|Release Date||August 28, 2018|
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by SEGA for review purposes.*
Many have been following the Yakuza series since the first game released in 2005, but many others suffered the curse of the West, where many Japanese RPG’s just don’t make it over or aren’t as popular as they could have been. Yakuza Kiwami 2, SEGA’s newest remake of the original Yakuza 2, does the series some serious justice, even for someone like myself who’d never played the originals. Knowing that these remakes were coming, Yakuza 6 is also sealed on my shelf, waiting for the moment I can play them all in the way they were intended. Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6 share the Dragon engine and many gameplay similarities, but this review is in the direct scope of Kiwami 2 being a Kiwami sequel, and more or less doesn’t take Yakuza 6 into consideration. This remake does come with a price increase, which some players might not be too fond of. While Kiwami was well-received in the West, it’s again up to the fans to show whether Kiwami 2 will hold its place for the future and more potential remakes.
Starting the game out, you’re reintroduced to Kiryu and Haruka, where they’re paying their respects to Yumi, Nishiki, and Kazama. This game takes place a year after Yakuza Kiwami, and as a nice touch, gives the players the option to recap the events that occurred during the course of the previous game. It’s even split into multiple parts, so players that may just need a refresher of the beginning of Kiwami don’t have to slog through the entire recap and can continue right into the game. Following that, Kiryu is immediately thrust back into the action, with a simple tutorial of the game mechanics of fighting and a short but sweet introduction back into the life of the Yakuza. While he openly renounces the life, it seems as if he still can’t help but stick up for those in need.
For a man that can’t seem to avoid fighting everything that breathes, Kiryu, back in white suit and snakeskin shoes, is every bit of the Dragon of Dojima that he’s known for. Unlike the previous remake, Kiwami 2 only has one fighting style, which isn’t named as it has been in the past. While Kiryu doesn’t start off completely lacking his prowess, players are limited at the start to basic combos and must unlock more through EXP points. This is a change from Kiwami, where players receive Completion Points (CP) for certain actions. The EXP points in Kiwami 2 are split between five categories, and different actions will reward a varying amount of EXP per each category. Even with ignoring side quests and food, the points stack up quickly through the story, and players shouldn’t have a problem unlocking the abilities they prefer most.
While gaining experience is easy, the combat in Kiwami 2 feels like an impressive step up in difficulty from Kiwami and Zero. This may be in part because of the revamped Dragon engine, but at times it felt as if the enemy AI was truly responsive and adaptive. Enemies attacked while you’re left open, and openly utilize overworld items like street signs and bicycles. Boss fights started with more health, and dodging attacks and executing combos was harder to pull off at the start. For some, this might seem cumbersome and kind of a gate to the rest of the game, but pushing through the first few hours and upgrading Kiryu’s Attack and Defense really help, especially because the upgrade system lets players pick and choose what they want to focus on, instead of being stuck behind certain upgrades or story progressions to go further. The items mechanic also experienced a bit of an upgrade, with the ability for Kiryu to pick up an item during a battle and store it in his inventory for later.
As Kamurocho and Sotenbori open back up to our favorite protagonist, we can see that the cities are still going through a revitalization of color and life. The two cities, modeled after real ones in Tokyo and Osaka, are always bustling at every time of day and night, with colorful signs, different sound effects for the streets around you, and just a feeling that you’re a part of something real and not just a made-up world. Incredible detail has always been taken to ensure that many real-life landmarks make their way into the game, and it’s very apparent when traveling. Kiwami 2 also brings a more open world, minimizing the number of loading screens. Unless a building holds plot significance, for the most part, Kiryu can walk into many buildings, up stairs, and through doors without breaking them up into different loading zones. Enemies will also follow you into those buildings during the random overworld fights with thugs or opposing Yakuza families. More than once, the golfing range attendant hid behind the counter when a fight was brought into the lobby. Oops.
