Yakuza Kiwami Review

Another Exceptionally Fun Experience~

General Info

Release Date(s):
JP PS3 & PS4: January 21, 2016
NA PS4: August 29, 2017
PC: February 19, 2019
Xbox One: April 21, 2020
Original Game Yakuza Release JP PS2: December 8, 2005
Rating: M 17+
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher: SEGA
Platform I Played On: PC
Platform(s) Available On: PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 3 (JP), Xbox One
Genre(s): Action, Beat ‘em Up
Difficultly I Played On: Normal (Except for a car chase scene because I was dying way too often…)

Synopsis

Taken from official site

YAKUZA KIWAMI | Official Website (sega.com)

The inaugural entry in the critically-acclaimed YAKUZA series first shed its light on the seedy underbelly of Japan and the criminal organizations that thrive there in 2006 on PlayStation®2. Players are introduced to the “Dragon of Dojima,” Kazuma Kiryu, an up-and-coming yakuza who takes the fall for the murder of a crime boss, only to emerge from prison ten years later to a changed world.

“KIWAMI” means EXTREME.

In 2017, YAKUZA KIWAMI takes us back to the original entry point of the series, completely rebuilt from the ground up for the PlayStation®4.

With enhanced gameplay, an expanded cinematic story, the return of the battle styles from YAKUZA 0, more nightlife spots, and re-recorded audio presented in the original Japanese for the first time, YAKUZA KIWAMI is the ultimate and most “extreme” version of the original vision of the series for first-time players and long-time fans alike.

Why You Should Play: The Short Version

>> A good well-paced story

>> Get to explore Kamurocho again but in 2005!

>> Good side characters!

>> Many fun side quests and mini games

Upon completion of Yakuza 0 I immediately started Yakuza Kiwami. Needless to say after the elaborate story of Zero and knowing it was a prequel to Kiwami I wanted to see how things changed and were influenced by the game. In doing so the reviews for both Zero and Kiwami will complement one another because I personally think there’s merits to having played both games after one another.

First Impressions

Beware there may be minor spoilers below depending on one’s qualification of a spoiler. There are minor spoilers for Yakuza 0, so if you haven’t played that game I would recommend playing it. Though I won’t be revealing any major truth bombs or earth-shattering moments. Read at your own risk. In my opinion, this review should not spoil any new player’s experience with Yakuza Kiwami or Yakuza 0~

Disclaimer: This is my HOBBY blog with my own opinions, please take that into consideration~

After completing Yakuza 0 I immediately felt the need to play Kiwami. I really liked the storytelling from Zero and knew it was a prequel so I wanted to see how it enhanced the story for Kiwami. Since the story of Kiwami came before way before Zero I can honestly say that playing Kiwami without Zero would be relatively fine. However, I think playing Zero made me appreciate and better understand the extent of the story, characters, and all the internal politics that are present within the game. I think Zero provides a foundation that simply makes you enjoy the story more.

The story starts off with Kiryu taking the fall for a crime he didn’t commit. He goes to prison for ten years for killing a higher up yakuza member. Before this his life was looking fairly promising with promotional aspects and garnering the respect of many yakuza higherups. After his ten-year stint he comes back to Kamurocho, a world that is similar yet has undergone changes over the past ten years. Kiryu soon finds himself embroiled in yet another mess involving yakuza politics, friends, allies, and a plethora of enemies.

The story itself is significantly smaller than Zero because we only have one protagonist opposed to two. I have heard through the grapevine that in this remake they kept most things from the original game and only added a few things that were connected to Zero. I am glad they didn’t try to add a plethora of new stories or chapters to the game because the pacing is fine as it is. Without spending an exorbitant amount of time on optional side quests or mini games I finished the game in roughly 30 hours.

The overall tone of this game felt significantly less dark and heavy than that of Zero. Don’t get me wrong there are many heavy themes discussed in this game and it does showcase many problems in the underbelly of society. But there was less of an urgency and overall feeling of hopelessness that occurred in Zero. I don’t think this is a bad thing it’s just simply different from Zero.

My main criticism would be that the ending felt a bit on the rushed side. I thought it was going to be a bit more epic like Zero and instead many of the various stories came to a close all at once. I thought there was going to be a bit more substance and motivations from our adversaries. I was surprised I didn’t have to barrel through a crap ton of enemies for the final battle scenes. Overall, the ending wasn’t a jaw dropping experience but for an early 2000s storyline I can see where this would have made quite an impact back then. The overall story is still quite good and was an overall enjoyable and well-paced experience I just would have liked the ending a bit less rushed in pace.

I liked the size of the game and that we were predominantly confined to Kamurocho. Some may find it too small especially in contrast to Zero but I liked the fact that we were only confined to Kamurocho and not straddling between two worlds. The small yet mighty map of Kamurocho contains so many things to do and areas for the main story to take place it really was a perfect size.

