The Yakuza series has long been one of Sega’s more iconic series in the East, but has not flourished as well in the West in face of cultural differences and a watered down version that loses some fun mini games, most notably the hostess aspects of the titles. In recent years, however, it seems that Sega and other Japanese publishers have understood the importance of the games retaining their original features. With Yakuza Kiwami, we get that alongside a remastered version of the original title that has something for new and old fans alike.
What I Liked
- Actually Remastered: The beautiful thing about Kiwami is that, unlike other recent titles that have “remaster” plastered over them, it actually has a shiny new coat of paint over it that looks drastically improved over both the HD version on PS3 or the original PS2 title. Built on top of the Yakuza 0 engine, the game provides a flashy new way to explore the 90’s and early 2000’s Kamurocho.
- Includes Yakuza 0 fighting styles: One of the key complaints about the original Yakuza was the lack of any real depth in the fighting system. Kiwami adds the fighting styles obtained in Yakuza 0 for more player choices and ultimately more ways to use the environment to beat down thugs.
- New Story Segments: Rather than giving us the exact same story that we’ve seen before, Sega includes segments with Nishikiyama, Kiryu’s frenemy. It gives new dimensions to the original story. It’s far more tragic as we see Nishikiyama’s side of the story, especially after we’re introduced to the pair as they first joined the yakuza world.
- Majima Anywhere: Kamurocho can certainly be a bit large and daunting to explore. At times, it may even feel monotonous to run from one area to the next. The Majima Anywhere system throws a random Goro Majima anywhere for players to encounter, through which players will develop their Dragon fighting style. It certainly gives players something to look out for and a bit of familiar comic relief the only way that Yakuza can with a police or hostess Majima.
- Minigames Galore: The Yakuza series has long been known for the minigames that are included in the title, which range from old arcade titles and random nightlife activities to the iconic hostess clubs. There are even new minigames, such as Insect Queen where players can build decks of cards and have scantily clad girls wearing insect-themed accessories fight it out. Very classy stuff here, boys.
What I Didn’t Like
- Still Maintains Old Backtracking Quests: One of the issues with the title is that it still maintains some of the old design decisions of the original, which involve several backtracking quests. Of course, this is slightly alleviated by the shorter load times in comparison to Kiwami’s PS2 counterpart, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless.
- Boss Encounters Aren’t Interesting: Bosses should always be memorable, including both in terms of design and gameplay. However, there is little of that here as players will find that they all revolve around the same pattern of standing around, throwing a large attack periodically, and then recharging health after getting beat up for a bit. It’s tedious to say the least. The problem is only exacerbated by the fact that…
- Any Style Other Than Rush is Useless: In normal encounters, players may switch around to different styles based on their own preference. Against bosses, however, players will quickly find that Rush is the only fighting style worth using. The boss fights are, after all, one entire kite-fest.
With few shortcomings, Yakuza Kiwami is a solid re-introduction to the Yakuza series for both young and older gamers. The uninitiated may be tempted to pigeonhole the title as the Grand Theft Auto of Japan, but to describe it as such would be to overlook all the components of Sega’s underworld/nightlife simulator that make it special. There’s a reason it has a special place in Japanese gamers’ hearts and hopefully Kiwami will help the franchise do the same in the west.
Reviewed on: PS4; Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega; Players: Single-player; Released: August 29, 2017; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $29.99, Official site