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Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review - Like A Tiger

  • First Released Sep 9, 2008
  • Reviewed Aug 29, 2018
  • PS4

The Way of the Dragon

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The Yakuza series sits at a unique place in 2018, juggling two different points in the series timeline. The western release of prequel Yakuza 0 in 2017 was a dazzling gateway for a new wave of players and flowed naturally into a remake of the very first game later that year. The next title that followed, however, was Yakuza 6, which bid farewell to mainstay protagonist Kazuma Kiryu while debuting the brand new "Dragon" game engine. Yakuza 6 was a great finale to a saga that began in 2006, but now, the series has taken another 10-year leap backward in terms of narrative chronology but has taken its latest technology with it. And it's fortunate things worked out this way, because Yakuza Kiwami 2 combines the best parts of both timelines, as we simultaneously revisit the point in time where the series hit its stride, while being able to enjoy the superior benefits of a seamless world and fluid combat system afforded by the latest engine.

The original Yakuza 2 is more than just a personal favorite; it's where the series became more ambitious in terms of its world and narrative by introducing an additional location for the first time, the iconic Osakan strip of Dotonbori (stylised as "Sotenbori"), in addition to Kabukicho (stylised as "Kamurocho") in Tokyo. This not only added variety and scope to its geography and narrative, but memorable personalities with its Osakan characters. Their demeanor contrasts greatly to Tokyo natives, and this plays into the tensions between the major crime organizations in the Kansai and Kanto regions, respectively. Kiryu teams up with ace Osakan detective Kaoru Sayama for the majority of the game, who is a strong, likable character--their odd-couple pairing and growing relationship are some of the things that make Yakuza 2 so exceptional. Supporting them are the familiar Makoto Date and his hardened former mentor, Jiro Kawara, who all play interesting roles with great performances. It's here where you can see the strong foundations for the multi-protagonist approach that the series would later take, and in general, Kiwami 2's script is tweaked slightly to be a little more self-reflective from the lens of a present-day retrospective.

In typical series fashion, the majority of the story is told through highly charged, emotional cutscenes that lean heavily on the beats of Japanese drama, and they are as slow-paced as they are impressive to look at. However, Yakuza 2's plot has the benefit of being one of the more exciting and memorable of the series--there's an unforgettably gruff and showy antagonist in Ryuji Goda, the "Dragon of Kansai" that stands in staunch opposition to Kiryu's "Dragon of Dojima" moniker, a number of intriguing twists as a multinational blood feud is uncovered, some heavy-set themes about the value of loyalty and being shaped by your past, as well as some of the series' absurdly excellent moments, like punching a lunging tiger in the face. It's truly wonderful to see this PlayStation 2-era experience elevated to modern standards; sharp cinematics and high-fidelity models really amplify familiar performances through subtle facial expressions and body language.

But unsurprisingly, character models featured in secondary cutscenes and the game's numerous substory side quests exhibit a perceptible drop in quality. But to Kiwami 2's credit, the baseline fidelity of secondary models has notably improved--they aren't as jarringly awful as they were in Yakuza 6, but Kiwami 2 sadly doesn't feature full voice acting in all of its scenarios as 6 did. There are a few nice exceptions to these rules, however, as a few of the game's most infamous substories (series fans will nod knowingly at the mention of "diapers" or "fat Kiryu") get full cinematic treatment.

Kamurocho remains a fantastically atmospheric environment, full of pedestrians and neon lights, exuding a strong sense of true-to-life identity. The Dragon Engine continues to allow for seamless transitions between the street, stores, and combat encounters--it's also nice to revisit a more complete, "classic" version of the area after only seeing an abridged version in Yakuza 6. Sotenbori does suffer some minor cuts from the original version of Yakuza 2, and a smaller third area, Shinseicho, is cut altogether. But while these omissions are disappointing from an enthusiast perspective, it doesn't detract enough from the overall experience to be a significant stain, and certainly not for new players. The five-category experience system for character progression returns, and so does the emphasis on eating and drinking for experience points, which continues to be a positive change for the series that helps encourage a grounded connection and familiarity to the urban environments you roam through.

