakuza series, Yakuza Kiwami 2.
Kiwami 2 picks up about a year after the first game, which received its remake last year, with Kiryu still dealing with the events that led to the loss of his childhood friend and sworn brother Nishkiyama.
He is sucked back in to the Yakuza life he wanted to leave behind, and as such Haruka, the daughter of the only women Kiryu loved, is absent from the majority of the story this time around as she goes back to stay at the Sunflower Orphanage while Kiryu heads on back to Kamurocho. The game will also give you a little refresher of the previous games events if needs be.
From here we are taken on one of the best stories in the Yakuza series, with tensions between the Omi and the Tojo at an all time high, and Kiryu carrying out the dying wishes of the pervious Tojo head, Terada, to try and forge a alliance between the 2 groups.
As is a standard in the Yakuza series, we have cast a varied and interesting characters, including some returning favourites like Kashiwagi, Date and of course, Goro Majima. We are also introduced to one of the few female characters that feature in the forefront of the series, Kaoru Sayama, a detective with the Osaka police.
We get this pair of Kiryu and Sayama through the majority of the game, and it is great to see a natural bond form between the 2 characters over the course of this 20± hour adventure, and Sayma’s arc in the story and the reasons she has for her actions make you really connect with her more so than the majority of the other side characters present. She is without a doubt the most interesting character in Kiwami 2. Her arc is extremely compelling, and melds into the main narrative without it ever feeling like a pointless and uninteresting story dragging the main overall plot down.
We also get introduced to Daigo Dojima, who some may remember meeting as a little boy in Yakuza 0. Kiryu goes off to find him in order to bring balance back to the Tojo as it’s new chairman and to help him form the alliance with the Omi. While he as a character was never really shown or mentioned much in the previous titles, apart from the aforementioned cameo in 0, he is still a very interesting new addition to the cast with his own reasons for doing what he does.
The villain of this game, Ryuji Goda, is also one of my personal favourite villains of this series, with him butting heads with Kiryu. Ryuji commands an intimidating presence, his tenacity and willingness to do whatever he needs to achieve his goals undeniably proves he is more than capable of showing he can go head to head with the legendary Dragon Of Dojima. Just whatever you do, don’t call him the Dragon Of Kansai, he don’t like that.
People who have also played last years prequel to the entire series, Yakuza 0, will remember the area of Sotembori, the area where you’d play as Majima, and this time as Kiryu we make a return. The area is laid out very much the same, but of course much time has passed since that game, the Caberet Grand is still around, but of course a bit different and under new management. A third area was present in the original PS2 release of Yakuza 2 but it has been cut out of this game all together, however the game does not suffer from this and nor are you missing out on anything, which is good to hear.
The combat in this title is as always excellent, and it carries over all the refinements made in Yakuza 6. The flow and the fluidity of the combat really shines, especially when pulling off some awesome combo moves. The upgrade system is also very simple as it was in 6, and while it wasn’t complicated by any means in any of the other titles, its simple and straightforward design allows simple and clear direction of what does what. The food system from 6 is also carried over, meaning you can still go to restaurants to replenish your health, but with the additional bonuses introduced with 6 of giving you a few extra points to upgrade Kiryu’s abilities.
Heat actions are present as always, and still hilariously brutal in some instances. Some of the coolest heat actions are at certain points in the story, one of my favourites early on involving a chandelier. Also when fighting against boss enemies, when you get their health down low it’ll give you a “Feel the heat” prompt enabling you to pull off some boss specific action finishers.
This game however does suffer from a few issues in it’s free combat sections. Especially present early on in the game, at certain points you will encounter a big guy blocking your path holding something above his head, such as a chair or a sign, and these guys while they do not have that much health, they break up the usual quick paced and frantic battles, with an almost dead stop while you have to beat these guys down to progress, all while dodging their attack as it’ll knock you straight to the ground and drag out the encounter even longer. Now if you have any weapons with you they can be taken down rather quickly, but just in these early sections in-particular you don’t really have access to any and you are still not far in upgrading Kiryu to do more damage to them. But by the time you are about halfway through the game and Kiryu has a few upgrades under his belt, they are not much of an issue anymore.
