The term “kiwami” is Japanese for “ultimate” and/or “extreme” and has been used twice now by Sega with their remakes of Yakuza and Yakuza 2 to bring gamers Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2. For those unfamiliar, the storytelling of the series is inspired by the Yakuza cinematic genre that is hugely popular in Japan. This genre focused on the lives and dealings of the the Japanese organized crime syndicate of the same namesake. This action-adventure/beat-‘em-up series has seen seven main series entries and several spin-offs since its humble begins on the Playstation 2. After the initial remake was so successful in bringing the beginning of this beloved series to the current generation, of course the sequel would get remade and I exclaim, “Welcome back, Yakuza!” Now does the remake hold up to my past memories of the original while simultaneously holding up to modern gaming standards?
With this remake using the same Dragon game engine that rendered the illustrious Yakuza 6, I was beyond excited to hop back into one of my favorite series and tear up the streets! What we get here is a faithful recreation of Yakuza 2, missing some cut story sections, a few recast characters, and new music tracks. As a veteran of the series, I would be lying if I said I was not a little disappointed at the lack of new content and opportunity for quality of life improvements being passed on. That is okay, though, because the main story of Yakuza 2 is still a blast! Exploring beautiful recreations of both Kamurocho and Sotenbori; walking in and out of shops without loading screens (mostly); traversing shortcuts between and through buildings; and finding various hidden goodies. Kiwami 2 retains solid performance throughout both cities and excellent lighting effects really help showcase the engine, truly bringing this remaster to life.
There is a healthy collection of subplots that offer enjoyable (and hilarious) distractions that bring occasional enhancements and tidbits to the main story. This helps bring the enchanting but sometimes solemn world of Yakuza to life and makes you feel like you are experiencing the lives of the protagonists. Majima’s story was not developed enough for my tastes and I would have loved more than three chapters of cutscenes with a few fights sprinkled in. I spent time with the minigames and, boy howdy, did I get addicted to the cabaret club manager. As a lover of games that include RPG and simulation mechanics, this minigame has me constantly coming back to work on and upgrade my club, pouring hours of time into something that ironically is not even a main point of the overall game. This, to me, is a fantastic bonus as the minigames give you a reason to keep coming back even after the main story wraps up.
In regard to combat, it is an improved take on the core fighting system from Yakuza 6 while retaining what made that system so great and fluid. The game keeps the Yakuza 6 upgrade system as well, so if the player played the newest game they will know what they are getting into. Yakuza Kiwami 2 brings the inclusion of a variety of weapons you can purchase or even pick up and carry around in your inventory. There is a larger number of heat actions, special brutal attacks the player may unleash on enemies, to be unlocked than in previous games as well. Camera angles can be problematic in small areas especially when the action gets hectic causing moments of chaos, but in spacious areas the angles are considerably better. Overall, the combat feels familiar yet new with it being the same Dragon game engine but with new mechanics and more heat actions to be unlocked.
All in all, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an amazing recreation of the game I played many years ago in a series I have continued to put hundreds of hours in. Always keeping me on the edge of my seat with interesting stories and enjoyable subplots and distractions like the cabaret club manager minigame while being firmly engulfed in its world and the lore in and surrounding it. It helps that the game, and the series as a whole, features memorable characters and rewarding gameplay while building off of the already highly regarded Dragon game engine. Yakuza Kiwami 2 leaves me waiting impatiently for the next entry in the series. Here’s looking forward to the future of Yakuza! (Dalton Bowden; Game Reviewer)
Review copy provided by Sega; reviewed on the Playstation 4.