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The Dragon Engine's version of Yakuza's crunchy combat also continues to be incredibly satisfying. While relatively straightforward in terms of its move set, especially when compared to the multiple disciplines featured in Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, the momentum and fluidity of techniques combined with the emphasis on collateral, physics-based damage makes fights exciting--it's difficult to return to the characteristically stiff combat of 0 and Kiwami once you've spent time with it. Small but noteworthy classic mechanics have been reintroduced, including charge moves (which you can now buffer while continuing to move and perform regular attacks), a returning focus on weapons (which you can now collect, store, buy, repair, and equip via quick-menu), as well as a number of location-based Heat moves, where befriended neighborhood denizens help you humorously and viciously assault bad guys.

In addition to the series' substories, Kiwami 2 also has some welcome minigame activities that give you ample opportunity to play with the versatile combat system in a variety of different situations. The best of these are the Underground Coliseum, which returns from the original and pits Kiryu in a series of one-on-one cage matches with fighters from an entertainingly diverse background of fighting disciplines, and the new Bouncer Missions, which throw you into gauntlets of increasing difficulty overstocked with weapons, environmental objects, and dozens of enemies, making for exciting group brawls. On the other hand, some of Kiwami 2's story missions have holdover mechanics from the original that never really gelled well to begin with and feel even more outdated as part of the modernization--immovable brutes that soak damage and pound you with couches and enemies with automatic rifles that you need to block with a medieval shield, of all things, feel like uncreative and unnecessary additions.

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Other minigame distractions include Japanese and Western casino games, Mahjong, Shogi, darts, batting and golfing challenges as well as the always-fabulous karaoke. The Club Sega arcade selection is a little weaker in Kiwami 2; Virtual-On seems like a great addition, but it hasn't aged well despite the option for twin stick controls, and Virtua Fighter 2, despite its balancing tweaks, just doesn't impress as much after Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was included Yakuza 6. UFO Catchers are a fleeting distraction, and the Toylets minigame, based on a very real-life Sega amusement which asks you to use the speed and quantity of your urine flow to affect on-screen action, is as strange and uncomfortable as it seems. Also new is Gravure Photography, where you can watch videos of real-life softcore glamor models flaunt revealing outfits, while you, as a creepy Kiryu, attempt to construct coherent sentences while photographing them. Gravure Photography is Kiwami 2's entry into the list of series activities that feel at complete odds with Kiryu's honorable and respectful nature.

But Kiwami 2 also features two more impressively substantial minigames featuring real-life Japanese personalities. One is the Cabaret Club Grand Prix, a refined version of the hostess club management concept seen in Yakuza 0, and the other is a much-improved version of the underwhelming Clan Creator top-down strategy minigame from Yakuza 6, now with a tower-defense twist. Both of these minigame iterations have been altered to have a bigger focus on fast-paced, real-time micromanagement and quick decision making, making them more involved and much more exciting as attractions to potentially invest in.

As was the case in Yakuza Kiwami, fan-favorite character Goro Majima is more tightly woven into this remake. As you progress through the main story, you'll gradually unlock the three chapters of Majima Saga, an entirely separate mini-campaign, which explores how Majima comes to arrive at the position and disposition that you find him in during the events of Kiryu and Sayama's story. While you're able to freely roam Kamurocho and Sotenbori with Majima, there are some major differences: Majima has no character progression of his own and cannot earn XP. There are no substories, and enemy encounters are predetermined as large group battles at certain roadblocks on the map, as well as one-on-one battles with Street Bosses, which you'll also find in Kiryu's campaign.

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Without long-term purpose or flexibility, Majima's flamboyant knife fighting style, which dazzles initially with a couple of entertaining heat moves, becomes stale fast. His acrobatic moves don't have the same satisfying impact as Kiryu's, and it rarely feels like you're in complete control. While that may suit his character perfectly, without the ability to pick up items or throw enemies, it's difficult to keep things interesting for yourself here. The money you earn from defeating enemies in this mode can be transferred to Kiryu in the form of valuable items, and Majima has his own unique karaoke song worth seeing. But the interactive parts of his mini-campaign feel like an unnecessary grind to see story cinematics--which are the places where he really gets to shine, and the only good reason for swapping to Majima Saga. Overall, it's a missed opportunity.

