Yakuza Kiwami 2 on PlayStation 4
The first Yakuza Kiwami was a stellar remake of a PS2 classic, enhancing the original game in so many ways while adding on a number of new features, story elements, and mechanics. Yakuza 2 is one of the best stories in the entire series, but I didn’t think there’d be a way that Yakuza Kiwami 2 could be an even better remake than the first. Well, I was wrong.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 retains the original story of Yakuza 2 in its entirety, remaking the entire thing in the studio’s gorgeous new Dragon Engine. All of the original cutscenes and main story elements are still here, and it’s a gripping narrative filled with drama, plot twists, and plenty of character moments. One year after the first Yakuza Kiwami and the 10 billion yen incident is when Kiwami 2 picks up. Kazuma Kiryu has tried to leave his Yakuza life behind, but ends up getting pulled back into things when a potential war between the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance starts brewing.
Yakuza Kiwami 2, like the original, has a fantastic cast of characters, and I still found myself enjoying the way the story loops in the police, and conspiracies behind the scenes with them as well as the Yakuza. Ryuji Goda, of the Omi Alliance, is by far one of the best villains the series has seen to date, and with the new Dragone Engine, he makes for an imposing character in every scene he’s in. The meticulous care put into recreating the story beat-for-beat is astounding in Kiwami 2, and I feel confident saying the game looks even better than Yakuza 6 did. Kiwami 2 also has something that other Yakuza games don’t: a tragic romance. All of these elements combine into one engaging story that still stands the test of time, only helped along by new gameplay elements, re-recorded voice performances, and the new visuals.
While the original story is the same, there are some changes made to side content. A few of the original substories form Yakuza 2 have been removed, with new ones put in their place, and there’s a whole host of other new content as well. There are some real gems in Kiwami 2’s substories like the classic Be My Baby from Yakuza 2. The new substories introduced generally connect to other games, like the Obatarian from Yakuza 0 popping up again. As you play through the main story you’ll unlock chapters in an extra story mode called the Majima Saga. This mode once again puts you into the shoes of the crazed anti-hero, in a short two to four hour experience.
The story in the Majima Saga is short but sweet, and packs some serious emotional punch for anyone that played Yakuza 0. Playing as Majima on the other hand, isn’t quite as satisfying. Majima is integrally different from Kiryu in combat, as he wields a knife and is generally much faster, with further reaching combos. His moveset is really limited, however, only consisting of a few different attacks and two different heat actions. Outside of seeing the story and battling enemies there just isn’t much to do in Majima’s chapters, yes you can play all the minigames as him but there isn’t any kind of progression for skills or substories. The Majima Saga isn’t bad, it’s a fun story add-on, but the gameplay just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
On the other hand, delving into the gameplay of the main game is where things really get good. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is now the second game to be built on the Dragon Engine, and clearly Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have been able to get an even better handle on it. Animations are much smoother compared to Yakuza 6, and there’s a much greater variety in terms of minigames and combat. The combat system is carried over from Yakuza 6, but feels much more refined and tighter. The general speed of combat is faster than before, especially once you invest in skills to boost your combo speed. Kiryu is in the prime of his life in Kiwami 2, and that’s represented by combat, which often makes you feel like a hulking unstoppable juggernaut.
On the skills side, there’s a huge variety of different skills and heat actions you can buy with experience, and there’s a ton of customization over what you want to focus on. Yakuza Kiwami 2 adds weapons into the mix, again letting you carry a number of them and equip three at any different time.
This adds some needed variety into Yakuza 6’s style of combat, letting you change things up on the go. Unlike Yakuza 6, boss type enemies now have multiple health bars, and as a whole combat is much more challenging with enemies blocking and dodging more, challenging your abilities. Everything about Kiwami 2’s combat is refined, with more options, and it honestly might be my favorite combat system in the entire series, even over the multiple styles of Yakuza 0. There’s just weight behind each blow Kiryu throws, and everything feels so visceral and satisfying.
Once again Yakuza Kiwami 2 rewards you with experience for pretty much everything you do in the game, leading to a satisfying sense of progression no matter what you choose to spend time on. You do have to do some extra work to learn certain skills, however, like heading to an acupuncture clinic, watching DVDs at the store, or beating minigames to get skill tomes.
Kiwami 2 also sports a number of new minigames to indulge in, with the highlights being the return of the cabaret club from Yakuza 0 and the Clan Creator from Yakuza 6. Clan Creator has seen a drastic change, with you now controlling a team of heroes defending the supplies of Majima Construction. You have full control over your unit’s placement, and different unit types give you strategic options for defense. The minigame is much more involved that Yakuza 6’s version and can be seriously challenging in later levels, requiring a good degree of micromanagement. There are some particularly great Majima moments in the story, including the all too catchy anthem of Majima Construction.
The cabaret club has Kiryu taking over operations at Club Four Shine, and there’s even a few familiar faces that pop up. The minigame this time is themed as a Grand Prix battle, and while the systems are mostly the same from Yakuza 0, there are limitations introduced to make things tougher, and a few new elements like Oil Barons popping up as customers.
Both of these minigames have huge amounts of story attached, and some seriously hilarious characters and moments. The conversation system used in the bar in Yakuza 6 is now used in event scenes for these two minigames, making Kiryu keep up the pace of conversation. Some of the best substories in the game are found in the cabaret club, and each of the Platinum Hostesses are charming, well fleshed out characters that you can get to learn about.
While you can sink in hours upon hours in these two minigames there is, of course, plenty more for you to do. In addition to returning games like golf, karaoke, baseball, and darts, there’s a host of new ones. In the arcade you can play the full version of Virtual-On and Virtua Fighter 2, as well as a hilarious new minigame called Toylets that puts a game screen above the urinal Kiryu uses.
In addition to everything else, there’s also Bouncer Missions and Arena Battles to take on, and locker keys to find scattered through both cities. Kiwami 2 is absolutely stuffed to the brim with things to do, most of which are engaging on a story level or have some kind of beneficial reward. Fans of the original Yakuza 2 will notice a few minigames missing like pool and bowling, but the tradeoff is more than enough to overlook their absence. Yakuza has always done a great job with side content, but honestly, Yakuza Kiwami 2 feels like one of the most robust and rewarding packages from the series to date.
Buoyed by this side content, Kamurocho and Sotenbori feel alive and they’re just plain fun to explore. Sotenbori, in particular, looks absolutely stunning in the Dragon Engine, and the seamless world translates there as well letting you enter and exit buildings and battle with no loading. Kamurocho has also been expanded over Yakuza 6 to once again include the Champion District and Purgatory.
It’s amazing to think that we’ve gotten now four Yakuza games in the span of nearly a year and a half, and yet, Yakuza Kiwami 2 doesn’t feel old or overdone. The amount of content, and the quality of said content is staggering. Yakuza 2 is believed by many to have the best story of the series, and now Yakuza Kiwami 2 is one of the best Yakuza games yet, if not the best. Past that, the job Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has done on both Kiwami games has been so impressive that at this point if Sega wants to make a Yakuza Kiwami 3, you won’t hear me saying no.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great
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