Yakuza Kiwami Review
Yakuza Kiwami is the remake of the original Yakuza title, released for PlayStation 2 in 2005. The game is built from the ground-up using the engine that powered the HD titles on PS3. What makes Yakuza Kiwami noteworthy is that it’s a sequel to Yakuza 0. Following up 17 years after the events of Yakuza 0, Kiwami features Kiryu Kazuma – former Tojo Clan Lieutenant Advisor – out of prison. After taking the fall for his best friend in a major crime, Kiryu spent 10 years in prison. Upon being released, he finds himself in a Kamurocho that has changed without him.
The story covers Kiryu entering the fray immediately. You will help him find the answers on the whereabouts of his best friend, a girl who’s gone missing, and what has happened to the Tojo Clan while he was away. The story takes Kiryu through all of Kamurocho, an area of Tokyo filled with crime and big-shots running the streets. As the story progresses, your fights get bigger and bigger. People begin to gun for your life, stalking you, and taking what’s most dear to you. Goro Majima, an acquaintance of Kiryu, is there to train him on the streets, bringing back his full power as Dragon of Dojima!
What’s in Kiwami?
“Kiwami” means Extreme in Japanese. It’s the “extreme,” or ultimate remake of the original, you could say. It’s not a remaster, but a full-scale remake built from the ground up. This means new side-quests, dialogue, battle features, and so forth. This includes new cinematic story scenes and a completely revamped battle system, featuring the three battle styles – Brawler, Rush, and Beast. In addition, the Dragon style returns, which Kiryu is known for. However, it’s left severely downgraded.
Yakuza Kiwami offers a new system called “Majima Everywhere.” By offers, I mean literally everywhere and not exactly offered. Goro Majima, the Mad Dog of Shimano and Kiryu’s rival, will appear sporadically throughout the course of Yakuza Kiwami. Engaging in fights with Kiryu, each battle will unlock more and more abilities in your Dragon style. This means new attacks, stat boosts, and finishers. Granted, you’ll likely play through most of the game using the other, more optimized styles against mobs and bosses alike. However, you may come to a point where Dragon serves you better than any style, which I will get to later in the review.
What’s different from Yakuza 0?
I can only compare to Yakuza 0, my first game in the series. What I do know, however, is that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th titles all ran on the PS3. Yakuza 5 also serves as a foundation, introducing some of the mini-games, such as the dating mini-game. While the dating game served as a main structure for Majima’s Cabaret Club in 0, you will get to date two hostesses in Kiwami as Kiryu. In particular, 0 offered the three styles one-by-one, where you get to use them off the bat in the game. What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is that your opponents are stronger in this game. Enemies and bosses alike will dodge you, use more weapons, and are smarter than they were in 0. This means a more challenging game, and one that rewards your use of battle styles as you take foes down.
Majima Everywhere is similar to the Mr. Shakedown boss battles of 0. However, Majima can’t up and one-shot you with his large size. He’ll fight you using his four different styles from 0 – Thug, Slugger, Breaker, and eventually, Mad Dog. While you normally get an alert when he’s near, some of his battles come at sheer random. This can be anything from surprising you from under a manhole to interfering with your fights. Compared to running away from Mr. Shakedown, it pays to always come prepared to fight Majima.
What’s up in Kamurocho?
Kamurocho’s layout is roughly the same. Some establishments, like restaurants, stayed. Others, like dance clubs, were completely replaced. That means you won’t have any more dancing mini-games. Moreover, the Sega Arcades are present, but not with the licensed Sega arcade titles. Despite seeing machines for Virtua Fighter, none of them are playable for the duration of the game. While some mini-games remain, like Shogi and bowling, some are overhauled, like women wrestling. Rather than betting on women in a club, you now play a game called “MesuKing.” In the arcades, you can build a deck and utilize stat-boosting mechanics to win an RPS game. Despite its simple premise, it’s more fun that it sounds.
Much of what you’ve seen before stays the same. As mentioned before, bowling and Shogi are in the game. In addition, you’ll find some more board games unlocked in secret areas of shops. Some of these require passwords, which includes playing a Substory or even paying some guy on the street 30,000 yen for info. The dancing mini-games are sorely missed. With no replacement to one of the best parts of Kamurocho’s nightlife, you don’t get to see Kiryu’s moves on any front. There are also no more cute idol videos of girls in underwear modeling in video stores. However, if you play a certain dating sub-story, you might just get your wish.
Key Points of Yakuza Kiwami.
Taking the best elements out of the series, Kiwami manages to deliver some of the best beat ’em up combat in the series. Anyone familiar with Sega is familiar with their Streets of Rage series. Yakuza’s foundation is based on this genre. Utilizing battle styles, weapons, grabs, and Heat moves, it combines the skill tree and stat boosting of an RPG with the real-time battling of a 3D action title, like Devil May Cry. In addition, you can raise or lower the difficulty at your leisure without risking any punishment. The amount of tools and preparation the game gives you makes any battle winnable. If you’re struggling, try changing your style, buying weapons, and more healing items.
