When it comes to video game franchises, most don’t see a resurgence in popularity after it has begun to fade, especially when its already six games in. However, one such franchise that has been able to overcome this unfortunate trend is the Yakuza series, which has gained some appeal in recent years.
Released in 2016, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original title released more than 10 years ago. Following the success of Kiwami, Sega announced that they would be remaking one of the most celebrated titles in the franchise; Yakuza 2. And so, Yakuza Kiwami 2 was released in 2017, with developers having promised that it was bigger, and better than the original game.
So, is Yakuza Kiwami 2 better than the original or does it fail to impress a new audience?
The game picks up with Yakuza Kazuma Kiryu story. A year has passed since the events of the last game, and he has left his former life behind to spend time with is surrogate daughter, Harkuka. Unfortunately, Kiryu is pulled back in to the Tojo Clan when the clan’s Fifth Chairman is murdered by a rival organisation, the Omi Alliance. Now, Kiryu must find a new chairman for the Tojo Clan and prevent an all-out war between the two clans.
Yakuza 2 is widely-regarded as one of the best written games in the franchise with a tale of all-out war between different clans appealing to most players. The remake not only sets out to make the original story more memorable but also fix any plot points that were left hanging. The entire game was re-translated in English with some of the original voice actors returning to record new lines.
There are so many great moments littered throughout the game’s story with many being all-time favorites in the series.
One of the new additions to the game is the “Majima Saga” mode. This mode details what Majima was doing before the main story. In February 2006, the Tojo Clan’s fifth Chairman, Yukio Terada, announces a new reformation plan for the clan, which basically boils down to whoever brings in the most profits for the clan will get the position of clan captain.
Majima steps in to stop Terada’s new members from taking over the clan but he is framed for a murder he never committed. Now, Majima needs to clear his name but will need to face his past in order to do so.
This mode is exclusive to Kiwami 2 and follows Majima in a tale that can be completed in two hours. Although this story isn’t as intense as the main story, it does have its own twists and turns. Ultimately, it gives an ending to Majima’s story that began in Yakuza 0.
As may be expected, players take the role of Majima and are able to explore Kamurocho and Sotenbori with him. They are also able to play mini-games with him, and he even has his own set of moves but they are limited.
There’re no substories or level-up system; all you can do is move from one story to another. It’s a fun two-hour romp which helps give context to why he now runs a construction company.
If players are unsure about what a Yakuza game is about, it’s basically a third-person beat-em-up set in an open-world environment. The game is set in the ever-present Kamurocho, with Sotenbori making an appearance too. Players who are familiar with the last game will feel right home as the area has stayed exactly the same.
There were some big changes made to the combat system from the last game. The three fighting styles from Yakuza 0 and Kiwami have been removed with combat being more similar to that seen in Yakuza. Players have one fighting style but can add different moves to it.
It is also possible to equip three weapons that players will be able to use until they break. The system is directly lifted from Yakuza 6, which means it’s just as restrictive and doesn’t allow for some of the fun experienced in previous games.
As always, players will be doing a lot of fighting as they explore Kamurocho and get attacked by many enemies. During fights, players will build up their heat meter, which will allow them to pull off devastating attacks to help finish enemies in addition to making them a little invulnerable. Increasing your health, heat meter, and move set is tied to leveling up Kiryu.
Instead of spending money to unlock skills like in Yakuza Zero and Kiwami, Kiwami 2 uses the same leveling up system seen in Yakuza 6. Players have five different types of experience points to achieve: Agility, Strength, Spirit, Technique, and Charm. Gaining more health, heat, moves, new abilities, will require certain points from each of these types.
The system does feel a little weird as there are limited areas for players to gain points for some of the types. This means that it’s very hard to get everything and by the end of the story, there will be certain areas players haven’t leveled up at all. It does feel restrictive and players will be working extra hard just to find points, making leveling up really difficult.
Sub-Stories And Mini-Games
If there is one thing that the Yakuza franchise is known for, it is for all its crazy and wacky side stories, and Kiwami 2 doesn’t disappoint here. As players progress through the story, side stories are unlocked. Some of these missions offer some the most memorable moments in the game.
From old people with weird diaper fetishes to Kiryu doing weird jobs, there is so much to be experienced in these side stories, which also see some characters from previous games make a return. There are 76 sub-stories in total and they are all a joy to play.
Yakuza is also known for their legendary mini-games, which are sometimes games within themselves. The old staples are still here such as karaoke, poker, darts, batting center, Mahjong, UFO catcher, golf, Koi-Koi, etc. The cabaret club mini-game from Zero makes a return and still functions the same way. This time you run a club called Four Shine as you try to make it the best cabaret club.
The clan creator from Yakuza 6 is also back but this time you’ll be leading Majima construction as they battle their way for construction jobs. It plays exactly like in the previous game, which means that it has the same problems. The view is still obstructed, and can be unfair as sometimes units don’t listen and make stupid decisions.
Another new addition is Toylets mini-game, but it’s one of the most frustrating games to play since Pocket Circuit.
Although the Yakuza is more than 10 years old, this remake is amazing. The game is built using the same Dragon engine Sega used for the previous game. This provides the title with a clean look, and cut scenes that feature some amazing details, especially when it comes to facial animations. Sound and voice acting are amazing as well; everyone pulls off great performances, especially when it comes to the more heartfelt moments of the game.
That said, the game still suffers from the usual pop in and repeat NPC’s, which can be rather annoying at times.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is better than the original in every way. It provides players with a memorable story, enjoyable mini-games, fun and crazy sub-stories in all one package. The Majima side story addition is great even if it is a little short. The title still suffers from the same graphical problems seen in the previous game but those are just minor problems. If you’ve played the first game, then this is a no-brainier; it’s really one title you don’t want to miss.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Director: Hiroyuki Sakamoto
Platforms: PS4, PC
Release Date: August 28, 2018 (PS4), May 9, 2019 (PC)
- Engaging story
- Fun sub-stories
- Majima side story
- Restrictive combat
- Leveling up system a hassle
- Clan Creator still isn’t fun