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Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4)

Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4) - Review

by Evan Norris , posted on 09 September 2018 / 3,671 Views

The Yakuza renaissance continues with Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of the 2006 action-adventure game Yakuza 2. Rebuilt in the Dragon Engine and featuring new mini-games and a brand new scenario starring Goro Majima, Kiwami 2 is the prettiest and most substantial version of the game. On occasion its fetch-quest mission design and overabundance of fist-fights can prove repetitive, but sky-high production values, interesting side-quests, and immersive virtual tourism help mitigate any creeping tedium.

Kiwami 2 takes place one year after the events of Yakuza and its respective remake Yakuza Kiwami. Generously, the developers at Ryu Ga Gotoku include in this release an optional flashback of sorts that recaps the major people and events of the previous adventure, including protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, his friends and family, and the Tojo clan, the organized crime syndicate to which he formerly belonged. Kiryu, now removed from yakuza life, is pulled back in again when the current Tojo chairman sends him on a mission of peace to a rival clan. Things eventually go to hell, as inter- and intra-clan strife threatens to send two cities — Kamurocho, Tokyo and Sotenbori, Osaka — to war.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 Ryuji

For all of the outstanding things Kiwami 2 does, perhaps its storytelling is most impressive. The Dragon Engine, used most recently on Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, brings Kamurocho, Sotenbori, and their respective citizens and establishments to life; this is very much an eighth generation game, despite its PS2 origins. Storyboarding, framing, and photography are worthy of the cinema. Most extraordinary of all is the game's voice acting, re-recorded for this re-release. There is amazing depth and genuine emotion in the voice performances, elevated by the lavish production values throughout. If you seek out games for story first and foremost, make sure this title is on your wishlist.

The flip side is that sometimes missions and general gameplay can feel in service to the story, and not the reverse. There are sequences in certain chapters that feature Kiryu walking from a hideout to a point of interest, triggering a cut-scene, then walking to a new point of interest and launching another pre-rendered video. Now, there's an almost overwhelming number of things to do along the path between story beats — and that's where the best of Kiwami 2 lives — but a little more diversity and engagement in main mission design would make the game even better.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 combat

It doesn't help that so many campaign missions revolve around or end with fist-fights. While fighting in Kiwami 2 is fun and flashy — Kiryu employs a host of light, heavy, and charge attacks, along with grapples, throws, counters, and context-sensitive "heat" actions — it's also ever-present, taking place mid-chapter, end-of-chapter, and at regular intervals while exploring Kamurocho and Sotenbori, thanks to wandering packs of thugs and yakuza. It can get exhausting after a while. One of the best episodes of the game is chapter 11, where Kiryu must search the city for clues and use a shogi puzzle to crack a safe code. It's a refreshing change of place from "go to X, and punch your way out."

In any event, it's in the downtime between missions where Kiwami 2 earns its marks. Kiryu can take on side-quests from down-on-their-luck civilians, dine out (eating replenishes a hunger gauge and boosts experience points), go shopping at pawn shops and convenience stores, hit up the arcade — where you can play Virtua Fighter 2 and Virtual-On or lose your life savings to the claw crane game — or simply explore the riverfront of Sotenbori or the rooftops of Kamurocho. Additionally, the Cabaret business simulation/RTS returns from Yakuza 0, along with a revamped Clan Creator (a tower defense sub-game).

Yakuza Kiwami 2 Sotenbori

Interestingly, all of these things — minus the Cabaret and Clan Creator — seem remarkably authentic. Eating a bowl of noodles street-side, visiting an acupuncturist, or looking up at the bright lights of Kamurocho all feel real. Kiwami 2 is virtual tourism at its finest. If you can't afford a plane ticket to Tokyo, and have $50 to spare, this game might just be the next best thing.

When you've finished with the main campaign, which should take 15-20 hours (double that for extracurricular activities), a second scenario called Majima Saga awaits. This shorter, less substantial campaign focuses on the Mad Dog of Shimano, Goro Majima. The funniest and strangest character in the main story, Majima makes for a great protagonist, even if his moves and upgrade options are reduced or missing altogether. Whereas Kiryu gains experience points in several buckets by completing quests, winning fights, and hitting certain achievement benchmarks (for example, take a taxi ten times) and then assigns those points to health, defense, strength, and "heat" upgrades, Majima has no upgrade tree. As a result, he starts off overpowered, and slices through his enemies without much resistance. 

Yakuza Kiwami 2 Majima Saga

The niftiest feature of Majima Saga is how it communicates with the central campaign. Playing as Majima, players can deposit money into convenience store ATMs, which will generate an item of equal value at hideouts in Kiryu's story. Despite this option, the bonus scenario doesn't add much in terms of gameplay. Still, it might be worth playing, especially for Yakuza loyalists looking for information surrounding Majima's divorce from the Tojo clan.

In addition to Majima Saga, two modes will pop up post-game: Premium Adventure, where you can explore the world at your leisure minus the main story; and New Game+, where you replay the story from the beginning while carrying over elements from the previous playthrough.

Yakuza shows no signs of slowing down, thanks in part to Yakuza Kiwami 2. It's an expert remake, imbued with lavish production design, superior voice-acting, flashy fighting, and hours of side content and virtual tourism. Some of its main quests exist only to deliver plot points and its plethora of fist-fights can create a bit of tedium, but overall it's a fun, expansive open-world experience that works well as both an entry point for series rookies and a celebration for Yakuza veterans.


VGChartz Verdict


7
Good

This review is based on a digital copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 for the PS4, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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16 Comments
OTBWY (on 10 September 2018)

Great review Vekky. I might pick it up.

