+Extremely upgraded graphics and gameplay systems
+New focus on both Majima and Yishiki
+Borrows great fight mechanics from Yakuza O
-New focus on Majima takes away from the overall focus on the struggles between Kiryu and Nishiki
-Side quest tracking is a bit off at times, making some quests harder to do.
If you thought 2017 was a stale year so far, in many ways, you’re probably right. We’ve seen mostly reboots, remakes, and HD remasters, which eventually became larger disappointments than the original titles they were supposed to help upgrade. Yakuza Kiwami is one of those few that managed to slip through the cracks and somehow show an astounding remake of a PlayStation 2 game that launched back in 2005. It’s a remake that sees only a few subtle changes in regards to the games base visuals, narrative tweaking, and even having been edited enough to make its 80s’ set prequel Yakuza 0 fit in a bit better.
The differences between Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 0 aren’t all that noticeable except the fact that Zero explores the idea that too much of a good thing, is also a bad thing. Something that some games have explored in previous years, but not to the extent of what Yakuza Kiwami does. One of the biggest and most elaborate changes is that Goro Majima is still one of the most memorable characters of the franchise. His starring role has helped bring Kazuma Kiryu back to life in Zero and it shows quite well in Kiwami.
Because of this, Sega expanded upon his original cameo, bringing him about as a full fledged character, and one that seems fitful as an antagonist-of-sorts in the remake. The game brings Majima to life in one of the most unexpected, but somehow-expected ways. It brings in Majima as your antagonist and trainer of sorts. In the game he will randomly appear around Kamurocho, constantly pushing Kiryu into a fight, and soon after, players will find themselves duking it out with Majima in the middle of the streets. The story behind these brawls? He’s trying to better Kiryu in any way possible.
This mostly does with the fact Kiryu’s ability to fight has gotten a bit rusty after serving a ten-year stent in prison in the games opening act. With him being a bit rusty, these little scraps between him and Majima are to serve as the games backbone as to how Kiryu’s fighting styles begin to get back up to speed.
Many returning from Yakuza 0 will notice that Kiwami adopted a few changes that Yakuza 0 put into place. One is that Kiryu’s fighting styles are back. He can use the quick attacking, dash-heavy Rush style to overwhelm his opponents with speed-based attacks, the slow yet powerful Beast is back, providing Kiryu with devastating blows that will overwhelm his opponents through damage, and the more balanced Brawler- which can be developed by players spending their XP in order to enhance its capabilities.
The fourth, the newest style, Dragon of Dojima, can only reach the full potential it has by hunting down Majima, beating the living Hell out of him, and eventually knocking his eye patch and snakeskin jacket right off his body. This little extra tidbit goes a long ways since Majima proves to be a capable opponent, providing fun, unique, and sometimes aggravatingly hard encounters as the game goes on.
Since his fighting style is much different, the combat is quite enjoyable in comparison to much of Komarochu’s regular fights that grow oddly boring over the duration of the game. Don’t disregard these encounters as something less than enjoyable, sometimes Majima joins in, and makes the duels even more difficult by throwing in attacks you aren’t quite ready for. The only time this will become a nuisance is when you begin to prepare for such encounters by making frequented trips to the Kotobuki Pharmacy in order to stock up on healing salves.
While outlandish fights with Majima do occur, it doesn’t serve up near as much excitement as what some of the games main fights do. Fights such as Shimano of the Tojo Clan are devastatingly difficult and require quite a bit of attention from the player. Especially since players will need to prep as much as possible when it comes to the more difficult fights. Itemization does matter as players will need to ensure that they have the proper trinkets, weapons, and ability upgrades available.
Since the game is a remake, it does serve an uncomfortable reminder that many remakes do have. Characters such as Nishiki and Majima remain as unplayable characters, ones that fans will find a bit of disgruntlement at this fact, but instead, it should serve as a reminder that the future does offer up chances for such a thing to happen are still possible.
The biggest issue with the game isn’t the fact that Majima exists, but instead, the fact he takes away from the presence of characters such as Akira Nishikiyama, Kiryu’s former ally that they will become acquainted with as they take on the Tojo Clan during their proceedings through the games story. Characters such as Nishiki serve as a moderate reason for growth during the games story, character development, and friendship bonding with Kiryu. His story also serves as reasoning behind much of the games events.
Nishiki, Kiryu’s former friend, constantly struggles with his sisters well being after she was hospitalized. But, it doesn’t go without saying, that his seeing Kiryu after many years, didn’t set fire to an old jealousy, a bit of shame, and a rage that has been boiling over since his reappearance. For some, it’s a tragic tale that will drive much of his character, motive, and much of the games core campaign for quite some time. This crucial plot piece that shows motive, drive, and a decent to the darkest reaches of his very being. So much so, that film producers and screen writers should take note on how to build around a characters slow decent into madness.
Anyone that has ever watched a movie, played a game, or even prepared for such occasions, should be well aware of where this games story is headed. It builds up towards the fight for the ages, one that seems to show just how well Sega is at crafting such contextualized moments. Ones that show that they are experts at crafting tantalizing presentations that heighten drama, story, and even the emotional weight of friendships, relationships, and their values. Some of this is quite easily taken away from if players weren’t so busy trying to beat Majima down in order to help Kiryu become the Dragon of Dojima.
Away from the games central plot that focuses upon Kiryu’s slow growth back into power and writing the wrongs against him and those he loved as well as respected. If one were to reflect upon Yakuza O, the games center focus is quite purposeful thanks to the kinship that both Kiryu and Nishiki had. Nights where the two would bond over a few drinks of whiskey while singing the night away at some hole-in-the-wall karaoke bar. If you step away from the games central plot, there’s something deeply intriguing within the games core settings. There’s a mind numbing amount of optional quests for fans to take on. Some involve players helping a young girl feed a puppy that had been brutally abused, while others involve Kiryu hunting down items only to retrieve them for those they are helping.
Others include players taking on mini games such as a catfight minigame where players use cards in order to cause large-bosomed women to fight other women dressed as insects. This very game is one that will cause you to roll your eyes when you aren’t getting down with some eye-rolling fights with Majima.
Even after the inevitable release of Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami feels like it landed during an opportune time compared to upcoming titles such as Yakuza 6, which is set to land on March 6th, 2018 on PlayStation 4. Since the game is so deeply steeped in Japanese culture, it definitely feels as if players are being served a delectable dish of both Japanese pop culture, and honorary systems.
Yakuza Kiwami – PlayStation 4
Release Date: Available Now
Because the game is rife with Japanese culture, and its underworld, it can’t go without saying that this version of Yakuza is the one fans should be enjoying as they wander through Tokyo’s fictional neon-lit district. If you’re incapable of finding a way to pass the time until Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami should be your go-to game in the very near future as the game is long, filled with side quests, and has potentially one of the best and most dramatic stories in the current generation.
Our review is based upon a retail version provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.