Apparently an added component to this game is the Majima Everywhere quest in which you basically have to duke it out with Majima in order to get your Dragon fighting skills back into tip top shape after being in prison for so long. Honestly at first I didn’t see Majima too much but once you reached the S level he randomly appeared EVERYWHERE. They really weren’t kidding with the title.

This is where upon finishing Zero I was taken aback at how different Majima’s character is in Kiwami. I did think some of the antics were pretty funny but to have such a serious guy turn into something else had a tinge of sadness. I also really question the haircut and snake print jacket, an interesting choice to say the least 🙃 I can see why people really like Majima but it was slightly jarring for me to see that character change so drastically. I did appreciate when the interactions with Majima would shift into discussing his past and how he changed to a serious tone albeit for a nanosecond. While playing I did wonder if the Majima Everywhere quest wasn’t added if the scenes he appears in the main story would have been more impactful. Just a thought.

Like with Zero, there are some weird localization choices that I noticed while playing the game in regard to names. Nishikiyama is interchangeably referred to as Nishikiyama or Nishiki. I honestly still don’t see the point as to why they felt to simplify his name but still keep over half the cast calling him Nishikiyama. The names are also swapped from the format of the spoken dialogue to the text. This is just confusing for everybody and wished they would’ve kept the (1) surname (2) given name format that the spoken dialogue had.

Other than my minor criticisms I enjoyed playing Kiwami and thought it was again a well-rounded experience similar to both Zero and Judgment. From the story, characters, and general in-game world this game showcases the many strengths of the Yakuza Series and why so many people love the series.

Side Quests & Mini Games

Options! // No friendship Meters // Mini Games Still Fun

Like any Yakuza game there are quite a few optional side quests and mini games which I have consistently enjoyed. My first game of the Yakuza franchise was Judgment and I thought this game felt similar to how the side quests panned out. There were more random chance encounters that felt more nuanced and less mechanical than the ones in Zero. They still operated the same but the introduction of the various quests felt more natural.

There were no friendship meters in this game. So we didn’t get fighting allies like in Judgment or business associates like in Zero. That was an element dropped from this game so we had no reoccurring side quests or casually talking to people. The only people were similar to the friendship meter were the hostesses and honestly I typically don’t do those side quests because I really don’t care for the hostess aspects of the game…

The mini games were pretty similar to Zero and Judgment. We had my beloved claw game! We had all the mini games from Zero except for disco dancing (such sadness). We still had karaoke, bowling, pool, darts, cards, mahjong, and much more! I always love mini games within a game so I usually partake in a few while playing and Yakuza game. Other than the claw game I really enjoyed playing billiards/pool, darts, bowling, and Texas Hold ‘Em.

The Characters

Full Cast of Characters // Villains Average? // Comradery!!

We get a full cast of characters just as we did with Yakuza O. There are associates, friends, rivals, enemies, and basically everything in between. All of the characters to forward the plot along and make sense given the context. While many are not present throughout the entirety of the story each character has an impactful presence. Like many characters in the Yakuza series and spinoffs the amount of side characters is impressive.

My only criticism of the characters would be the major villains in the story. As I said previously, the ending felt rushed. I think the quality of the villains was not on par to that of Zero. I appreciate that we got more back story of one of them in Zero. Another main villain felt slightly random and the motivations were almost too stereotypical in that money in power are the only things that matter. Not to say that those kinds of people don’t exist but in the context of the story and the quality we received in Zero it felt like a bit of a letdown. I don’t think every villain needs a tragic backstory but there was something that simply felt distant and rather rushed.

I liked our close companions and allies in this game. Ranging from yakuza members, police, or simply acquaintances everyone had an impact on the game. I liked that we had a team helping out gathering information together opposed to Zero where it felt like we were fed more information on need-to-know basis. In the context of Kiwami’s story I really liked how we had comrades and worked towards a shared goal.

Our Protagonist: Kazuma Kiryu

Coolness // Character Progression // Not 20 Years Old Anymore

I can honestly see why so many people really like Kiryu as a main character. He has an aura of coolness and stoicism that is hard to beat. He is the type of guy that runs on his own principles and sticks to them. His overall stoicism makes some of the more ridiculous components of the story even better.

Unlike Zero I think we saw more of Kiryu’s personality shine in this story. It is in part because he is the only protagonist but I think there were more personal things at stake in this game than Zero. In Zero Kiryu focusses at first about proving his innocence. In this game there are more external relationships affected by the story that gives Kiryu more at stake.

I think the writers also showed how Kiryu is no longer a 20 year old and has become wiser over the years. He appears to still have the stoicism but isn’t as much as a meathead as he was in Zero (I mean meathead in the most complimentary way). He still does a lot of talking with his fists but there he has more of a questioning nature. I just liked that we didn’t get a carbon copy of Kiryu’s 20 year old self when he is 37 years old in this game. Life changes people and Kiryu certainly has had many life changing events throughout the past 15 years of his life.