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Veknoid_Outcast OTBWY (on 10 September 2018)

Thanks!

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ResilientFighter (on 08 October 2018)

the score feels like it comes from a different review :(
i thought you would give a 8 or 9based on the wording

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Maraccuda (on 11 September 2018)

I am very glad the Yakuza series is getting the recognition it finally deserves but I feel like Sega is going to repeat the franchise fatigue created on the PS3....

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KazumaKiryu (on 10 September 2018)

Its a fantastich game. The Story is amazing, the characters and gameplay too. The extras are the new highlight for Fans and Newcomer. 10/10

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Megiddo (on 09 September 2018)

Taken as a written review, htis is well done. The sentence "It's an expert remake, imbued with lavish production design, superior voice-acting, flashy fighting, and hours of side content and virtual tourism" does not denote a 7/10 game. You need to have more detractors in the review than a 'bit of tedium' from its 'plethora of fist-fights'.

Good review, but your score doesn't match it unfortunately. Typo perhaps? Or did you miss a couple paragraphs highlighting where you feel it didn't accomplish what a Yakuza 2 remake should have done?

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Veknoid_Outcast Megiddo (on 09 September 2018)

No typo or missing paragraphs. You can view the scoring methodology in the link above. Yakuza is a solid game, but a bit shy of greatness. Thanks for reading, and happy to answer any other questions!

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Megiddo Megiddo (on 09 September 2018)

I've seen the scoring methodology and I've seen similar games scored 7/10 by this author. This is not a game that should be given the same score as Blade Strangers. Or if it does merit it then the review should be in depth as to its flaws.

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Veknoid_Outcast Megiddo (on 09 September 2018)

I am the author. Happy to chat more about this on my wall :)

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AngryLittleAlchemist Megiddo (on 09 September 2018)

"The sentence "It's an expert remake, imbued with lavish production design, superior voice-acting, flashy fighting, and hours of side content and virtual tourism" does not denote a 7/10 game."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWdd6_ZxX8c

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Megiddo Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

@AngryLittleAlchemist

This is a statement from this same author's review of Blade Strangers, a game which similarly received a 7/10. "Blade Strangers is fun retro fighting game, wrapped in anime packaging. It's held back somewhat by a couple of dull modes and uneven presentation, but is buoyed by its intuitive control scheme and assortment of crossover characters. "

Do you see how it has actual detractors in "dull modes" and "uneven presentation". That lines up well with the overall 7/10 score. The only thing present in the review of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is that there is too much fighting. It's basically the "too much water" Pokemon meme and should deservedly be mocked and ridiculed the same.

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AngryLittleAlchemist Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

Hey, how do you think I feel? This is the guy who rejected my writing application. He thinks he's better than me at writing ... he dare thinks that! ... You're preaching to the choir.

Anyways, he doesn't just criticize the amount of combat. He also says that some of the missions feel like they are just there to deliver plot points, which is never a good thing. It's never good to feel like you are just doing stuff to get to the next part of the checklist on the developer's notepad.

Also, the "too much water" criticism was fucking RIGHT. There was too much water in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. It made traversing the game fucking tedious.

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Megiddo Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

Missions delivering plot points is exactly what should happen. That's a good thing. That means the story is progressing. Not having the missions deliver plot points would mean there is no progress. In Yakuza games if you want the (mostly serious) main story then you complete story missions. If you want goofy comedic hijinks then you go for the sub stories. Complaining about story missions advancing the plot is nonsensical. That is their entire purpose.

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AngryLittleAlchemist Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

I can't speak for the writer, because I'm not him, but I think it's pretty clear what the criticism being expressed was. The criticism wasn't that the plot was progressing, that would be an odd and strange critique. The point being made is that missions feel like they are just there to serve a purpose rather than to show off the game's abilities to entertain.

Think about a really dumb film you've seen, where you got to the middle of the film, and the thing you knew was gonna happen, happened. And you rolled your eyes, and the only reason the entire sequence occurred was to deliver some story beat that honestly was not all that interesting in the first place. For me this would be like the moment in every Disney or Pixar film where there is the slightest disagreement between characters and so there's a 20 minute arc of them being sad until all the sudden they're best friends and save the day.

Now think about a really intelligent, great movie you've seen, where certain scenes were made to divulge information to the viewer, but because it was so expertly crafted you didn't notice that the only reason the scene existed was to explain a plot point. You were immersed in the experience, you were entertained, and so you didn't care that the entire purpose of the scene was just to put a check mark next to a writer's to-do list.

Games are the same way, just based more so around inventiveness of gameplay and fun.

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Megiddo Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

I'm not sure I understand where you are coming from. Games don't need to have some cinematic intelligent plot to be enjoyed. It doesn't get any more barebones and basic of a plot than Zelda BOTW for instance. I could have recited you exactly what would happen in that game pretty much from the start. Yakuza main stories are basically crime/mafia soap operas. There are a whole bunch of characters, some friends turn out to be enemies, some enemies turn out to be friends. Lots of political maneuvering and manipulation. Kiryu ends up beating everyone with his fist. If the issue is that the author does not care for a web of characters and political machinations and the various betrayals that occur, then that's something that should be in the review. As it is, the complaint is literally, and I quote, "Some of its main quests exist only to deliver plot points". Which I say good. I would not want to play a game where the story mission does not deliver plot points.

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AngryLittleAlchemist Megiddo (on 10 September 2018)

You can't see the forests for the trees man .... this should not be so complicated.

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