Yakuza: Kiwami Review
Yakuza: Kiwami is most likely what fans of Yakuza 0 were hoping it would be. A similarly developed/played Japanese JRPG/Adventure game (compared to Yakuza 0) that started it all back in 2002 for the PS2! The Yakuza franchise in todays day and age is a household name both here in the West (North America/Canada) & in its home region of Japan and Asia. But this hasn't always been the case. Back in 2002, SEGA started a game that would explore the crudely dark and silent or non-discussed world of Japanese gangs, or the Yakuza. At the time, this world had never been attempted at recreating in the world of video games. And SEGA kicked the front door down on the subject and started a series that has spawned many sequels and spin-offs. What they created was the perfect blend of wacky Japanese humor backed by an amazing fighter/progression system that was very true to real life Japanese yakuza, which completely felt like a legit JRPG experience. Fast forward to 2017, and you've got yourself not only a true form of what the original Yakuza sought out to be on PS2 back in '02, but an advanced form of entertainment that adds more depth and longevity to the beautiful follow up to the beautiful & superior Yakuza 0.
So, Yakuza: Kiwami continues the story of the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu, and takes place right after the events of Yakuza 0, and Kiryu's struggle to get out of the gang life in Kamurocho (Tokyo) Japan. Only this time, some very key events will take place and prove that getting out may not be an option without the price of ones very own life. Without spoiling the story events, Kiryu is wrongly accused and convicted of a crime he took the blame for, but didn't commit. He is sent to prison for many years, and spends the time from where Yakuza 0 (late 80's) left off all the way through the 90's and is finally released in 2006. The chain of events that unfold as the cause of Kiryu's sentence will go on to change & shape the future of not only Kiryu's fate & futurebut all those around him & the residents of Kamurocho. Skipping any spoilers that would give any main points away, the plot is rather sporadic & may come off as a little forced and rushed. When Kiryu is released, he finds the streets of Kamurocho to be a different & more dangerous place to be than before. Before he realizes it, he is entered into a struggle with former allies, old enemies & the Yakuza way of life that proved to be a thorn in his side in the events of Yakuza 0. Kiryu soon finds himself tasked with watching and protecting the daughter of a mutual friend & former Sunflower Orphanage resident, Yumi. Her daughter and one of the pivotal and supporting characters of Yakuza: Kiwami, Haruka is soon unknowingly thrust into a life threatening struggle of the underworld of Kamurocho's darker citizens and Kiryu & Reina & Nishikiyama's goal soon become to fulfill the wishes of the missing childhood friend, Yumi, and protect her daughter as if their own. Not only does Kiryu get centered once again in the Yakuza battle front, but he soon realizes that Yumis daughter Haruka is somehow the key to 10,000 yen that has just been announced to have come up missing/stolen from the Tojo Clan- the BIG DOGs in Japan's gangster/criminal underworld. Luckily, the plot holes and seemingly dumb decisions that Yakuza Kiwami seems to throw your way every now and then is quickly overlooked by the return of the system known as Majima Everywhere & of course, also the insane, yet meaningful Substories & side quests. Majima Everywhere is a randomly generated sequence of optional events that could take place around Kamurocho that ultimately will result in you having to prove your fighting skills to the obsessed and infatuated Goro Majima, who loves nothing more than spying & following/stalking our protagonist Kazuma Kiryu around and forcing and finding ways to make Kiryu fight him.
Its an interesting system that will keep you on your toes as some battles with Majima will catch you off guard and force tough battles regardless of whether you saved 10 mins or 10 hours ago, or regardless of whether you have just recently come off a tough boss battle and have no medicinal items in your inventory. Also, one more downside to this randomized system is if your a completionist, Yakuza Kiwami could result in you yanking your hair out due to the frustrating randomness of some events that may or may not determine whether or not you advance Kiryu's combat prowess. See, the whole catch or idea of this Majima Everywhere concept is that Majima claims Kiryu got "soft" while he was locked up, and Goro claims to be giving not only Kiryu but himself a great training warm up and hopes to bring back the Dragon of Dojima's former power & speed in his repertoire of combative moves & techniques. So whether you choose to participate or not, your still gonna be unknowingly and randomly jumped on or challenged by Majima walking down the streets, whilst shopping, bowling & many MANY more activities that await Kiryu in Kamurocho. It can be extremely hard to learn all the moves that Kiryu can possibly attain due to the complete randomized system it operates on. Some moves require Kiryu to meet certain criteria and are rather simple to achieve, while other more advanced skills make it seem impossible or either a time consuming grind that could take hours upon hours to achieve. Its great to see the star maniacal anti-hero (and in my opinion, the STAR of Yakuza 0) Goro Majima, and watch his wacky & insance antics in Yakuza Kiwami unfold, the general randomized way the events/combat requirements mean its a bitch and a half to complete the games best fighting style, Dragon of Dojima.
It wouldn't be a Yakuza game without the witty and sometimes plain stupid sub stories/ side missions. There are quite a few here as well, but in comparison to the games prequel, Yakuza 0, it seems rather vague. While 0's intriguing side quests saw us controlling both Kiryu & Majima in their respective cities, this time around its the same thing minus the thrills of Majima's side missions. A lot more of the same when it comes to the actual activities in Kamurocho. While the key and greatest side activities such as bowling, darts, karaoke & batting cages return, not enough new content is introduced, making Kiwami feel way too much like we are getting a lot of the old and not near enough of the new. The predictable and confusing events in the story combined with the same combat system from Yakuza 0 along with the same side activities may not please fans who're hoping for more new ideas and gameplay concepts from where 0 left off. Sure, Yakuza Kiwami is overshadowed by the vastly superior & better game Yakuza 0, Kiwami is still a true-to-itself remake/remaster of the PlayStation 2's HUGE library of classic games. There is still plenty of stuff to do that will tickle any completionists list of achievements and replayable elements to keep players coming back for more, the lack of new content/visuals & filler-type material riddled throughout the games main story may not be enough to please fans who were wanting more from Yakuza 0.
Yakuza Kiwami may not be quite as good as its predecessor, Yakuza 0, but it still provides a hugely entertaining JRPG,/fighter/adventure that marks the beginning of one of the best current video game franchises to grace Sony's or anyone's console for that matter. Yakuza: Kiwami is a testament to why we here in the west, look to our eastern Asian neighbors for their vast & player pleasing knowledge of video games. Great job Sega!!! My only question now is, how long will the wait be for the rumored sequel to this, Yakuza Kiwami 2?
Another feature I would like to add is the lacking and disappointing features of the pre-ordered Steelbook Edition of Yakuza Kiwami, which is what the review here is based upon. Whereas Yakuza 0 pre order Day 1 editions came with a nice little case and business card as well as a few other items, Yakuza Kiwami basically throws a curve ball and offers little to nothing but a flashy feel good steel case with no DLC voucher or real reward for ordering in this manner. I was kinda let down by the missing content but nonetheless still greatly enjoyed the game overall!!