The tale of Tokyo and Osaka, Kiryu and Sayama's partnership, and Kiryu and Goda's rivalry remains one of the Yakuza's best stories, and Kiwami 2's minor missteps don't affect the heart of that experience. The modernization of its presentation and its mechanics elevate it, making it absolutely worth revisiting or experiencing for the first time. Yakuza is an exemplary, if flawed series that does an incredible job of steeping you in contemporary Japanese-style crime drama, and establishing an evocative sense of place. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an excellent example of the series at its best, coupling its most memorable stories and characters with its most sophisticated mechanics yet.

Back To Top
The Good
Fantastic story and characters are enhanced by modernization
Straightforward but dynamic combat rarely gets stale
Vibrant and atmospheric world that's wonderful to lose yourself in
Cabaret Club Grand Prix and Majima Construction Creator are substantial attractions
The Bad
Majima Saga is disappointingly shallow
Some holdover mechanics feel dated
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Yakuza 2

About the Author

Edmond Tran has been a devoted Yakuza series fan since 2006, and Yakuza 2 has always been his favorite. He spent over 25 hours with Yakuza Kiwami 2, finishing the campaign and half of the optional content using a code provided by the publisher.
42 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for jrendavid

Where do i buys it ?

Avatar image for dlM0kn

Two more days! So hyped. Been going in hard on dbfz for the past couple weeks but gonna chill out this whole week just for Kiwami 2.

Avatar image for dmblum1799

You can play a demo for free from the PS store. I've never played these games but I was really intrigued and had fun. I'll buy this game but I might buy the first one or the prequel first. I did like the graphic quality - this seems to be a very story based, cut scene oriented game.

Avatar image for proceeder

I dunno Ed.

This is either the best or 2nd best Yakuza story.

It deserves a higher score. I'd know. I've already played the Japanese Ver.

Avatar image for lonewolf1044

Still have to get the first but I am very interested in this one.

Avatar image for annettebomb

Cannot wait for this. Putting Shenmue on the back burner for now. Anyone think they’ll remaster the rest or will we just need to play them on the PS3?

Avatar image for doorselfin

@annettebomb: In Japan, Sega has announced upscaled remasters of 3, 4, and 5 for PS4. They're not Kiwami-style remakes, unfortunately, but hopefully, we'll get them in the west too.

Avatar image for annettebomb

@doorselfin: Thanks for the information. Hopefully. Fingers crossed that they will.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

And I still need to finish the first one :(

Avatar image for lexhazuki


Avatar image for gr4h4m833zy

@lexhazuki: Hey I'm with you. WHERE'S THE SHENMUE REVIEW GAMESPOT?

Avatar image for Abdulrahman1981

I just started playing Yakuza Kiwami yesterday, I heard about it a lot but didn’t play any part (I had Nintendo GameCube at the time of Yakuza 1) it’s amazing, reminds me of Shenmue

Avatar image for justthetip

@Abdulrahman1981: I just picked up the Shenmue collection for PS4 yesterday. I’ve gotta get this, too.

Avatar image for gr4h4m833zy

@justthetip: how are the graphics on the shenmue remake? Is it worth it?

Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926


not even a remaster or a quality one, more like a port, but the physical copies have Issues. I got it digital and so far is fine. The 1st shenmue has full JP voice acting which didnt have 1998.

Avatar image for Chronologo

@gr4h4m833zy: It's not a remake is a REMASTER

Avatar image for videogameninja

For someone new to the Yakuza series is this game a good entry point or would one benefit from one of the other titles?


Avatar image for twashington8

@videogameninja: I mean its a given to start from 0. I was new to the series, took a chance on it upon release and was hooked immediately. Played Kiwami upon release followed 6 upon its release. That being said 6 is amazing and fills in questions you may have about some of the back story. I would argue that you would be alright playing 0, jumping to 6 and then take your pick for a trip back in time playing 1 or 2 however you please. Maybe even grab a PS3 if you don't have one sitting around and get in on the others.

