Yakuza is back baby and it’s just as epic as it always has been. To be purely transparent, I have nothing negative to say about the game. I 100% love each and every aspect of it, and just want more of it. The Yakuza series has recently become a favorite of mine and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a wonderful addition to the franchise.
The game continues chronologically where Yakuza Kiwami ends. One year after the 10 billion yen incident, Kazuma Kiryu begins trying to build a peaceful life with Haruka, however this doesn’t last long. An assassination of the Tojo patriarch threatens to erupt in an all-out war between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, must travel to Sotenbori, Osaka in an attempt to broker peace between the rival clans, but Ryuji Goda, known as the Dragon of Kansai, will stop at nothing to get his war. He even seems to find love along the way.
This game is a remake of the original Yakuza 2 with quite a lot of wonderful additions. If you’ve played Yakuza 0 and Kiwami then this will seem like a perfect stepping stone forward. What makes this so much more rewarding to fans is the re-emergence of characters from former games, and the changes to the two main cities. Like we got with Yakuza 0, This time around, Kiryu isn’t the only one running the show. Fans of the Mad Dog of Shimano won’t want to miss the new Majima-centric campaign, which features Majima as a playable character, complete with his trusty dagger, and sheds light on his personal journey from the end of Yakuza Kiwami up to Yakuza Kiwami 2.
Please note: Mijima’s campaign isn’t as robust as the one in Yakuza 0. It’s more like a quest mode with cut-scenes, so no levelling or customizing his setup.
It’s amazing how above and beyond SEGA have gone to rejuvenate this series not just for a western crowd, but also for our current generation of consoles. Visually the game looks stunning on the PlayStation 4. Character models look great following the same formula as previous games with the mixture of hyper realistic CGI cutscenes, and in-game models. This time around I found the difference between the two to be less noticable, granted I played the game with rose tinted glasses. Again to be clear, I love the game a lot, and I’m now a huge fan of the series. I’m invested in these characters, and I want to experience their journey.
The biggest characters being the cities themselves. Seeing how much Sotenbori, and Kamurocho change from game to game is a joy to behold. Visiting old locations, and shops only to see that they’ve changed or moved is exciting, and visually it’s just stunning as FRAK. Recorded footage just don’t do them enough justice. You need to see them yourself, experience them. Water puddles, reflections, people going about their busy lives, it all feels so authentic.
You’re even able to explore more of the game thanks to more locations being open to the player. At one point I saw a staircase somewhere in Sotenbori, and decided to climb it to find that I was on a rooftop, another time I just happened to notice a side street I hadn’t before then found an unexplored back alley. This sense of exploration and wow factor presents itself even more when adding the switch from night and day to the equation. There are also no loading screens for entering shops. Just walk in off the street, get some grub and move on.
As for how the game plays, well it’s pretty much what any fan should expect. You can run around the city completing subquest if you like, and I highly recommend you do, because they not only add to the experience, some also allow you to unlock certain abilities. When you’re not doing these subquests you can also spend time collecting keys for the lockers. These serve as the game’s primary collection system allowing the player to find items they otherwise may not have access to. The Mini games also make a return. This time around we get mini golf, darts, Arcade cabarets, Majima’s revamped Clan Creator, and even the crane games. The game has many other distractions, but I’ll avoid spoiling them all because part of the fun is discovering them yourself.
Man I love the fighting system, YES, YES, YES, Uuurgh… LOVE IT!
Combat this time around is a bit different with only one fighting style. Where there use to be others we now have equipable weapons. You can equip up to three weapons at a time, and swap between them using the d-pad. As for the primary fighting style it consists of quick button presses, along with holding them to charge attacks. The mixing of tapping and holding buttons makes for a great fighting system. Special abilities can be learned by meeting certain characters and conditions.
If I had to compare it to this system to the multi-styled ones found in other Yakuza games I’d choose them over it, but that’s just because I like seeing my characters do more crazy moves. This time I think the craziest it gets is when you gain assistance from bystanders or companions mid battle. This is activated by pressing the triangle button, and only works when near characters you’ve helped or companions during certain sections of the game.
Random battles this time around don’t get blocked off by civilians, so now you can completely run away even mid battle. The environment is also more destructible with store windows breaking when enemies are tossed into them and debris remaining scattered after each fight. It’s a much more engaging system that I think is an improvement on previous games, adding to the immersion.
Leveling is also different this time around. Adopting the leveling system from Yakuza 6, we get different types of EXP from either fighting, completing missions or eating. The easiest way I found to grind this system was to eat. Max out your Hunger Gauge and Digestion as soon as possible, then use all your extra cash to eat at high-end restaurants which serve food with high EXP gain in each category. Also acquire the Law of Attraction ability to gain lots of money from Nouveau Riche to use for buying food, and if you’d like to grind this even more then buy AppStim RX to lower the hunger gauge. It’s a neat system that kept me occupied, though I do believe it may seem like an unnecessary addition for fans who liked the one in Yakuza Zero.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is exceptional, and if any of what I mentioned in this review sounds like your cup of tea then get it. It’s a solid game with great gameplay and an exceptional story. What makes a Yakuza game great is the ability to lose yourself in the experience, and this game delivers on that. Like any good JRPG it’s heavy on story with a great variety of distractions, and it’s a JRPG, a action JRPG, but a JRPG nonetheless. This game is like a celebration of Japanese culture with a sprinkle of over the top fantasy for good measure that deserves to be experienced.
Now time to count the days till Kiwami 3…
The Copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 used for this review was provided by it’s publisher, SEGA.