Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review
When Sega pulled off the spectacular hit in yakuza 0 a few years back, not only did it hugely surprise me in terms of its greatness and content, but it also managed to breathe new life into the Yakuza series which was beginning its new cycle on current gen systems. While the dev's clearly didn't put as much focus or shine on the following Kiwami 1 (which is a remake of the original Yakuza which debuted on PS2), it still managed to impress a bit. So when Yakuza Kiwami 2 was announced, I expected the same treatment that or less that Kiwami got. I could not have been more wrong with my preconceptions.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 manages to go to the same lengths that Yakuza 0 did with its story and side content, and then take it even further, which is an amazing achievement, as 0 had me hooked and still playing for years trying to finish all Kiryu's side quests and unlock all the greatest gear. So for Kiwami 2 to not only top 0 in terms of the number of quests Kiryu can take on, but in Kiwami 2, you have the not only the metropolitan Kamurocho at your fingertips to explore, but it brings players back to Sotenbori, the calmer & more laid back seaside hometown of character favorite, Goro Majima. Yakuza 0 featured Sotenbori & allowed players free reign to look around, but Kiwami 2 really pulls off transforming it into an actual believable bursting little city that feels alive. The residents are all for the most part friendly, but the way the dev's are rewarding players with returning characters from Yakuza 0 and nods and mentions to other events that players of 0 will come to recognize and appreciate is amazing. Sotenbori is a pure joy to explore and interact in, and there is even more activities and crazy food shops to eat this time around. A new golfing arena has been added, as well as some other locations, and although the golfing in Kiwami 2 doesn't quite manage to be as enjoyable as some of the other returning long-time favorite activities of Yakuza's past titles, it is still a joy to experience and adds even more to the feeling of realism to the game. I mean, it actually feels like the town has evolved and aged with the times as the time in game is portraying. There have been many many years since we were running around with Majima doing Shimano's dirty work, now Sotenbori has matured and I love the extremes the devs went to bring that feeling of time gone by to the players. Another huge & vastly enjoyable feature I was ecstatic to see come back was the inclusion of the Cabaret Club Grand Prix. Kiryu can find himself in the position of Manager of Club Four Shine, (exactly as Majima-san did in 0) and the same RPG elements & Hostess managing tactics return. Its a completely optional portion of the game and can take up quite a chunk of time if you want to win the top spot and get all your girls sub stories completed, and the fact that it is optional is even more amazing. You will be reintroduced to some of the characters from 0 who were much younger and the amount of detail & thought are very indicative.
While Sotenbori and all it's contrasting characteristics in comparison to Kamurocho may be the highlight and true gem of Kiwami 2, the amount of stuff to do and people to see in the Tokyo-based mainstay town of Kamurocho is no slouch either. The Clan Creator Battles return here from being introduced in Yakuza 6. They appear in a new form this time though. I won't spoil the main story's major plot points & twists, but Majima has started his very own construction company in Kamurocho and needs all the help he can get as some shady land sharks are attempting to buy him out and sweep the land rights out from beneath him. Of course, Goro Majima being the fighter and maniac that he is, he won't back down and is in need of fighters to help defend his property and fend off the greedy crooks who are now using brute force methods to try to bully him into selling the rights. The Clan creator battles were not my favorite addition in Yakuza 6, but I will say the updates and tweaks that Kiwami 2 introduces are fresh and make it much easier to get addicted to and make you want to see it fleshed out till the end. As with the Cabaret Grand Prix, the Majima Construction Clan Battles is not mandantory, and players that want to skip most of it can if that is what they choose. However, anyone who has played a Yakuza title before know that a lot of times, the events and rewards that you get from seeing through to the end on all of the side quests and missions are far too great to pass up and the lore and the cutscenes & hilarious banter/dialogue that ensues from the cast are reason enough to want to complete them. Kiwami 2 just holds nothing back in terms of absorbing players into the Kazuma Kiryu's world, and again, its a feat that I have very much respect for. The list of characters who appear in this addition to the series are some of the most memorable and colored from any past Yakuza games, and fans will feel rewarded at every turn at the massive number of familiar faces they will get to interact with.
The combat is the same as from Kiwami 1, and doesn't feature the numerous fighting stances that Yakuza 0 had players choose from. Even so, the combat is as smashing and fun as ever, and while not much may have changed or evolved from the last entry, it is a system that really did not need to evolve. You have Heat Mode, where Kiryu becomes pumped up and can pull off quicker combos and unleash devastating finisher moves on the punks trying to stop you, and the return of equippable weapons is a very welcomed feature if you ask me. Where Kiwami 1 greatly limited players in terms of weapons to fight with, in Kiwami 2, you can once again equip a set number of the many varied weapons that are scattered throughout the game, often being offered up as rewards for completing a side quest or from finding a shady weapon's dealer hidden in the alley shadows in the streets. There are some excellent and powerful weapons to be found, from ninja swords to kali sticks & modified pistols & rocket launchers, so the sense of finding an Ultimate or legendary weapon is just another win for the game by offering that to players who manage to dig far enough into it to get.
Kiwami 2 is ambitious in every sense & aspect, and I can't mention enough how much more fleshed out & fun this entry is in comparison to the previous games. Not only is the cast and main story interesting & a treat to experience, but the countless activities that Kiryu can partake in- from the beloved Arena fighting tournaments to the Batting Cages & more advanced Karaoke songs- the game just keeps on giving and giving back to the fans, and for those willing to truly put effort & work into completing everything the game has to offer yield excellent rewards & reasons to invest that much time into. Never before, not even in the spectacular Yakuza 0, has Kazuma Kiryu's world managed to enchant me and give me such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and that is the reason why for the year 2018, this was in my personal top 3 picks for Game of the Year. By far the best Yakuza game yet, and I can only wish & hope that future remasters/remakes in the Yakuza series are able to replicate the experience this one brings to the table. Bravo, and here is to hoping the next Yakuza localized entry is not very far in the future!!!!