Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review Return of a Dragon
Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio
Platform(s):PlayStation 4 (Played on PS4 Pro)
ESRB Rating: M
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
SEGA seems to be on a roll with the Yakuza series as of late. This year, western fans have been graced with Yakuza 6 the Song of Life, the series debut onto PC, and the Yakuza X Fist of the North Star crossover localization announcement. Now today, we take a look at the second entry in the “Kiwami” remakes of Yakuza games, Yakuza Kiwami 2. Just like Yakuza Kiwami, Kiwami 2 is a groundup remake of the original PS2 classic Yakuza 2, this time made in the Dragon Engine. How does this remake of the original Yakuza 2 hold up, and does this game paint an interesting picture of the future of the Yakuza series?
Yakuza Kiwami 2’s story follows Yakuza 2’s nearly beat for beat. It’s been a year since the 10 billion yen incident and Kazuma Kiryu is trying his best to move on with civilian life to raise his adoptive daughter, Haruka. This all changes when Kiryu is caught up in a massive conflict between the Tojo Clan and the Omni Alliance’s Go-Ryu Clan. From here, Kiryu must take on the Go-Ryu Clan’s Goda Ryuji, who wants nothing but bloodshed between the two clans.
I may have said this a lot about the Yakuza games, but the stories all play out like an amazing crime drama, and Yakuza Kiwami 2’s is no different. Kiwami 2’s story is just a rollercoaster of action, love, and betrayal from start to finish. As a follow up to the original Yakuza, this game’s story honestly takes everything and cranks it up to an 11. The writing and character development in this game is one of the best in the series, and just made me fall in love with every major and minor character on screen. This game will give you plenty of villains that you will love to hate as you go through it, and will keep you on the edge of your seat as other characters get developed.
Yakuza Kiwami 2’s combat is based upon the combat changes made in Yakuza 6. All of this said, the combat system has been more thoroughly fleshed out in comparison. You have many more skills and unlockable combos that you can perform in this game that puts the combat system back on par with that of earlier Yakuza games. The combat system is not only improved, but it still feels just as impactful as before. You will always feel the power behind each and every one of your moves.
What I am the most appreciative for in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the revitalized heat system. While in Yakuza 6, most of your combat relied on performing extreme heat moves instead of traditional moves, Kiwami 2 opts to have the best of both worlds. Kiwami 2 not only has a plethora of normal heat moves that you can perform, but Extreme Heat also returns. Extreme Heat this time is an unlockable function, so it can be pretty easy to miss if you’re not careful. Extreme Heat more or less acts the same as in 6, but you don’t have as much super armor in comparison. Don’t try and use it as a giant win button like in 6. While yes you can’t die while in this mode, enemies will have no problem knocking you over if you go at it recklessly.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 has a lot of quality life improvements over Yakuza 6. The first example of this is with enemies health. No longer does every random enemies health appear on a giant bar on the bottom of the screen as well as over their heads, the new enemy health feature opens up more space and makes it easier to keep track of bosses HP. Speaking of bosses, multiple health bars now return for bosses. Instead of having bosses with one giant health bar and high defense to compensate, bosses will now all have the series standard multiple bars of different colors. I honestly prefer this method. As this causes a lot of bosses to be easily cheesed in 6 with the usage of Extreme Heat, or it could make you feel like your attacks have little to no effect on the enemies.
Overall, the combat system of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is much more in depth than Yakuza 6. It honestly feels much more rewarding as I have to plan out my attacks more carefully and not mash away through everything. If the combat system is more refined now, I am honestly excited to see how the combat system will continue to evolve in future entries of the series.
What’s a Yakuza game without a lot of side content? Well a boring time that’s what. Yakuza Kiwami 2 again picks up from the shortcomings of Yakuza 6 by adding in much more side content for you to do. Returning from Yakuza 6, you have yourself the Clan Creator minigame, and returning from Yakuza 0, you have the Cabaret Club management minigame. Both of these mini games having their own detailed story for you to follow along side of the main one. With this the series continues the trend of surprising me with how detailed and deep some of these sub plots can go. There is also the return of the underground fighting arena in Purgatory, and much more side content for you to indulge yourself into.
The best part about Yakuza sometimes is just all of the little things you can do with the side content in Kiwami 2. Some of them even have their own small stories at times. You can go around town playing darts, indulge in some underground gambling, or try yourself out with some Shogi, or spend some time doing things that the YouTube censors would demonitize this video for if I showed it on screen. Oh, did I also mention there is competitive pissing? Yeah once you’ve filled up at your local bar head to your nearest Toylet at a SEGA arcade to have a literal pissing match. Once you’re done there, go indulge at the local arcade and relive SEGA’s glory days. The amount of things you can do in Kamurocho and Sotenbori is near endless.
