Its rare to see the western world get a good Japanese localization but Yakuza Kiwami helps break that curse, at least to some part. If you’ve ever played the original Yakuza game which first launched on the PS2, you might start seeing double when you first lay eyes on the trailer. Yakuza Kiwami is not necessarily a new entry into the franchise as much as it is a high definition enhancement and professional re-dubbing of the PS2 classic. Some graphics may seem dated due to the original version being made for the Playstation 3, but character models are highly detailed and really stand out to show its not just a “straight-port” to the Playstation 4. Voice acting is in Japanese only but the subtitles usually do a good job of translating without spelling errors (though there are some) yet, we wouldn’t have it any other way (as Japanese character speaking their native tongue makes the experience all the more engrossing).
A BRAWLER GAME WITH A HARD HITTING NARRATIVE
Yakuza Kiwami has you playing as Kazuma Kiryu, a famous member from the Tojo clan who takes the fall for a crime he did not commit to save his friend from a life behind bars. Sure, the story has its usual cliche’s as it progresses along but that is not to say there aren’t lots of surprises a long the way. The true heart of Yakuza Kiwami is the engrossing narrative and world it delivers. The voice acting and the writing of the script are spot on; there really isn’t anything not to love or appreciate about the story which is what really keeps the franchise as a whole from being lost in a sea of average games. If you are into story-heavy games, you’d be silly to pass up Yakuza Kiwami.
Praises being sung, it is a little disappointing that the core game-play is only “okay” by today’s standards. The city is VERY small by design and often plagued by MANY invisible walls for most of the game. Seeing the limitations during the PS2 days, its enough a reason to give a pass to this but at the same time this is also an issue Yakuza Zero faced too (a more modern title). Even though its not open world by any stretch of the imagination, at least what you get does feel bustling and full of life. There are plenty of civilians wondering about and even stores and restaurants you can frequent to by purchasing health items, food, quest items, and all the sorts (which adds a nice layer of role-playing to the game all said and done).
ROCKING IT LIKE ITS 2005
Kazuma Kiryu has spent 10 years in the pen and with that comes a lot of rustiness. He was once a master of 4 different styles (Rush, Beast, Brawler, and Dragon) but his iconic “Dragon” style has all but been forgotten. Luckily Majima, “the deranged one-eyed maniac” is there to keep you on your toes and will attack you in the most random moments with sometimes goofy disguises. This is new to the remaster and with this inclusion, Majima will help you learn your Dragon style once again so you can kick-in teeth like a true Yakuza. You don’t just get to upgrade one style throughout Yakuza Kiwami though, as you also get several different skill trees that can be advanced with skill points acquired from fights.
With a progression system in place, the combat gets a little less repetitive (in the sense it becomes more varied and fun to watch) as you go on but its nothing groundbreaking. Kazuma does have a “heat-streak” mechanic that builds up a super-move that can take out average Joe’s in once slick cinematic take-down , so at least that is cool. To be fair, each style you are given does mix up the game-play as you can go from delivering quick rapid blows, to slow heavy blows in just a flick of a button. You can use environmental weapons to take out baddies and from time to time you even have some quick time events with boss battles and such that at least try and mix it up. However, at the end of the day, Yakuza Kiwami really is just a standard brawler at heart that hits very hard with that 2000’s feeling.
There are some fun “distractions” as the game developers call them if you really want to get lost in some wacky mini-game madness. Yakuza Kiwami has fan favorites from Yakuza Zero such as Pocket Circuit car racing, MesuKing: Battle Bug Beauties (scantily clad ladies wrestling it out in case you are wondering), the Hostess mini-game (a Barbie dress-up simulator per say), and more. Take a word of warning though that nothing was spared in the transition to the North American markets and these more “juvenile” modes certainly wont be for everyone. Although, they are there and you might be interested in messing around with them when you get bored beating up your usual street thug. Even skipping these tacked-on modes Yakuza Kawami is still a blast to be had if not just for the story, exposition, and setting alone.