The overworld minimap is also more detailed, with the ability to easily see different NPC’s, building types, and taxis. With an early-unlocked ability, side quests also appear as either blue or white small dialog icons, which makes tracking them a lot easier for the player. The lockers and keys also make a return, and the chiming key finder is also an early-attained item for a more streamlined experience. There are some nice finishing touches to the overworld, like characters moving out of your way while you’re running, or Kiryu walking up each individual stair on a stairwell. These touches, in addition to music that matches the pacing and intensity of both fun and serious sections, makes the world more fun to be a part of. The phone booths to save have been removed, and the player can continue to save manually through the menu. This is a convenient feature compared to previous games, but after a mishap with the wrong option, I’d lost about four hours’ worth of progress because I hadn’t manually saved and was sent back to the main menu. An auto-save feature in addition to the “forced” chapter saves would go a long way for the future of the series.
Following the events of the original Yakuza 2, Kiwami 2 follows Kiryu through a clan alliance, a clan usurping, a terrorist plot, foreign mafia meddling, and well-covered up police secrets. At this point, this should be nothing new to Yakuza fans, but Kiwami 2 does a good job with the overall pacing of the story. The beginning is a little heavy-handed, leading to some missed opportunities for side quests and EXP gain for those invested in the story, but there are good points that pace it out and give the player time to explore. At several points every few chapters, Kiryu just needs to “kill time”, which served very well to break up the often fast-paced and intense chapters. However, those same fast-paced chapters can lead to some missed encounters that could help the player sooner rather than later. As an example, Kiryu once again has the option to train with Komaki, which is presented to you after the first few chapters. Kiryu is halfway across town, and aside from a simple “Maybe I should go talk to Komaki first” dialog, the game pushes you to continue the story anyway. It would have been helpful to have a little bit of extra training or side quests completed but it wasn’t anything game-breaking.
In addition to the regular story, players have the option to play Majima and experience his side of things after it’s unlocked about halfway through the regular chapters with Kiryu. Majima has been an underdog favorite of the series, with his crazy antics and over-the-top personality bringing a much needed lighter tone to the series. These chapters, unlocked at certain points of Kiryu’s story, give the player more insight on how Majima ticks after we’d last played as him, as well as giving the player some background knowledge on how other characters feel about Kiryu (which aren’t all good!). These set of chapters lack the EXP and upgrade system, as well as the Majima Construction and Cabaret Club that Kiryu has access to during his chapters.
When the story proves to be a little too much, Kiryu can slack off and enjoy a world jam-packed with mini-games, side quests, running a cabaret club, and even take part in RTS-style battles with Majima Construction. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, whether spending a few hours playing darts is your thing, or playing an intense game of mahjong is more your speed. One of my favorites was golf, which featured a bingo or “closest to the hole” set of challenges. There’s a healthy mix of content that fans in the West will enjoy, even if more traditional Japanese games are hard to understand. Mahjong was one of the harder ones for me, and I still have yet to really figure it out, while a favorite was a new minigame about peeing. Yes, peeing in a urinal. It was really weird.
Side quests are also as interesting as they’ve ever been, with no two quests being quite the same. Through my playthrough, Kiryu’s been a model, a photographer, an actor, an emergency underwear deliverer, and much more. Many side quests explore more of Yakuza’s lore, with one of them revolving around helping a lost, excited grandma around the streets of Kamurocho.
The Cabaret Club makes a familiar return, with Kiryu running the cabaret and gaining more fans while making tons of cash. New, though, is the Majima’s Construction Clan Creator, where you defend your turf against invading forces wanting to take the land of a new construction project away from you. These fights are similar to RTS battles, where you can move characters at will to maximize coverage of invading areas on a top-down arena. This feels rather out of place for a Yakuza game but was still pretty fun to experience.
With as much content as Yakuza Kiwami 2 has to offer, it was really hard to put down and made me want to come back again and again. While it has some unfortunately overlooked mechanics that could have been improved, like the lack of an auto-save, it’s a solid game that any fan or newcomer could enjoy, though playing Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami as first games would offer a better experience. The upped price tag of $49.99 is a bit of a drag, but there are a solid 20-30 hours in just enjoying the story content, and it has so much more to offer.
|Story makes you want to keep playing||Lacks an auto-save feature|
|Variety of things to do outside of story breaks up the pacing||Story can lead to missed or put off side quests|
|Fun side quests and minigames|