Yakuza Kiwami Review – Way of the Dragon
Yakuza Kiwami is a remastered version of the original Yakuza game that launched back in 2006. Boasting newly recorded audio, additional side content, and vastly improved graphics, is it worth another trip to Kamurocho, or should the old games stay gone?
Yakuza Kiwami Review
Following on from the events of Yakuza 0, despite being a remake, Yakuza Kiwami is in essence is a sequel in itself – especially for those that experienced Yakuza for the first time with the release of Yakuza 0.
Completing Yakuza 0 was a bittersweet experience. As my first introduction to the series. I found myself truly immersed in the Yakuza world and quickly became attached to several of the games deep and colorful characters. As the credits rolled. a somber thought crossed my mind. If I was to continue on this journey with Kazuma Kiryu and friends, I’d have to step back 10 years and pick up the sequels on PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3. The announcement, and following release of Yakuza Kiwami, came at the perfect time.
It wasn’t the typically huge gap between sequel releases – in essence the prequel was released before the sequel. This meant much of the events. characters, and memories from Yakuza 0 were still fresh. It doesn’t take long before you’re bumping into characters from the previous game, over a decade after the events. Kids have grown up, the families have moved on, and as Kazuma Kiryu wanders through Kamurocho, much of the landscape has changed. This delivers constant floods of nostalgia, as new fans of the franchise enjoy a truly exciting and immersive experience in a sequel, whilst long-time fans of the franchise can bump into Yakuza 0 characters in Yakuza Kiwami for the very first time.
Outside of the obviously huge improvements to graphics (Image courtesy of Yakuza Fan), Yakuza Kiwami’s re-imagination comes complete with additional side content, including substories and a MesuKing card mini-game. Sadly, the gun running and insanely addictive cabarets from the prequel don’t make another appearance, but the additional material will keep you going through the game for 50+ hours.
I fell in love with the Yakuza franchise because of the seemingly impossible combination of love, deceit, murder, and crime, alongside comical humor and borderline perversity. On paper, those ingredients would never combine well, but Yakuza 0 pulled it off. Thankfully, Yakuza Kiwami delivers much of the same. A thrilling story with plot twists and turns, loss and love, and betrayal, it has everything.
Yakuza’s trademark clunky combat returns, and although it’s not as responsive as more modern games, it’s charming in its own right. Boasting several different fighting styles, players progress through the game and upgrade various abilities in each of these styles. What starts as a clunky, dull, and rather repetitive combat experience soon evolves into something brutally satisfying. Dislocating both arms, punching so hard they turn 180 degrees and then lifting an enemy above your head before slamming them into the floor never gets old – even after completing the move 200 times. I did feel the environmental takedowns were a little lacking, with very few additions outside of Yakuza 0, but overall the combat evolves at a great pace and soon gives you the feeling that you are truly the Dragon of Dojima.
There is a new element to combat. During certain battles, mostly against bosses and more powerful foes, they can heal and recharge. In order to cancel this action, you must respond with the correct fighting style and Heat action – a bar that builds up over time. This introduces an element of strategy into the combat as you wait for the right time to strike – as opposed to just unleashing your entire arsenal from the get-go.
Substories are a staple element of the franchise and one that continues to impress in Yakuza Kiwami. Whether you’re running around town collecting questionable presents for a young boy (a race car or a porn magazine are some of the interesting choices), ripping apart a Fighter on the Pocket Circuit scene, or teaching kids the value of friendship in the MesuKing card game, none of it ever feels forced. It all adds credibility and depth to the experience, and having completed the main story and all substory content, I was sitting at 59 hours.
As a relatively new fan to the franchise, Yakuza Kiwami offers another fantastic journey in the life of Kazuma Kiryu. From the serious to the outright wacky and perverted, I loved every second and thoroughly look forward to the next chapter in the experience.