With Yakuza Kiwami 2 being a remake of the original Yakuza 2, it’s only natural to have all of the sub stories remade as well. The substories in Kiwami 2 are honestly really well crafted and have aged incredibly well. The substories feel incredibly unique to each other, but more so in this entry. After having completed about half of these sub stories, none of them really blended together or felt repetitive to do. There were many times where I found myself running around Kamurocho and Sotenbori trying to find as many substories to complete as humanly possible.
One of the biggest new additions to Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the inclusion of everyone’s favorite maddog, Goro Majima getting his own side campaign. The events of this campaign take place between the events right after Yakuza and half a year before Yakuza 2. While this campaign is on the short side, you are able to play around Sotenbori as Majima with his own unique Mad Dog fighting style. While his upgrades are limited, it was still a blast just mowing down waves of enemies with a single knife. You unlock more chapters for Majima the further you go through the main story, so it can be a good tool to take a break if you want to see something else than the current story at hand. I think the only real downside to his whole campaign is with how short it is, but I guess they didn’t want Majima to steal the whole show.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the second game from SEGA to use their new high fidelity graphics engine, The Dragon Engine, and it really does show. A common issue I ran into Yakuza 6 was the frame rate. While I used the PS4 Pro, I would still notice occasional slowdown when exploring Kamurocho or when the physics engine was in full effect. I would hate to imagine how bad it would be on the base PS4. Now with Kiwami 2, I find myself not running into this issue nearly as much or at all really. The game manages to keep a much more consistent 30fps no matter what is happening on screen. Kamurocho and Sotenbori are also much more condensed with people compared to Kamurocho in 6 and Onomichi. With the amount of added people on screen Kamurocho and Sotenbori really did feel like being in the busy streets of Tokyo or Osaka.
The visuals of Kamurocho and Sotenbori look better than ever in the remastered version. I really thought that Yakuza 6 looked good, but Kiwami 2 has managed to take the cake in the visuals department. Both cities are extremely vibrant at night, and I always found myself taking my time from destination to destination to take in all of the sights of both cities. I am just amazed as to how much they were able to improve with the game visually. I can only feel like the performance will just continue to improve with each new Yakuza entry from here on out.
It should be also noted that unlike Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is not a fully voiced game, and returns to the series standard of only having voice acting in pre-rendered scenes or important in game scenes. That said it wasn’t that much of a turnoff. The actual in game cinematics and action scenes are so well done that it made up for the fact small conversations were not fully voiced. I would always find myself on the edge of my seat with the performance that was going on in front of me. What helped this the most would often be the ambient music that plays in the background helped set the scene. The unofficial soundtrack for this game is seriously bone chilling at times, and the music can really help drive everything home.
Now we have to address something about Yakuza Kiwami 2: how does it hold up to the original Yakuza 2 and is it as good of a remake as Kiwami? Well the answer to that question, in most regards, yes. However it does find fault in some areas. Yakuza Kiwami 2 does an amazing job of sticking true to the original story, and reshoots almost every scene perfectly. While everything looks brand new, they manage to keep everything the same and not deviate too far from the original plot. There are also some pretty good remixes of tracks from the original Yakuza 2. With my personal favorites being Outlaw Lullaby and Roar of Twin Dragons.
Some of these tracks I could listen to all day long, but the problem is, a lot of the music from the original Yakuza 2 did not make it over into Kiwami 2. Instead of custom boss themes for a lot of non major bosses, they just re-use some of the same tracks over and over again.This would get rather underwhelming at times, there were also tracks that were replaced with new ones too, while some of them were good replacements and helped better fit the mood there were quite a few that fell flat. All of that said, none of the changes were completely bad changes, just a bit disappointing compared to other entries.
The last major difference between Kiwami 2 and the original Yakuza 2 would have to be the removal a story area in Sotenbori. For it’s time, this area was insanely detailed on the PS2 version of the game, so honestly to see that area in the Dragon Engine would have been a massive treat for fans. Sadly that area of the game was removed, and its story element was moved into the main area of Sotenbori. It kinda feels jarring when you get to it, but honestly if you were not aware of the original area it may not bother you as much or at all.
Thankfully though, Yakuza Kiwami 2 definitely gives more to the player than takes away. With the inclusion of redone scenes, improved combat, and a plethora of side content and an entire new seperate campaign, I can definitely live with a lot of the changes made from the original Yakuza 2. The game still holds true to the originals integrity, and honestly made it more enjoyable to play through and watch.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 has easily become one of my favorite games in the Yakuza series. From the action packed story, to the overabundance of side content provided, to the ability to play as Majima again, I honestly have a game that keeps me wanting to come back for more and more, and never want to put the controller down. For fans coming into the series off the backs of Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, going right into Yakuza Kiwami 2 is definitely your best bet. All of that said, if you can, try and play the original Yakuza 2 sometime as well, while I love Yakuza Kiwami 2 and see it as the defacto way for newer players to enjoy the installment, you should really go and see what this game was like when it originally came out and see what the game managed to get away with as a PS2 title. My time with Yakuza Kiwami 2 is far from done, and this will be a game I will be trying to Platinum.