Posted August 24, 2018 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review-In-Progress

It’s true, on the surface Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a remake of the PlayStation 2 original, Yakuza 2, but the transition to PlayStation 4 is anything but surface-level. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a huge game, packed with content from the original, as well as completely new side-games, sub-quests and an entirely new campaign. In fact, it’s so big, that despite a generously early supply of review code from Sega, I still have an insane amount left to see before I’m ready to deliver my full review – which will come once I return from Gamescom next week. For the time being, here’s my review-in-progress if you’re itching to decide whether to pick up Kiwami 2 when it’s released next week.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 re-tells the original’s story of Kazuma Kiryi being drawn back into the world of the Yakuza, after his climactic ascension to ‘chairman’ (and immediate resignation) of Tokyo’s criminal Tojo Clan in the first game. After the latest chairman is assassinated, Kiryu is lured to Osaka to try to secure peace between the Tojo Clan and the west’s Omi Alliance, before full-scale war breaks out, but the machinations of individuals on both sides, including the supreme asshole ‘Dragon of Kansai’, Ryuji Goda, have other plans.

As always, you can expect plenty of long, well-directed and well voice-acted cutscenes, although some of the characters (like Ryuji) are a little more cartoonish than in other entries. The story also feels less personal than entries like Yakuza Kiwami to Kiryu, as it involves the larger politics behind the various Yakuza clans and mafias. There’s also a sense of retreading, more than usual, especially if you’ve played Yakuza 0 recently. The story is split between Kamurocho and Sotenbori, the two main locations from that game, and while revisiting the world map with a new coat of paint is a staple of the Yakuza series, you’ll also be revisiting many action set-pieces you’ve seen before, like the Tojo Clan HQ or Shangri-La.

While the main story doesn’t feel quite so fresh, the new coat of paint on the game certainly does. Running on the Dragon Engine which powered Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2 looks incredible, with fantastic lighting effects and highly detailed character models that move seamlessly from cutscenes to gameplay, at the expense of the buttery-smooth framerate that Yakuza 0 and the original Kiwami enjoyed. Yakuza Kiwami 2 also shares Yakuza 6‘s character progression system, as you accumulate points in various coloured categories you can spend on attributes like health, attack or your special ‘heat’ moves, with eating and digesting food at any of the restaurants found around Kamurocho netting you a bonus.

Yakuza 6‘s beat-em-up system also returns, albeit with a few tweaks that make it feel a lot more enjoyable. While the ‘Style’ system from Yakuza 0 is still missing, weapons do make a triumphant return, as Kiryu can store any weapon enemies drop, and then access them quickly via the d-pad. It makes you less reliant on finding objects to grab on the streets to throw at enemies – although that is still an option. Blocking, countering and parrying also seems to work much more easily, once you’ve unlocked all their relevant heat moves via upgrades or sub-stories.

Speaking of side activities, there’s a pretty huge amount to get through. Yakuza 0‘s hostess club managing mini-game returns with a new campaign in Sotenbori to win a ‘Tournament’. The strategy-like clan creator mini-game from Yakuza 6 has also returned in modified form with Goro Majima at the helm, as you help his construction company defend from would-be attackers. There’s the usual casino games, mahjong and arcades, which now include fully playable arcade versions of Virtual-On and Virtua Fighter 2. There’s also some really weird side activities, like one that involves watching live action video of models, photographing them in various states of undress, while trying to come up with ways to flirt with them that make sense. This is on top of the usual bevy of sub-stories, which generally involve Kiryu finding someone on the street who needs help, and knocking some heads together until the problem is solved.

However, on top of the Yakuza 2 campaign, there’s also a new separate campaign headlined by Goro Majima that I’ve barely scratched the surface of, which promises to follow-up his storyline from Yakuza 0. Taking place just before the events of Yakuza 2, this storyline goes into Goro’s creation of his civilian construction company, while Chairman Terada is in control of the Tojo Clan. By accounts from the Japanese version, it is much shorter than the 16-chapters of the main campaign, but I’m looking forward to getting further stuck into it myself.

By this point, if you’ve played a Yakuza game before, you’ll know what you’re getting into with Yakuza Kiwami 2, but I’m pleased to report that so far it feels like a much more complete experience than either Yakuza 6 or Yakuza Kiwami did in terms of content. The combat is still simplified, but much improved, the side-activities are fleshed out and there’s always something going on in Kamurocho or Sotenbori if you feel like taking a break from the main storyline, even if it’s just wasting time in a bathroom-stall pissing minigame. Check out my full review, when I return from Gamescom next week!

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.