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Yakuza Kiwami Review - Back In Action

  • First Released Sep 5, 2006
  • Reviewed Aug 21, 2017
  • PS4
  • PC

To the extreme.

Yakuza games do two things very well: grab you with dramatic stories and over-the-top characters, and make you laugh with oddball side missions that knowingly lean into their absurdity. The latest game, Yakuza Kiwami, is no exception. It's gripping and funny, juvenile at times and self reflexive at others. It's a difficult game to categorize, but its unbridled spirit is immediately identifiable, and acutely unapologetic.

Some people had their first taste of Yakuza when it debuted in 2005, and for them, Kiwami is a remake of the game that started it all. It is for the most part a straightforward recreation of the first Yakuza game, albeit with minor adjustments made to account for the current state of the series' extended narrative and contemporary combat systems, but it's largely a faithful adaptation where it counts.

For other people, Yakuza Kiwami is the follow-up to Yakuza Zero, the prequel that arrived earlier this year. Barring the Japanese-exclusive Samurai-themed spinoff Yakuza Ishin, Yakuza Zero is the first in the series' current timeline, and the first Yakuza game on PlayStation 4, making it the perfect starting point for newcomers.

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Kiwami is a natural sequel for recent Yakuza inductees, despite its 2005 DNA. You travel the same streets of seedy Kamurocho--a play on Tokyo's red-light district, Kabukicho--to right wrongs and protect the innocent. Chivalrous Yakuza idol Kazuma Kiryu remains in the spotlight, and though the world around him has gone through some technological and cultural growth, he's still the same-old suited gangster with a furrowed brow, a heart of gold, and fists of fury.

Kamurocho is full of interesting sights and sounds: there are an array of restaurants, arcades, and clubs to visit. You can buy and sell miscellaneous goods at a pawn shop and stock up on energy drinks and alcohol at the many corner convenience stores. Kamurocho both a reflection and an exaggeration of Japanese cities, though it always errs on the side of amusement.

Kiwami's primary story is heavy, defined by murder and betrayal, and while it can be wholly captivating, the game's lighter pursuits provide necessary catharsis from your life of crime.

The game's 13 chapters follow a familiar pattern, presenting a self-contained mini conflict that plays into the bigger picture with opportunities to explore the city between cutscenes. Kiwami generously provides waypoints for your next major objective, so you always feel comfortable setting main missions aside as they are easily picked back up again. But when you do, Kamurocho's footprint is rather modest compared to contemporary open worlds, meaning you're repeatedly sent to the same few locations over and over again. At some point, you grow weary of running to one corner of the map knowing full well that whomever awaits is just going to direct you elsewhere after the briefest of conversations.

It doesn't help that you're frequently interrupted with menial combat encounters along the way. Fights on the streets of Tokyo play out in an outdated beat-em-up format where stiff controls and swarms of enemies lead to frequent battles of attrition. And despite offering an impressive amount of character progression, which includes earning extremely violent takedowns as well as strategic maneuvers for your various fighting styles, Kiwami's battles remain consistently underwhelming after the initial joys of brutalizing street toughs wears off.

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Though you don't get to control Zero's standout character, Goro Majima, this time around, he's still a prominent part of the overall experience. Goro delights himself in picking fights with you to satisfy his own masochism and to help you regain atrophied skills after a stint in prison that occurs early on in Kiwami. Along with wonderfully weird side quests that pop up as you explore Kamurocho, these surprise events give exploration a sense of purpose. Kiwami's primary story is heavy, defined by murder and betrayal, and while it can be wholly captivating, the game's lighter pursuits provide necessary catharsis from your life of crime.

Beyond its lighthearted substories, Kiwami also offers a host of mini-games that can take hours to master. Many of these, such as darts and Mahjong, are straightforward and traditional experiences, and closely mirror Zero's renditions. The same goes for the RC car races, bowling, and batting cages. Others pursuits such as the bikini-clad-women-cosplaying-as-bugs fighting game, are, well, essentially there for titillation, opting to be sexy rather than challenging. In this regard, Kiwami offers plenty of adult pursuits that aren't shy about leaning into the game's pervasive machismo.

