Yakuza Kiwami Review A New Standard for Remakes
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
ESRB Rating: M
Thank You SEGA USA for Providing a Review Copy of this Game
Yakuza originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005 to critical acclaim in Japan. This success led to one of SEGA’s most popular import series spanning seven main entries and several spin offs. Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of this game that started it all. However, unlike a lot of remakes where the game is preserved in the state it originally released, Yakuza Kiwami takes a different approach. The entire game is remade from the ground up in the Yakuza 0 engine, and with it carries over the fighting styles it introduced, completely overhauling the original games fighting system. The game is also completely redubbed by the original Japanese voice actors to fit the rest of the tone with the series. So how does this remake hold up?
Like I have mentioned in my Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 5 review, the Yakuza stories feel like a really good crime movie in the day to day life of the Japanese underworld, and Yakuza Kiwami is no different. The story of Yakuza Kiwami has you playing as Kazuma Kiyru fresh out of prison for apparently murdering his former Boss. From here in the ten years, he was away everything is turned up side down, and the Tojo Clan is at the brink of civil war over a missing 10 billion yen. Now Kiyru must find out what caused all of this madness in his absence while trying to figure out what happened to his two childhood friends.
Yakuza Kiwami’s writing is still as every bit as good as the rest of the modern series. In this remake, the plot was much more fleshed out compared to the original game. To do this without changing anything major from the original plot, the game introduces small changes, whether explaining a characters motives or actions more or completely adding new scenes to help drive a point home. This is done really well, and never once compromises the original games story in the changes that it makes.
Gameplaywise, Yakuza Kiwami is divided into story segments and the sandbox segments. In the story segments, you are going through the normal story beats where you go on different missions to progress the story. These missions more or less boil down to beating up waves of enemies as you make your way through different buildings and areas. Now don’t let this turn you off the game as just a grindy beat em up game. Yakuza Kiwami’s combat is extremely fluid, giving you four different combat classes at your disposal, all four returning from Yakuza 0. You are also able to switch up your combat on the fly to best suit the battle at hand. Also as opposed to Yakuza 0 where you got large sums of cash for beating enemies, you get traditional experience, and you use this experience to level up your fight trees. The amount of depth to all of the things you can unlock for fighting is amazing. It will encourage you to grind on as many enemies you can find to get the most for your experience bar.
Since you will get into random fights with street thugs and rival Yakuza members often while exploring the sandbox, it is good to have a really solid and smooth combat system. Each combat mode felt extremely unique and fun to use. I could switch between fast action rush moves that relied on dodging and speed, to becoming a beast and grabing a nearby motorcycle and wailing away at my foes. The games combat is just really downright addicting, and as always the heat moves you can do against enemies are not only satisfying to watch, but can be a bit gruesome at times, but you know I loved it.
When it comes to the sandbox gameplay, you have all of Kumurocho to explore. Here you can partake in the Japanese nightlife such as going out gambling, to nightclubs, eating at the best restaurants in town, or going on hot dates. Or you can embrace the inner nerd that Kiyru is and have fun playing at the Arcades, pocket car racing and playing Shogi. Or you can go around town and solving people’s troubles by completing one of the seventy-eight side stories available to you in this game. The sub-stories is what really gives this game a life of its own. These stories can be discovered by going into certain areas of town, or they can be triggered while casually going on your way to the next story option. You have the ability to completely ignore these stories of course so they never truly ruin the flow. That said they are pretty fun and sometimes comedic One example is, while passing public restroom you find a man who is out of toilet paper and can’t leave. Another example is getting roped into other people’s affairs and you have to act as a middle man. What really makes these stories even better is just how unique they all feel and Kiyru’s reaction to all of them. This adds a nice level of character development to Kiyru as you can see the world through his eyes and what he thinks of his surroundings.
The biggest new update to the overworld, however, is the inclusion of Majima Everywhere. Goro Majima was one of the duo protagonists from Yakuza 0 and is a fan favorite reoccurring character from the rest of the series. Majima only has one goal, and that’s to fight Kiyru at his prime. The problem is, Kiyru is a bit softer after his stint in prison, so Majima’s goal now is to toughen him up back to his glory days for a proper fight. Like the name implies, Majima can literally be everywhere in this game. You will sometimes run into him on the streets, or you may find him hiding in wait to ambush Kiyru from under a manhole cover. However ready or not, once Majima has you in his sights it’s time to throw down. Honestly, the Majima is Everywhere segments is easily one of my favorite things about the remake. Not only does he provide a good challenge that the normal everyday thugs on the street can’t provide, but he is the only way to properly upgrade Kiyru’s ultimate fight tree the Dragon style. So this here encourages the player to go out and look for Majima in any way you can to increase your Majima is Everywhere rating. The higher it is the tougher he will be to take down. He will also use his combat styles from Yakuza 0, which can get pretty nasty for you if you’re not too careful. Also, not every encounter with him is always a fight, sometimes he will just want to play you in darts, or go bowling with you. It honestly adds a lot of charm to Majima’s unpredictable nature.
However, while I absolutely love Majima and the Majima is everywhere segments, it does kinda cheapen his story importance in the game. In the original PS2 game you meet him at the beginning and don’t see him again until the halfway point for a big reveal, but since you are seeing him around everywhere, it doesn’t really feel as special when you fight him in these story moments, seeing as he can appear at any time while roaming the streets, and even as a surprise mini boss fight in the story. That said, I guess it goes with the territory in this games remake to change things up.
Visually Yakuza Kiwami is just a treat to look at. It makes use of the Yakuza 0 engine very well, and this game actually runs better at times than 0. The soundtrack for this game is also very remarkable for the different tracks they use throughout the game. From the most intense combat to the deepest story development, there is a track for everything to make it flow well. The only downside about this game is that it clearly refuses the PS2 animations. So while the models have a fresh coat of paint, in-game cutscenes still use the old PS2 movement cycles. This can become quite jarring compared to the newer scenes. I don’t understand why SEGA didn’t opt to completely redo all the scenes for consistency, however, it doesn’t really take too much away from the overall story.
The last thing I want to mention is that Yakuza Kiwami isn’t just called Kiwami to sound cool. There’s a new fighting technique in this game called the Kiwami moves. These moves can only be performed on bosses under certain circumstances. When a boss is at low health he will begin to flash a color, you must then switch to the combat that corresponds with that color while in Heat mode, from here you will perform a Kiwami attack against the boss. This is an ultimate heat move that will allow you to do massive damage, and in most cases finish the boss. However, if you don’t have the heat meter, the boss will regain health for a certain amount of time before attacking again. I feel like this was done to balance the poor boss fights from the original game, but that said boss fights still feel like they could have used a lot of balancing since some of them can be infuriating at times for all the wrong reasons.
Yakuza Kiwami honestly rides on the thin line between remake and reimagining of a classic game. It keeps all of the original story beats and brings the games visuals into the modern-day while incorporating a lot of the newer games mechanics without hampering the original games integrity. This game is honestly the best way to experience the original Yakuza. Also with the amount of extra side content in this game, you can sometimes get lost in the games world and drop over ten hours between story beats. This honestly is pure bliss to me, because I loved getting lost in this world all over again. Despite a few of the flaws, Yakuza Kiwami is the textbook definition of how remakes should be done. For those of you who are looking to delve into the series for the first time, this is the perfect entry, at only $29.99 US you will have an adventure that will more than pay for itself, and maybe fall in love with a series you didn’t know you’d love. I truly hope SEGA will continue to remake these classics.
Our Yakuza Kiwami Giveaway