Sega bring back their 2006 Brawler RPG classic Yakuza with Yakuza Kiwami as part of the franchises 10th anniversary. Continuing with quality western ports, Kiwami looks, plays, and feels very much like this years earlier released Yakuza Zero, and this is a great thing! For those of you that played and remember the original on PS2, Kiwami, which translates literally to “extreme”, will bring the nostalgia thick and fast. For those of you that are newer to the franchise it brings an amazingly rounded and perfectly crazy sequel to Zero.
Kiwami opens with the familiar trope of giving you everything, and later stripping you back to bare essentials. As it follows on somewhat directly from the events of Zero, you take charge of Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima. You are continuing to kick ass, take names, and generally be an outstanding member of the Dojima family yakuza clan.
The new and updated cinematic sequences blend to tell the story flawlessly, with much better pacing than was employed in Zero. Straight up, I was hooked into Kiwami. The story points are short but succinct, the flow is natural, and the cinematic sequences used are not overly long. I realise that Kiwami is a remake, and hence is limited somewhat to the original source material, however Sega could have added so much more to the non-interactive story line, as was the case with zero, and thankfully they did not. This alone has set Kiwami leaps and bounds ahead of Zero, and we’re only just out of the starting gates.
The early game from chapters 1-3, has very few distractions. There are some side quests and limited extra ‘entertainment’ is available, but not the usual amount. This is also a really great thing, as you have the ability to stray from the story line, but really are forced to navigate the early narrative in a more linear fashion. It means you get a hold on exactly what’s happening before you get the chance to spend hours racing in the pocket circuit, or helping drunks get their next fix.
Combat has also been refined for this installment, there have been no major changes however the controls and style feel tighter, more accurate. The difficulty shift increase has also been scaled much more naturally, with a far smoother increase than the sudden jump that occurs after chapter six in zero. That’s not to say combat can’t be as frenetic or boss battles as punishing as they previously were.
New to Kiwami is the “Majima Everywhere” mechanic, which see’s Majimo Goro (recognisable as the second playable character from Zero) popping up, well everywhere, to battle Kiryu for fun and to help him realise his full potential. These encounters vary from Majima simply appearing on the street to chase you down, to side quest-esque encounters that see him disguised in a myriad of costumes, which are generally hilarious. Abilities are also regained through this system for your fourth combat style ‘Dragon’ that cannot otherwise be obtained.
The visuals employed are just as impressive as they were in Zero, with the differences in how the streets look from the 80’s in Zero, to the 90’s and 00’s in Kiwami being both subtle, and striking, depending on the street you’re running down. I cannot talk highly enough about the devotion that Yakuza’s development team have put into recreating Tokyo from its varying era’s.
Yakuza Kiwami is a remake, but it is also so much more. It is an astonishingly fun rebuild from the ground up, an expansion on the original that holds true to the story, while extending out in all the right directions. If you are a fan of brawlers, the Yakuza series, or even just some of the insanity that exists in Japanese culture, I highly recommend you look into Kiwami.
SHAKING YOU DOWN FOR OVER TEN YEARS!
Sega manage to not only rebuild their 2006 PS2 classic but they make it bigger, better, and set the standard for remakes. The perfect ‘sequel’ to this years earlier release Yakuza Zero, Kiwami blends the old and the new in what is to me, the best entry in the franchise to date.
Releasing on August 29th to western audiences for the Playstation 4 exclusively, at $69.95 this is one of very few remakes worth the ticket price and is a must for all Yakuza fans.