Despite that combat remains more of a bump in the road than a rewarding pursuit, it's a no-brainer for existing fans of the series, and shouldn't be overlooked by newcomers, even if Zero passed them by.

This same lack of restraint can also be credited with Yakuza's more prominent qualities. Cutscenes are often hyper-emotional exchanges backed by impassioned Japanese voice acting that, despite the language barrier, strike a chord. Likewise, Kiryu's finishing moves in combat display a fair amount of creative delight in the unusual ways he's able to take advantage of the environment and nearby props-turned-weapons. These don't always turn a boring fight into an exciting one, but creative violence--along with far-out humor and sexy distractions--is part of the reason Yakuza games are uniquely exhilarating, despite the presence of obvious flaws.

Kiwami does a great job as both a remake of the original Yakuza game and as a sequel to Zero. Despite that combat remains more of a bump in the road than a rewarding pursuit, it's a no-brainer for existing fans of the series, and shouldn't be overlooked by newcomers, even if Zero passed them by. There's nothing else quite like Yakuza, and Kiwami isn't afraid to show it.

Editor's note: The score has been updated to reflect the PC version of Yakuza Kiwami. Complimentary review code was provided by Sega.

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The Good
Gripping stories, big and small
Flair for slapstick and situational comedy
A lively open world that makes the most of its limited space
The Bad
Combat is frequent, repetitive, and unsophisticated despite its apparent depth
Frequent backtracking between a small number of key locations
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Yakuza

About the Author

Peter finished Yakuza Kiwami in 30 hours on PlayStation 4 using a complimentary copy of the game provided by Sega.
85 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for EstrugaZ

Funny, that this review says pretty much the same the review for 0 said: "despite the faults, the game is good, it's different, trust us!"
Fortunately, they're right. It's the kind of game that's hard to explain why we want to play it, we kinda have to have a leap of faith and play it, if we can.

Avatar image for ali_manslayer

the only game I pre-ordered this year

Avatar image for dmblum1799

30 bucks is nice. I haven't tried this series yet, so I'll give it a shot.

Avatar image for sacrilegious1

@dmblum1799: I just finished the 0, my first game in the series and am looking forward to this.

Avatar image for saadred

@dmblum1799: Duno about this one but Yakuza 0 was an awesome start for me for this series I became a huge fan and pre ordered this

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo

@lonesamurai1: Even if it was on Steam it would be the same game haha

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@lonesamurai1: Doubtful this would get much treatment though compared to those Sega games. Even if it ever does come to PC.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@lonesamurai1: Maybe , i don't think they release this series on PC though do they?

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@lonesamurai1: Fair enough, i don't think i even finished Yakuza 3 on the Playstation. I tend to forget what i buy half the time unless i play it and finish it the same weekend i get it.

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo

@lonesamurai1: What would be different besides the graphics?

It would be the same game in the core, same gameplay and thats the most important part of every game.

Also not every game works that way. I have Fallout 4 on PC and my mate on PS4, same game, no difference besides some visuals.

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo

@lonesamurai1: Why talk mods, we are talking product out of the box. Yeah my Skyrim SE has crap load of mods but that doesnt count.

You cant define how a game is played, that comes down to the individual so its not really an argument, its an opinion whether you play in first person or any other view. Why would they dream, its just one game that has a different camera view on one system. Maybe the game would be better than all on The Switch, you could think of that as well.

I showed my mate how good modded Skyrim looks, he said " Couldnt give a shit less, just want to play the game and be done with it". People know you can mod on PC and most of them dont care and percentage of people modding their games on PC is not that big overall.

Games are not always better and more robust on PC, trust me, have got massive amount of games on PC from all time periods.

