Yakuza series is getting its well-deserved recognition this generation and this started all the way back with Yakuza 0. So far, Sega has released 3 major games in the Yakuza series beginning with Yakuza 0, which was a prequel set before the events in Yakuza Kiwami and then followed it up with Yakuza 6, the last chapter in the Kazuma Kiryu saga. This was an unconventional release model but it thankfully hasn’t managed to cause any major issue to the interest in the series. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the sequel to the first Yakuza game and it is another remake developed from the ground up using the Yakuza 6 game engine.
The first major difference that is immediately noticeable going from Kiwami to its sequel is the lack of load times for the open world. This started with Yakuza 6 but since Kiwami 2 uses the same engine, it has benefited from it as well. This means you can explore the open world without any loading screen to disturb the flow during exploration. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate all loading screens since, for key story events, you will have to still sit through a loading screen.
The other major tweak is for the combat system. This is the same system that was a part of Yakuza 6 and it hasn’t been changed for Kiwami 2. The new combat and upgrade system relies on a set of categories divided among strength, stamina, heat and other skills. Defeating enemies, completing substories, eating food or even drinking can get you experience points in each category which is used to level up or learn new skills and abilities. It is a better system than Yakuza Kiwami since not only is it less confusing to manage, it also urges the player to explore more, fight the random battles and generally feels a lot more rewarding.
One of the complaints that I had with Yakuza 6 was that it lacked mini-games and side-activities compared to Yakuza 0. Kiwami 2 has thankfully managed to avoid this issue and added a lot of mini-games that are fun to play and some of them are also linked to substories. Those who are looking for optional content will be able to take part in the Clan Creator activity that is back from Yakuza 6, or you can manage your own Cabaret Club and take part in a national competition for the best club in town. Both of these side-activities are deep enough that it is easy to spend a lot of time just dealing with them while losing track of the story.
I consider Yakuza Kiwami’s story rather weak. It felt a lot more personal to Kiryu and lacked the oomph factor for a Yakuza game. Kiwami 2 has not only a better story structure, it also offers more memorable characters and one of the best villain featured in the series. I might not have played the PS3 Yakuza games but from my experience with the series so far on the PS4, Ryuji Goda, also known as the Dragon of Kansai, is a great villain that has an intimidating character design and motivation making him the greatest threat for Kazuma Kiryu. If you have played Yakuza 0, you might be familiar with him since he has a cameo appearance in that game.
Most of the fans will agree that the story in Yakuza 2 is easily the best among the series. Yakuza 0 comes close but 2 has a better pace and less filler taking up your time. It also features a lot of twists, backstabbing and a plot that deals with multiple threats. What I liked was that it didn’t artificially limit your character unlike Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, and the story was easy to get into even if you have skipped the first game. The story in Kiwami 2 follows some of the events from the first game however you get the chance to watch a nicely summed video at the beginning that explains pretty much all the major plot points.
Combat is so much better now. The physics system is completely revamped now so your punches and kicks now carry more weight. Kiryu is able to dodge and parry enemy attacks but the cherry on top is usually the dozens of ways you can execute a heat move. There are so many combinations to try here ranging from picking up a specific item to getting help from the crowd. Heat moves are a core part of the Yakuza series but Kiwami 2 has taken it a step further by adding more options, ranging from brutal finishers to hilarious takedowns. it is satisfying to end a battle with a heat move and see the crowd cheering up.
On top of all this content, the remake has added a new campaign called The Truth of Goro Majima. This story mode focuses on the events between Kiwami 1 and its sequel and what happened to Goro during this time. For fans of Goro Majima, this is the perfect way to clear out any confusion and if you have already finished Yakuza 0, this will tie out most of the story events neatly in a satisfying conclusion. I consider this a gift from the developers to the fans who loved Goro Majima’s story arc in Yakuza 0.
Visually, there is a lot to appreciate in Kiwami 2, from the highly detailed character models to the neon glowing streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, this is a gorgeous game that uses the new Dragon Engine to perfection. The cutscene direction is sublime while I think Yakuza 0 had the better cutscenes, Kiwami 2 is no slouch either. I really enjoyed how the cutscenes blended in well with the story, it helped with the flow of the gameplay switching between the interactive moments into combat leading to story segments.
This is easily going to the definitive Yakuza experience for a long time. It offers a great story, fun and improved combat system, plenty of mini-games, substories, side-activities, and enough content to keep the Yakuza fans satisfied for a long time. I have to give props to the localization department at Atlus who were behind this game. They have managed to keep the charm of the original Japanese release without changing too much of the content. Substories in the game often feature the most mundane task but the writing is what makes them fun and there is usually a back story to them so they never feel meaningless.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Sega. It is a remake of the 2006 video game Yakuza 2, and is the series' second remake title following 2016's Yakuza Kiwami.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 thrives on the back of a great villain and it is arguably the best story chapter in Kazuma Kiryu's saga. It is also the most comprehensive Yakuza game so far with plenty of mini-games and side activities to keep you engaged for a long time.