The Substories in Kiwami are as crazy as ever. There are 78 side-quests in this game. One of the key points of the series is the depth of sub-stories. Generally, they’re more than your generic JRPG quest of grabbing an item and being done with it. There’s always a story and a lesson to be learned. Kiryu gets involved with some of the strangest people and gets involved with oddities with their behaviors. Whether it’s buying lady magazines for a boy or buying women’s panties for a bashful customer, many of these end up with a fight. Often, the reward involves yen or even a rare item. While your dialogue choices don’t affect the outcome of the game, they can lead to hilarious scenarios. If you’re familiar with NieR: Automata, it’s a good example of the depth of the side-quests. Some of them end happily. Others, not so much.
The end goal of the Substories is to try a little bit of everything. Some of them involve you becoming a master at a mini-game. Others are as simple as picking off a creep stalking a woman. Many of these include social situations that people find themselves in every day. Being Kiryu, it gives you a chance to interact and involve yourself in these scenarios, doing the right thing and setting an example. The good news is the postgame experience includes New Game+ as well as Premium Adventure, which allows you to clear all Substories without beating the game.
Also, by rewarding yourself with these Substories, you can test yourself in the Arena, honing your skills, and learning new abilities as the Dragon of Dojima. Ultimately, your final substory will involve coming face-to-face with the series’ superboss and dangerous assassin, Jo Amon. Use everything the game has given you to take down this final enemy!
Could the game be better?
Kiwami delivers an exceptional storyline and overall pacing, save for some parts. In one storyline example, you must rescue a puppy. This includes repeated trips to the store for a paper plate and dog food. It’s not even the same store either. And since each store carries different merchandise, you’ll spend a bit of time running around looking for where to go. In other substories, you’ll also spend time looking for where to go next. Some Substories don’t even trigger unless you do others first. In some cases, you may have to run close to the sidewalk just to trigger a quest with a random NPC.
In addition to that, some of these tales are cumbersome. Whether they’re considerably tedious or not, I would say hardly. However, there is quite a bit of padding. Fortunately, Kamurocho isn’t too big to travel around on foot. Moreover, you have access to four taxi quickpoints. What’s most fulfilling however, is the depth of storyline you get from each substory. Every one of them matters in some way, impacting Kiryu and his character development. I honestly believe all of them are worth it for story purposes, in addition to fighting Jo Amon. However, they could be handled better and less cumbersome. List the locations precisely for each one and listing trigger conditions is a start. Also, for some, like PC Racing, you will almost certainly need a guide.
Beast style is great for mobs, while Brawler is best for 1v1 combat. Rush is also great when taking down a fast enemy. Dragon isn’t worth using at all until you clear the Komaki quests, unlocking Tiger Drop. Follow guides for all Substories, including Pocket Circuit Fighter, Dating, and Bowling if you want to get through your sidequests easy. You should have roughly 50 hours in the game by the time you beat Jo Amon. CyricZ”s guides on GameFAQs are a major help. His guides are streamlined and simple enough to follow. This could shave off entire hours off your Substories.
Make sure to visit the Pharmacy frequently. Staminaman Royale is your best healing item. It’s easy on the wallet and necessary for your early fights with Majima. He’ll be stalking you throughout the game, so be prepared. Also, in general, fights occur every few minutes in the game, some which may take a while. You never know when someone’s going to pull out an Uzi in the middle of a club.
Taking the best elements out of the series, Yakuza Kiwami manages to deliver some of the best beat ’em up combat in the series. Anyone familiar with Sega is familiar with their Streets of Rage series. Yakuza’s foundation is based on this genre. Utilizing battle styles, weapons, grabs, and Heat moves, it combines the skill tree and stat boosting of an RPG with the real-time battling of a 3D action title, like Devil May Cry. In addition, you can raise or lower the difficulty at your leisure without risking any punishment. The amount of tools and preparation the game gives you makes any battle winnable. If you’re struggling, try changing your style, buying weapons, and more healing items. When it was all said and done, I spent roughly 30 hours on the story and another 20 finishing the Substories.
We covered Yakuza 0 earlier this year. I got into many new PS4 franchises last year. NieR: Automata, Persona 5, and several others made me new fans of the series. Yakuza, with its RPG elements, joined the group quickly. If you’re a fan of PS4 RPGs, this is worth getting into. If you miss the beat ’em up combat that hails from eras past, this is also for you. As big of a rise the series is on, there’s no better time to get into the series like the present! Kiwami 2 is coming out this year, and the remasters of 3, 4, and 5 are following. Get Yakuza Kiwami on PS4 today or wait for the release on PC!
Thank you for reading our Yakuza Kiwami review! Have you played the series yet? Are you looking to try it soon? Let us know in the comments below!