I did have some other issues while playing the game. After completing chapter 3, I no longer received any trophies whatsoever. Now while personally I am not one for trophy collecting, it is nonetheless still a concern. After completing the story and realising I hadn’t been receiving trophies since the end of chapter 3, I looked around online too see if this was a wide issue but I found no evidence of it happening to anybody else so it may just be a small issue that effects a very small number of players. I had this same issue with Yakuza 0 as did a friend of mine but all the trophies unlocked for us both with a later update, so hopefully the same happens here.
Side missions are also present throughout the game, and one in-particular is probably the most strangest and slightly disturbing in the series, and those familiar with the series that have not played 2 before may be surprised to hear that, given some of them in the other games, but to those who have played, you know all too well. But they are for the most part fun and interesting distractions to the main story. The clan creator introduced in 6 also makes a return in this remake, and is mechanically the same with putting you in a top down view controlling various people to defeat waves of opponents while also defending your assets.
Another one of the bigger main pieces of side content along with the clan creator is managing a cabaret club. Players of Yakuza 0 in-particlar will be familiar with this as it was also one of the side activities present in that title. While it is not as big as in 0 it comes with a much more interesting sub-plot associated with it that made it much more enticing to play that it’s 0 counterpart.
Majima is a playable character in this title, with his own little story taking place over 3 small chapters. While he is very much the Mad Dog we all know and love, these additional sections are not particularly interesting, and without the ability to upgrade and expand the abilities of Majima, even the combat as fun as it is can start to suffer at times, but this was still overall a nice little bonus added in. He is of course involved in the main story so we do get to see interactions between him and Kiryu, and it is always a delight to see these 2 characters interact, and Majima is also present in the clan creator side content.
The world itself is also in need of some praise. The few hub areas you go to in the game are so full of NPCs, shops and things to do it feels great to just wonder around and spend some time in the arcade, or quite literally just aimlessly wonder getting into street fights with random thugs. Wether is the bright shining neon lights of the town at night, or the bust bustling streets during the day, it really gives the impression you are in a living and breathing world.
For those that have not played all the games and do not have access to a PS3 in order to play Yakuza 3 through 5 fear not! Sega is releasing those title on the PS4, and while none of them have yet been dated for over in the west, I imagine it’ll only be a matter of time before we get some dates with how popular the series has become here in recent years. These however will not be complete remakes like Kiwami 1 & 2 were, just more along the lines of straight HD ports on the PS3 titles, while slightly disappointing to some people, coming from someone who has not too long ago played those titles, they are not old enough games to the point where they will feel overly dated to play, so no real need to worry on that part. Yakuza 4 & 5 however are playable on PS4 through Playstation Now, which is a viable option for those who have internet fast and stable enough to play them via streaming. In any case, soon all 7 games in this legendary series will soon be playable natively on the same system, and if you have a PS4 you currently have Yakuza 0, Kiwami 1, Kiwami 2 and 6 available to play native on the console, but in the case of 6 I’d recommend to play the previous games to get a full grasp of the story, as while 6 is a game you could jump in and play having only played what is natively available on PS4, and does do a good job of getting you up to speed of the main events of the previous mainline games, you’d still be missing out on some of the context and the history these characters share. Plus they are just superb games that are well worth your time.
Also if you are a PC player, SEGA is now starting to release the Yakuza titles on PC, starting with Yakuza 0 and continuing on With the Kiwami remakes, and hopefully they do release the full catalog of titles on the PC platform, as the more people that play these games means the more SEGA will keep giving us.
Overall this is not only an excellent game but an excellent remaster, the game looks, sounds and feels beautiful. The atmosphere of wondering around the various areas of the game really do make you feel that you are a part of a living breathing world.
Now having played Yakuza Kiwami 2 means I’ve finally played through all of the mainline Yakuza titles. And while Kiwami 2 is not my favourite game in the series (that’d be 6), it still beats outs all of the others to become my second favourite in the series. It’s world, characters and story are so engrossing, I never wanted to put the controller down, and while not perfect by any means, its still most assuredly worth the price of purchase.
Follow Andy on Twitter at @Andy_SR_2