Yakuza series has made its triumphant return this year with the release of Yakuza 0. This is being followed by the remake of the original Yakuza titled Yakuza Kiwami. The story in Kiwami is a direct continuation of the events presented in Yakuza 0 but since it is a Remake, it feels a bit restricted when it comes to a comparison with Yakuza 0.
The first important change is how the world is shaped and designed in Yakuza Kiwami with majority of it lacking the charm and personality of Yakuza 0. While the story in Yakuza 0 was prequel, it featured some of the best written crime drama in a video game with plenty of surprise twists and turns and an amazing cast of characters. It introduced the players to the origins of Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu. Since the game was designed as a prequel after the series evolved through the release of 5 games, it manages to avoid the outdated design featured in the remake.
Despite having a lackluster open world, Yakuza Kiwami is the ultimate tale of friendship, betrayal, trust and love. The game is redeemed somewhat by its story that revolves around the events of Kazuma Kiryu’s life as he is on his way to become a Yakuza Captain. To save the life of his friend Akira Nishikiyama, Kiryu is forced to take the blame for the murder of his Yakuza boss which puts him 10 years in prison. The story in the game revolves around plenty of flashbacks where majority of the character development is expected. As the main character, Kiryu spends 10 years in prison before getting free from it. Returning to his old life, he finds himself amidst chaos as the Yakuza family is in shambles over internal politics and rifts. Despite having received expulsion from the Yakuza family after the murder, he is forced to return and find the main cause of the conspiracy behind it.
While I really had a great time with the story, the remake appears to closely follow the design of Yakuza 0 right from the map layout to the UI. The original Yakuza didn’t really have a great battle system so it is nice to have the dynamic battle system with multiple battle styles back in Yakuza Kiwami, but it also doesn’t really provide anything new in term of the combat. You will use the same 4 battle styles switching among Brawler, Rush, Beast and a Dragon style. The game relies on an experience system to allow the player to learn new moves or upgrade various stats and abilities although you can’t really do the same for the Dragon style. It requires you to complete certain objectives in order to upgrade it and learn new moves.
Fan favorite Goro Majima also makes his return in Yakuza Kiwami, although he is neglected to being a side character that helps Kiryu learn new moves for his Dragon style. Roaming around the city, you will be able to fight Goro Majima in a variety of different situations, from competing mini games to all out brawls. If you manage to beat him, you will be rewarded with a new move or upgrade for the Dragon Style. It works similarly in Yakuza 0 so this isn’t really a new feature here. It is always hilarious to run into Goro Majima because even if he might have a limited role in the main story, he still provides plenty of comic relief as a side character.
The main city in Yakuza Kiwami is the same Kamurocho that you have explored in Yakuza 0. This can be disappointing at first because not only the city hasn’t received much change in term of general exploration, the design of the city feels outdated and features less content now. This is immediately apparent as soon as the player steps in the city and begins to take control of Kiryu. While you still have plenty of side stories to accomplish, they are less refined and fun than Yakuza 0. I haven’t come across many hilarious side stories in the city of Kamurocho that come close to what was offered in Yakuza 0. One of the aspect that made the side stories fun was the humor and I feel like it is lacking here. Plenty of these side stories end up being a simple fetch quest or a combat encounter which starts to get repetitive rather quickly.
Make no mistake though, Yakuza Kiwami is still a fantastic game to play. It is also one of the best remakes for a PS2 game that I have played so far. The original Yakuza has aged terribly thanks to its lackluster combat system and this has been rectified somewhat with the implementation of the improved combat system here. Although as mentioned before, some of the design behind the quests and story are still outdated but thankfully the general writing and the characters still hold up well, which makes the story fun to complete. You can attempt a variety of different mini games like the Pocket Racing, Bowling, Batting Cage and even a hostess dating mini game. The hostess dating mini game is not much fun to begin with, providing you with limited options and it ends up being a cutscenes where you try to gain the affection of the hostess by giving gifts, ordering food and wine, or simply talking with her and picking the correct answer choices. This results in an affection bar slowly filling up after each date which improves your relationship with them.
If you have played Yakuza 0 right before playing Kiwami, you will be disappointed by the limited open world and the lack of interesting cast of characters. The game doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of gameplay and it is mostly a retread of Yakuza 0 with the major hook being its story. That said, if you loved Yakuza 0 and are thirsty for more of the same, you will enjoy your time with Yakuza Kiwami.
Yakuza Kiwami Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Yakuza Kiwami, known in Japan as Ryū ga Gotoku: Kiwami is a 2016 remake of Yakuza, the first video game in the Yakuza series.
The story is addictive and keeps you at the edge of the seat. The general exploration and content is a step back from Yakuza 0 but the game is still a blast to play if you interested in more Yakuza games.