Avatar image for Byshop

@videogameninja: Kiwami is a remake of the first Yakuza game. You could go 0 > 1 > 2 or 1 > 0 > 2. The first is the true chronological order of the games, while the second is the original release order of the games. It's the same old debate as with the Narnia series. Do you read them in the order they were written or the chronological order of the story events? Personally, I might go 1 > 0 > 2. There's a lot of stuff in Yakuza 0 that is supposed to tie into events and characters from the rest of the series after-the-fact and some of that context is lost if that's your first game.

Avatar image for annettebomb

@videogameninja: Yakuza O, then Kiwami, then this.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

@videogameninja: Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami then this or just play Yakuza Kiwami then this. Yakuza 0 is a prequel to the whole series.

Avatar image for doorselfin

@gamingdevil800: I think this is a good order. Like I said in the review, it's going to be hard to return to Yakuza 0's and Kiwami's combat system once you move to Kiwami 2.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

If they make a Yakuza 7 I hope they take some inspiration from Sleeping Dogs and make it more open world.

Avatar image for sakaixx

@gamingdevil800: hope no more yakuza featuring Kiryu. About damn time we get a new protagonist

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@sakaixx: They've already introduced Kazuga Ichiban, who will debut in "Yakuza Online" and then be the protagonist in mainline entries.

Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926

@zmanbarzel: i didnt like when NERO replaced dante in devil may cry....this new guy is going to replace Kiryu Chan? The MF Dojima Dragon? he doesnt even looks cool.

Avatar image for justthetip

@gamingdevil800: Nope. Not every game needs to have an open world.

Avatar image for uhtredsson

@justthetip: thank you for that.

Avatar image for Jimbowesker

Hell yeah, I am gonna make my pre-order official here in a sec. I love the Yakuza series and I love what Sega has done as far as making this series a legitimate force. So many series today are overlooked or underrated and this is one of those series, sadly!! Go ahead and start Yakuza: Kiwami 3 Sega!!!

Avatar image for Byshop

I -love- the Yakuza series and I'm so happy that all of these games are getting released in the west. However, I'm feeling a bit of series fatigue at this point. I just beat Yakuza 0 ahead of Kiwami 1, and I didn't manage to finish Kiwami ahead of Yakuza 6, which I just recently finally beat. Now I'm working through the last 3rd or so of Kiwami 1 and Kiwami 2 is out. These are not short games...

Avatar image for mistervulpes

Why didn’t Peter Brown review this?

He loves Yakuza.

I think he’s in the Yakuza.

That’s how much he loves Yakuza.

He should just go and marry Yakuza.

All of them collectively.

Shhhh Yakuza, don’t be scared, no one will ever pronounce your name wrong whilst Pete’s around.


I actually really enjoy Peter Brown though, I want a tv show where Larry David’s son went into games journalism and it’s Peter.

This went in an odd direction but I’m enjoying it a lot.

Dun dun dun *curb theme*

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

@mistervulpes: Peter Brown is currently on a pilgrimage of self discovery so he can yell "I have the power" due to taking the complaints of being a nintendo fanboy to heart. After travelling for 5000 miles he discovered a hidden tomb in the south pacific and was finally able to solve the millennium puzzle... now 5 hours later he has become the fastest journalist alive. When he was a child he saw lara croft killed by something impossible, his father went to prison for hacking the game and now he wants to be the very best journalist like no one ever was. All this occurred while Yakuza Kiwami 2 was being reviewed.

Avatar image for xantufrog

@gamingdevil800: lol, this may be one of the best comments I've read in a long time. So random

Avatar image for JEF8484

Now if only Shenmue 1 and 2 didnt get re-released- I'll definitely hit this up at some point though.

Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926

@JEF8484: about time Kiryus ANcestor came back from the grave Ryo Hazuki

Avatar image for Berserk8989

You should've also mentioned that the game's just 40$ brand new. Great value.

Avatar image for aojeda133

@Berserk8989: $50

Yakuza 2 More Info

  • First Released Sep 9, 2008
    • PC
    • PlayStation 2
    • PlayStation 4
    Yakuza 2 plunges you into the violent Japanese underworld in this free-roaming adventure game.
    Average Rating657 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Yakuza 2
    Developed by:
    Ryu ga Gotoku Studios, Amusement Vision
    Published by:
    Sega, Sega Europe
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence