Yakuza has certainly come a long way since its Playstation 2 days, and now it seems to have found its footing on PS4 after releasing both Yakuza 6 and Yakuza Kiwami 2 exclusively for Playstation 4.
The Yakuza series is known for its beat ‘em up gameplay, its complex and dramatic stories, its over the top sense of humor, and its rich and detailed world. Just like the previous entries in the Yakuza catalog, this game continues to push the bar further than the last installment. While it may be a remake of Yakuza 2, it looks and plays like a top-tier modern brawler.
You begin Yakuza Kiwami 2 one year after the events of Yakuza/Yakuza Kiwami took place. Luckily, if you’ve forgotten the story or you’re new to the series the beginning of the game gives you the option to learn everything you need to know.
Yakuza 2 doesn’t give the player a good feel for its world until a little bit into the story. You’ll have to watch a few cutscenes and fight a couple enemies before you get to that, but once you do get there Yakuza Kiwami 2 shows you just how pretty it can be.
Both Kamurocho and Sotenbori are stunning to see. The sheer amount of detail they show off makes both cities feel alive. There are some setbacks to the detail though, and these setbacks are felt throughout the entire game.
First off, the FPS is locked at 30. If you’re coming from Yakuza 6 you’ll most likely be used to this, but if you’re coming from Yakuza Kiwami then this change may be painful to stomach. Sure, the game looks as beautiful as ever with its new Dragon Engine, but the low FPS means the games doesn’t feel near as smooth. If you’re a fan of Yakuza’s karaoke, the FPS hinders this experience as well. High FPS in rhythm games is a necessity, and after playing a few songs at 30 fps, my eyes needed a break from the choppy note movement.
Aliasing is also a huge graphical issue this game struggles with. At times the graphics are stunning, but other times it looks like the edges of objects are something out of Minecraft. It isn’t just a noticeable issue, but its often times distracting.
But while these issues do exist, the majority of the time you spend looking at Kamurocho and Sotenbori will be spent looking at just how beautiful this digital Japan is. Many shops and restaurants can be walked into with no loading screen, alleyways are explorable mazes, and building stairways can lead to hidden rooms and rooftops.
Music in the game is great as well. Kiwami 2 keeps the licensed music from the Japanese release. The soundtrack is full of touching pieces as well as heavy guitar riffs. It’s a soundtrack worth listening to alone. Plus, the Majima Construction Anthem is there too.
If you haven’t already played Yakuza 2, then prepare yourself for Kiwami 2’s story. Those new to the Yakuza franchise are in for a treat as the story here is chaotic on every front. There are some points that seem out of place towards the 3/4 mark, but overall, it’s a thrilling ride. The ending feels like a barrage of gotcha moments, but it ends up being an extremely satisfying finale.
Side missions are just as great as the other Yakuza entries, if not better, this time around. The side stories have the same sense of humor we’ve come to expect from the series, but the new unlock system gives a good reward for doing them. Completing side quests allows you to unlock special heat moves when you’re around the side quest’s NPC. This allows for some hilarious fighting. The NPC will help you win your fight in a way that relates to their side mission or character, and it’s usually pretty funny.
The combat is as fluid as ever. Again, your opinions of the combat may be different based on which Yakuza you played last. This game doesn’t have the multiple fighting styles that were in 0 and Kiwami, and instead it keeps itself aligned with Yakuza 6. The fighting style here feels like a nice mixture between brawler and rush from 0 and Kiwami.
It may seem like there are a lot of sacrifices for the newer engine, and that’s because there really are. The graphics and world are really on another level of beauty and exportability, but the frame rate and limits to certain mechanics in the game feel like they’re holding this game down from soaring.
This game does have something that will make fans extremely happy though, and that’s a special Majima storyline.
It’s an extremely short 3-chapter story, but it wraps up the Makoto Makimura storyline from Yakuza 0 and gives a lot of answers for the main storyline of Kiwami 2. While it did give me closure on Majima and Makoto’s story, I felt that the story was extremely rushed. Instead of enemies roaming the streets like in the main story, enemies were placed as obstacles on the way to each objective. They weren’t at all avoidable, and they felt like they were there to make the story seem longer because it was very very short.
On top of both stories is the fun clan creator mode. The mode plays similar to a top down RTS. In the mode you take control of Yakuza characters from across the series to battle enemies. There are various rarities of characters to collect, and the mode is a fun distraction from the main story.
Its not like you’ll be in need of more distractions though, as Kiwami 2 gives plenty of distractions in the form of the various mini games you can play. Kiwami 2 doesn’t slouch on the minigame department as there are plenty of things to do. You could run a cabaret, be a gravure photographer, play Virtua Fighter 2, etc.
Overall, Kiwami 2 was a solid experience. Its story was a little wobbly at times, but it wraps up in such a way that its hard to leave unsatisfied. And sure, there are some issues here and there, but it still stands as a fun time to be had.