Reviewed on: PS4. Copy supplied by publisher.
From a series that once flew under the radar of most gamers back in the PlayStation 2 era, Yakuza has certainly had something of a resurgence in the last couple of years, with a steady stream of new and remastered titles being dropped into our laps. We’ve had the excellent Yakuza 0, the impressive remaster of the first ever Yakuza game – Kiwami, and the final episode of Kiryu Kazama’s saga in Yakuza 6. Not content with this plethora of criminal carnage, Sega has now dropped Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remaster of the second Yakuza game, this time delivered using the new Dragon engine seen in Yakuza 6. The end result is yet another excellent entry in the series, and another successful remaster that does everything right.
As anyone who’s played any of the Yakuza games will know, story is front and centre here, and as always, the game wraps up its central narrative in a sea of underworld politics, personal drama, often strange and bizarre distractions, and an impressive rendition of Japan and its culture.
The story this time, without going into too much detail, revolves around a tale of revenge and a war between two of the major clans – the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. Following an assassination attempt on the current Tojo Clan Chairman, and despite trying to leave the life, Kiryu is pulled back into his nefarious career in order to attempt to prevent all-out war.
This all leads to the familiar gameplay cycle of the Yakuza series that sees you explore some of the most detailed game worlds around, engage foes in martial arts combat, uncover a deep and well written plot, and, when you’re not smashing people’s faces into walls, engage in some of the best side activities you’ll see.
Kiwami 2 also makes the most of the advances seen in Yakuza 6, and the first person view returns, as do the refinements in the RPG levelling and skill systems. There are also some new mini games introduced here from previous games like Yakuza 0, such as the ability to manage your own hostess club. To say the game is deep is an understatement, and Sega has never failed to create a Yakuza game that didn’t cram in a ton of content. Kiwami 2 is no different.
I found the game, in general, to play almost identically to Yakuza 6, and this is no bad thing, as the tweaks and changes made in the saga closer were great, and this instantly makes Kiwami 2 one of the better entries in the series thus far.
Combat is great, with a wide range of moves, combos and strategies, although it still lacks the multiple-style system of Yakuza 0. Kiryu is as indomitable and dangerous as ever, able to take down everyone from street thugs to crime bosses in style, and sometime in absurdly strange ways, thanks to some great, situation-specific Heat actions.
It’s easy to master Kiryu’s techniques, and as you level up you’ll add more abilities to his repertoire. Sadly, one area that still feels clunky is blocking and locking on to specific foes. It’s still easy to lock on to the wrong enemy, and blocking has a rather odd delay to it. Other than this, though, Yakuza still nails its core fighting mechanics.
When not putting your fist through people’s faces, exploring the games locations of Kamurocho and Sotenbori is every bit as engaging as ever. Although the open-world maps here are small when compared to other games, they’re very densely packed, and you really will struggle to find any other game with as much detail. It’s impressive how much effort has gone into crafting the world here, and when you add into this the variety of shops, side missions, and activities you can uncover, you can’t help but get lost in the world.
Indeed, it’s with the side missions you uncover whilst exploring, that often step over the line of normality into strange and even disturbing, that make for some of the best moments, putting Kiryu into weird and out of place situations, but still retaining the Yakuza feel. Whether you’re being photographed by a barely clothed body builder, or winning a fortune in Blackjack, everything belongs, and is part of the cohesive whole. Nothing is filler, and everything is presented impeccably, and is worth experiencing. As with Yakuza 6, you can also play spot on reproductions of Sega classics like Virtua Fighter 2, which is found in the in-game arcade, along with mech-battler classic, Virtual On.
The content doesn’t stop with Kiryu’s story, either. There’s also a side story that puts you in control of Kiryu’s on/off enemy and friend, Goro Majima. This story is short, but sweet, and shakes things up, as Goro is a very different kind of protagonist, with his own style and quirks.
With Yakuza Kiwami 2, Sega has once again delivered a solid and thoroughly recommendable title that’s an obvious purchase for series fans, but also for newcomers who want to get in on the action for the first time.