Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review
Yakuza Kiwami 2 came out in August 2018. As the sequel to Yakuza Kiwami, as well as the remake of the original PS2 title, Yakuza 2, the series’ latest entry in the series marks a number of changes from previous titles. While some were good, others fell short. Read our Yakuza Kiwami 2 review to learn the good and the bad of Kiryu Kazuma’s latest adventure.
The story takes place one year after Yakuza Kiwami. Kiryu Kazuma is now living with his adopted daughter, Haruka. During a meeting with the Tojo Clan Chairman, however, a mysterious assailant shoots him. The chairman hands Kiryu a letter and tasks him to go to Sotenbori, to visit the Omi Alliance, in order to prevent a war between them and the Tojo Clan. The story begins when Kiryu meets the Omi Alliance Go-Ryu clan patriach. Following that, a bomb explodes in Kamurocho and all hell breaks loose. With a plot that spans over 20 years, Yakuza Kiwami 2’s story delivers many twists.
In addition, Yakuza Kiwami 2 summarizes the story of the previous game with a series of stills in a cutscene. If you’re playing Yakuza for the first time, you’ll feel right at home with this title!
Yakuza Kiwami 2 looks a notch better than the past titles. Whereas Yakuza 0 and Kiwami were native PS3 titles, Yakuza Kiwami 2 was built for the PS4 utilizing the Dragon Engine. While past games also had incredibly detailed animations, and facial expressions, Kiwami 2 makes a noticeable leap in quality. One difference includes the crowds lining the street. There’s many more people, making Kamurocho and Sotenbori feel more lifelike and realistic with their dense population. The drawback, unfortunately, means the game now runs at 30 FPS. While newer hardware and engines generally means better performance, this ended up being more of a trade-off.
Yakuza’s sound effects are as on-point as ever. Hitting enemies, slicing them, shooting them, and blowing things up sound as satisfying as one might expect. All the acting is voiced in Japanese with English subtitles as well. Plus the battle music and overall soundtrack are as strong as ever.
The series centers around several themes, one of which is exploring the city. You can visit bars, restaurants, play mini-games in the Sega Arcade, and even a karaoke center. There’s many mini-games as well. In addition to Sega classics, like Virtua Fighter 2 and Virtua-On, you can also play Golf, Batting Cages, and even Toylets! Each game plays differently, basing your wins on quick timing or even methods to boost your performance, such as purchasing a stronger baseball bat.
The battle system in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is as strong as ever. As the series focuses heavily on 3D beat ’em up mechanics, this means punching, kicking, grabbing, and busting out weapons to take foes down. Your combos garner stronger attacks and your Heat actions land the decisive blow. Sometimes QTE actions can help you build damage while other times it means avoiding a boss’ powerful attack. Battle animations are still quite explosive, now with the inclusion of ragdoll physics. Unfortunately, this means getting knocked on your rear far away from your enemies and mashing buttons to get back up.
The animations for characters still look good, but not with drawbacks. In past Yakuza games, skipping dialogue didn’t interact with the characters. Here, they constantly make a jerking animation to their next posture. This can become slightly annoying especially if you read dialogue faster than the characters can move. It’s a mild inconvenience, but it is noticeable.
Enemies can now block your attacks mid-combo. This means busting out the weapons to break the defenses. As the enemies are smarter and stronger than in 0 and Kiwami, this means you need to rely on good weapons more than in past games. Unlike previous entries, however, you can have up to three weapons equipped at any given time. Repair them and buy new ones when needed.
There are no more styles to choose from. All your actions are now consolidated to one fighting style, which is based on Kiryu’s Dragon style. This means no more strategizing your attacks based on crowd control or speed rush attacks. While I greatly missed this feature, the battles are still explosive and you have access to dozens of new techniques as well. Once again, this is a give-and-take for Kiwami 2. As mentioned earlier, I enjoy how weapons are implemented for use against strong opponents.
Finally, skills aren’t set on a circular Skill Tree. Now you have a more traditional menu and four categories to spend points on. You can eat food and battle enemies to garner experience in each of these areas. Some include basic stats, like Strength, while others are battle techniques or even things like dashing speed. Yet again, I find this to be a trade-off since I preferred the all-on-screen organization of the skill trees. You have to sort your techniques by Purchasable or Unlearned in order to find the ones you need.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 focuses heavily on substory progression, which is a series tradition. While they aren’t required to beat the story, you’ll be introduced to them at some point during the game. In Sotenbori, for instance, you can become the manager of a Cabaret Club. You’ll dress up hostesses, recruit them, and utilize them in an mini-game based on pleasing customers and solving issues. Each hostess has her own strengths and weaknesses. This means strategizing your lineup based on your clientele and their abilities. Between the writing, gameplay, and catchy music, it’s a really good mode. You can also dress them up and customize them. If you’ve played Yakuza 0, it’s much faster to level up hostesses now.
In Kamurocho, you can also team up with Goro Majima in the new Majima Construction mini-game. This isn’t necessary for Substory completion. You can recruit male characters to help you fight against a rival gang. In an RTS (Real-Time Strategy) mini-game, you’ll guide your units to take down enemies and build them up to become stronger as well.
There are 76 Substories in all. This includes clearing the Hostess quest as well. However, completion also revolves around completion of Golf and Batting Cages in the high-level difficulties. Honestly, I found the golf one to be greatly difficult. If you’re just looking to clear journal entries and fight tough bosses, it’s almost more trouble than it’s worth. Given the trial-and-error nature of the golf mini-game, I can’t say I enjoyed this part at all. And unlike Pocket Circuit racing, a mini-game in previous titles, a guide will barely help you for this one.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 marks another hit in the Yakuza series. Similar to Yakuza 0, you’ll travel between Kamurocho and Sotenbori with a new, cleaner look thanks to the performance of the Dragon Engine. Also, the game doesn’t load for every area now. While there are transition screens, the stores themselves no longer have them. This means entering and exiting most areas without laod times. Unfortunately, this means dreadfully long loading times (10 seconds or more) in other areas or out of cutscenes.
Based on the Dragon Engine used for Yakuza 6, this game took a number of risks compared to the route of 0 and Kiwami. Some good, some not-so-good. Battles lost the style system, but are still explosive and have tougher enemies.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 has plenty of replay value. You get Premium Adventure to finish substories and dress in costumes. You can also continue mini-games and beat your high scores for more Completion Points. Finally, you can also play the Majima Saga chapters to uncover his story.
However, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is not all give-and-take. The narrative in this game is as strong as the series standard and it has some of the best character development and boss fights the series has to offer. I personally became a huge fan of the antagonist, Ryuji Goda. There’s many plot twists that engage the player. Some are full of danger, and others involve some heartwarming tales with Haruka. If you love story-driven games, Yakuza Kiwami 2 continues the tradition of some of the best storytelling you can find in a game. And if you love strong battle systems, this game delivers. You can get Yakuza Kiwami 2 exclusively for PlayStation 4 now.
Thank you for reading our Yakuza Kiwami 2 review. Are you a series veteran or will this potentially be your first title in the series? Let us know in the comments below!
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