Thats a pretty closed minded approach to look at things tho, especially that last part. LOL the 30fps argument, was waiting for that :)

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo

@lonesamurai1: Dont matter, when you compare a product you compare out of the box item, no outside influence. Some people play some games on PC mainly because of keyboard/mouse not necessarily mods. Besides not every game can be modded either. Also, Bethesda games have mods on consoles lol and it will become bigger in the future.

Why play Fallout on PC, again thats down to an individual.

Gameplay wise many games are same in the core across platforms.

Yeah torturing yourself, well dont torture yourself buddy, sounds like what master race folk usually say ;)

Im off to torture myself with a very very good looking 60fps HZD, half way trough it, so far its a blast. Im suprised PS4 can run it at smooth 60fps since its a piece of junk aye. And i hope i will torture myself with The Switch when it finally arrives, taking its bloody time :)

You still ignored my valid points so dont bother conversing anymore, you have replied with nothing basically.

So yeah im gonna enjoy me some Yakuza at 60fps and you wont. Thats the end of that mate.

Avatar image for Pukshd

@lonesamurai1: You're out of luck. These are exclusives.

Avatar image for ali_manslayer

@lonesamurai1: lol none of the Yakuza games have ever come to steam

Avatar image for biggamerdude

jesus the toxicity down here is a bit much.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@biggamerdude: Agree... I think it has to do with this type of game genre, and the audience attracted to it.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@gamersts: and what we got to play? The Gears of War 5 that will stop that motherf****ing cliffhanger? With the Gears of War 4 stupid updates, doubt will be soon enough.

Avatar image for bat725

@gamersts: Is ANYTHING coming out for XB1, this year?!?

Thankfully, you have....wait for it....wait for it....


LMFAO at you pathetic excuses for gamers. Seriously.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@bat725: I am looking forward to playing the original Xbox games on Project Scorpio. Love games such as Mercenaries which for open world combat in a war zone still hasn't been beaten.

Avatar image for Terminator95

@gamersts: Can't say much about Crap Box 0 eh ?

Avatar image for PumpkinBoogie

@gamersts: hmm, for your info 'fanboys' don't have to say anything about thanking Sony b/c Yakuza series has been a longstanding series for well over a decade. Shows how little you about the series.....

If anything, us Yakuza fans are just super happy that the series is getting the proper shine that it deserves and not giving up on series that's truly awesome (flaws & all).

Avatar image for j1965

Love going to the bars!

Avatar image for adamg81

The original had the same problem with the annoying fights. Hope the load times are better.

Avatar image for sakaixx

Another exclusive this year! Good job sony and sega for doing an amazing work for ps4. Can't wait to play this game

Avatar image for proceeder

Not 9?!

Avatar image for samurai1313

Are they just barring yakuza ishin out of spite?

Avatar image for PumpkinBoogie

@samurai1313: no, I don't think it's that and as @j1965 stated it's a bit more complex than that. Hell, for that matter Ishin has an even more niche appeal, plus w/ games like it I've heard (and w/ experience w/ previously similar game Kenzan), the localization would be a bit more complicated due to the traditional Japanese language (and lore) used.

It's possible they feel the risk of putting the effort into it might not balance out the reward, sadly.

Avatar image for j1965

@samurai1313: I wish they would bring that game out but I heard it might be difficult to translate or maybe the theme is too much for the Western world

Avatar image for midna

Keep the exclusives coming Sony!! :)

Avatar image for midna

@gamersts: No I mean keep the exclusives coming. I wrote that pretty clearly in my first comment lol.

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Yakuza More Info

  • First Released Sep 5, 2006
    • PC
    • PlayStation 2
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    This action-adventure title for the PS2, known as Ryu ga Gotoku in Japan, features a storyline by award-winning novelist Hase Seishu about brutal Japanese criminals.
    Average Rating1899 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Yakuza
    Developed by:
    Ryu ga Gotoku Studios, Amusement Vision
    Published by:
    Sega, Deep Silver
    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