Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original Yakuza game, which was released on Playstation 2 nearly 12 years ago, but it may as well be regarded as its own entity. Yakuza Kiwami is a fully done remake – with all new textures, extended stories, and more depth and cohesion than the original Yakuza could have dreamed of – so it’s not to be confused with a general remaster (*cough Sleeping Dogs *cough*).
The story follows the same main character as in Yakuza – Kazuma Kiryu, the yakuza member protagonist who takes the fall for a high boss’s murder and pays for that decision the remainder of the game – but this time around you’re able to delve so much deeper than before. There are new story scenes and a clearer sense of what’s going on, so it’s easier to immerse yourself into this Japanese Underworld and sit back as the drama unfolds.
Developed and published by Sega, this PS4 exclusive is likely to hit the spot for fans of the Yakuza series first time around, but I imagine it would be a welcomed title for anyone looking to enjoy a refreshing style of game. Yakuza Kiwami is immensely unique and diverse, with a setting that isn’t zombies, fantasy, or space war. It’s unlike any other game I’ve seen, actually. I never played the original Yakuza myself, but boy am I glad I tried Yakuza Kiwami.
Yakuza Kiwami is described as an action RPG, but I feel like that’s a fairly diluted characterization of a game with so much going on. If I had to make an attempt at squeezing it into a genre, I would say it’s more of a story-centric RPG brawler, with novelesque cut scenes broken up by intermittent mini games and street battles (so many street battles).
The story is lengthy, and I’ll admit that at times the cinematics dragged, but it adds so many layers to the characters and game in general, I found myself invested in the same way I would be if I were watching a series or movie, just with interaction laced between major plot points. The dialog is in Japanese which really adds to the authenticity and intrigue, and it’s a compelling story that would have you turning pages for sure if it were a novel instead.
The fighting portion of the game is extremely varied, with options to boost abilities, choose between multiple attack styles based on the type of enemy (or how you’re feeling at the time), and even use items in the environment around you to beat your opponent (literally; you can even whack someone with a bicycle, it’s quite fun). Controls feel intuitive and switching between styles and moves becomes natural quickly. Training phases slowly teach you how to play without throwing too much at you at once, and difficulty levels ramp up in a well-paced and fair manner. I mean, I’m usually a proponent for talking out issues before resorting to violence, but I will say it feels great to curb stomp a particularly lippy opponent.
Interspersed into all of this are the Nightlife Spots – the mini games within the massive game that make the experience so very interesting. There are card games, dice games, racing games, pool, mahjong; pretty much any game you can think of that will guarantee you to waste some time and yen in the wee hours of the night. Of all of these though, the most interesting has to be MesuKing: Battle Bug Beauties, a card game that has scantily-clad insect women battling for the forest. You gather cards and create a deck in order to compete against the other patrons of Kamurocho because naturally everyone else is also intrigued and a little obsessed with this bizarrely charming minigame.
A++. Sega wasn’t messing around with this one. I never played the original Yakuza game, so I couldn’t make my own side-by-side comparison while playing, but damn does the 1080p and 60fps of Yakuza Kiwami look good. The textures are immensely detailed and clear, the environments are drop dead gorgeous and as clear as if the entire game were one big cut scene, and the characters move smoothly and naturally, and are so well proportioned (minus their often gigantic hands?!). I mean the characters have pores on their faces – pores – and that only begins to describe the care that was clearly put into remaking this game.
The city setting is colorful and fun to explore, with textures used in the backgrounds that blew my mind. There’s one scene I remember playing, where I couldn’t even pay attention to the subtitles because the bricks behind the characters were so – brick like. They had dimples, cracks, and dappled coloring as if they’d actually been baking in the sun for years and had grown weathered with time. Another scene sees a massive downpour of rain to set the mood, and the rendering of the water with the reflection was so realistic looking I couldn’t help but marvel. It’s a really beautiful game. It’s not to say that Yakuza for PS2 didn’t look fantastic because it did for its time, but it is 100 percent worth it to buy this as a new game. The two almost can’t be compared.
Even the battle scenes have their fair share of flair and Hollywood gore to set them apart from the story and exploration part of the game. Blood splattering+ about like it’s Doom or Mortal Kombat adds a palpability to physical actions.
Gorgeous and responsive is the best way I would describe the game’s graphics.
Who doesn’t like authentic Japanese voice acting mixed in with some poppy electro tunes? Crazy people and squares, that’s who. For Yakuza Kiwami Sega brought back all of the voice actors from the original Yakuza game to completely re-record higher quality sounds that are crisp and snappy. Voices sound clear and realistic, with enough diversity to keep a player entertained for the full playthrough.
Sounds in the environment are responsive and abound; if it’s raining, you’re going to hear it drop. People chattering in the distance you’re going to quietly overhear. During battles the guttural punch and kick noises emanate the scene as your attackers let out low “oofs” and “”yarghs!” depending on where and how hard you hit.
It’s damned immersive; I didn’t mind listening to long stretches of story when every character sounded so natural, and certainly didn’t mind running about the world when cars tooting and girls giggling and chattering all around. In the same way that the graphics begged a player to keep looking, the sounds reminded me that there’s so much more to a good game that just what I see.
I would say that Yakuza Kiwami is definitely a game that you are going to play from start to finish. It’s the type of game that you binge over the span of a few days and then likely don’t touch for a long time after you beat it, but that’s not to say you’d never want to pop it back in for some more. With a story that so continuous and with so many interwoven details, it would be hard to play discontinuously while still gaining its full potential for impact.
Yakuza Kiwami isn’t a particularly long game, either. It doesn’t have the never ending side quest list that many other RPGs often boast, and isn’t asking players to sink 80+ hours into it in order to gain the full experience (which is probably a part of why they aren’t selling it for the usual 60 dollars). Call it a short game or call it a long interactive viewing experience, but either way, add it to your list if you’re looking for something unlike anything you’ve played (unless of course you played any of the other many Yakuza games).
For the palatable price of 29.99 USD, this PS4 exclusive is well worth the small investment. While my first instinct was to say that this game isn’t for everyone, no game really ever is, so if you’re looking for a deep yet interesting story, fun and diverse fighting scenes, and a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Yakuza Kiwami may be right for you. And Sega has promised to release free post-launch DLC for the game – FREE. I mean if there ever was a time to try a distinctive action RPG, it’s now. You can pick up a copy on August 29th in the Americas and Europe.
I teetered between an eight and a nine for this game, but either way, I definitely think it earned a Thumb Culture Gold Award for being about as close to a ‘must buy’ as you can get for this specific of a genre. Fans of the Yakuza series should definitely pick it up for the nostalgia and excellent game design both, and those not yet fans but finding themselves curious should give it a go. You may just find that this is exactly the kind of weirdness your life was needed right now (do it for the Battle Bug Beauties!).
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.