Gameplay

Controller Only // Fighting Smoother // The Speedy Pink People 😑

Options: Keyboard and Controller

Honestly, I never tried the keyboard function because I think the controller in this series is the way to go. Like Yakuza 0 before the main menu it states, “real yakuza use a gamepad” and I did just that. The controls were smooth and slightly less clunky than Yakuza 0. The motion is good and the fighting is in line with both Yakuza 0 and Judgment (at the time of this review the two other games I’ve played).

In Yakuza 0 I preferred Majima’s fighting techniques. I really struggled with playing as Kiryu sometimes because he felt to rigid and slow for my personal tastes. So I was a bit worried about playing exclusively as him in this game. I think Kiryu felt less clunky than 0 so I didn’t have any major problems throughout the entirety of the game. I do have to say with the plethora of fights with Majima it was a bit weird seeing all the moves I once loved being used against me 😂

I will say the people with the speedier fighting styles (purple/pink) really annoyed me in this game. They could never stand still (or so it seemed). At some points I definitely got frustrated because they always blocked my moves and were perpetually moving. I was able to defeat them, but man, the constant movement just was so annoying in comparison to fighting against the other two fighting styles.

In this game there is less emphasis on some of the extras in regard to weapons. There is no weapons trade (that I’m aware of, who knows I may have missed something). There is a weapons dealer that can fix your weapons in the park. Ngl it took me a long time to find him and nearly thought the game simply thought we were to discard our weapons when they broke.

 The HP system is similar to Zero in that you can drink medicine to regain your HP and Heat. You can also eat at the various restaurants and cafes placed throughout Kamurocho. The HP system is once again pretty straight forward and convenient.

Graphics & Artistic/Aesthetic Style

Love Details // Storefronts Impress Me // A Few NPC repetitions

So far, I have really enjoyed the aesthetics and visuals of all my Yakuza game experiences. I love a good city scape and the level of details within the small map of Kamurocho are still impressive. I love the nighttime neon lights and how there is a clear difference between nighttime versus daytime.

The detailing of all the buildings is once again impressive in that every storefront is different and has a unique façade. You can simply have fun walking around Kamurocho enjoying the variety of buildings and visuals that are present throughout the entire map.

The NPCs felt like there was a bit more variety in terms of outfits. However, I noticed there was a much higher frequency of the dude with the mailbag and the random foreign woman with light brown hair. I saw repeats of them far too often. Other than those two NPCs it felt like there was a variety of people ranging from business to casual attire.

I think the stiffness that I talked about in Zero is less prevalent in Kiwami. Many movements of characters looked smoother. Even the general body frames seemed to be less boxy than those of Zero. I think while these were minor changes, they are noticeable when you play the games back-to-back.

I really never experienced any graphical glitches or anything ultra-jarring. I think the graphics still are acceptable by today’s standards. I really don’t have any complaints!

Would I Recommend?

I really enjoyed playing Yakuza Kiwami. I liked the overall pacing of the story and all the optional side content. The story was not as intricate as Zero but it still had a good yarn that held my interest. After binge playing Zero I continued that streak immediately and binge played this game. I think this story still holds up well considering its a near direct remake of the original story.

I really enjoyed playing the entirety of the game as Kiryu and appreciated the overall character growth from his more youthful self from Zero. While I think sometimes the story was a bit rushed, we still got to see Kiryu handle all the situations that were thrown at him. This game really showed us of Kiryu is a decent guy in having a decent moral fiber and wanting to do the right thing.

The world, as usual, is one of my favorite things about the Yakuza series thus far. The number of details within the Kamurocho neighborhood never cease to amaze me. There is never a storefront repeated and you can even see some people walking in and out of places you cannot enter. There is an element of life in this world that is not common in many games I’ve played. Even though we are confined I never feel trapped inside the neighborhood because of the visual variety and optional activities available within the space.

The side quests and mini games are always a fun additive to the overall experience. This game does not have the extensive offerings that Zero had. The games and side quests we do get are quite entertaining and felt like an appropriate amount. As always, my love for the claw game continues because I like collecting all the toys!

While I am not the best at the fighting components. I have grown fond of the over-the-top fights and how you can essentially duke it out with miscreants on the street. While some may find the fighting too much, I like the ridiculousness of the fights and it is simply one more layer to the experience. Just another day in Kamurocho!

I wouldn’t recommend this game if you didn’t like Zero or want a carbon copy of Zero. This game is different and maintains the integrity of the original story written back in the early 2000s. If you wanted something as elaborate as Zero this game is simply different. If you don’t like morally grey characters, I’d also say don’t play because you will not like every character and they are not perfect human beings. If you cannot handle that stick to games that don’t depict the Yakuza or organized crime.

I would recommend this game if you like a wholistic gaming experience with the story, characters, and world all exceptionally executed. I cannot emphasize enough how detailed and well-crafted this game is. The story is good and keeps you intrigued. The characters are memorable even if they appear in a short duration of the story. The world is simply gorgeous and fun to explore. I would say if you have even thought about getting into the Yakuza series just dive in and enjoy the experience. I advise those who are thinking of playing Kiwami to play Zero first. Overall, I think most who are curious about the series will enjoy it as I have~

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