The Dragon Remade
The Dragon of Dojima is back in Yakuza Kiwami and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a remake of the first Yakuza game which released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005 and includes the fantastic Japanese audio, as the western release of the first Yakuza game had English dub. As well as looking prettier, Yakuza Kiwami does come with some new additions which add more depth to the game and its story.
First of all let’s talk about the graphics, which are miles better than those on the PS2. Kiwami uses the same engine used in Yakuza Zero which is great, as it is really stable. When roaming around Kamurocho, the graphics look a little dated but not enough that it will put people off (this was also one of the few criticisms I had of Yakuza Zero). It didn’t hinder my experience at all as the world is very immersive but, it is important to bring up as some people love their “graphics” Things change when it comes to the cutscenes, which look fantastic. The game runs at 1080p and 60fps and I didn’t encounter a single dip in the frame rate during the 50 hours I have played of this.
30 minutes of cutscenes have been added to Yakuza Kiwami which help to fill some of the plot holes found in the first game. The added cutscenes also help connect Yakuza Kiwami to the prequel Yakuza 0, which released earlier this year. They also show how Nishiki went from a happy, lively young man to a cold and calculated man. This is a fantastic thing that the Yakuza team have done, as it results in an even better story than the original Yakuza 1 release.
As I just mentioned the story, I will now go into more detail about it. The game opens up in December 1995 which is seven years after Yakuza 0. You don’t stay in 1995 for too long as things go south and Kiryu ends up in prison for the next ten years. When Kiryu is released from prison, he discovers that the world has changed a great deal since he’s been gone and he is not as strong as he used to be. Kiryu wants to find out what has happened to his friends Nishiki and Yumi in the ten years he has been gone, however things soon escalate and Kiryu finds himself in the centre of the drama.
The story for Yakuza Kiwami is fantastic, it has many twists and turns and the writing is absolutely top-notch. If you’ve played the first Yakuza game like myself, the story will obviously feel similar. Now that’s not a bad thing as some stories are that good they are worth revisiting and the tale of Yakuza 1 is worth it. Returning players will also know where scenes have been added to help the story flow better. For new players though, you’re in for a real treat. Those who have not played Yakuza Zero, I strongly suggest you do, as it really does strengthen the story of Yakuza Kiwami. Playing Zero before Kiwami will give the story much more impact than if you didn’t play Zero beforehand. The story can be completed within 25 hours. Of course, this will differ depending on how much of the side content you do alongside the story.
The main stories for the Yakuza games are always well-written and the same goes for the substories. Substories are like side-quests and they are all over Kamurocho. There is a lot of substories in Yakuza Kiwami (78 to be exact) and they are all entertaining and some provide very comedic moments which is in stark contrast to the main narrative. That’s not a bad thing as it shows the fun, weird and wonderful side of the Yakuza series. Some substories are serious and go for a more heart warming vibe like “The Fighter’s Successor” and some are just downright hilarious like “Bad Ass Dads”. The substories show that whilst the main narrative is very serious, that the game knows how to have fun.
Substories aren’t the only way to unwind and have fun in Yakuza Kiwami, like every other instalment in the series mini games are present. The series usual mini games like; the Batting Cages, Bowling, Mahjong and karaoke are present in Yakuza Kiwami. Word of warning, the Karaoke is extremely addictive and new players of the Yakuza series should definitely try it. Pocket Circuit Racing makes it return from Yakuza Zero which is fantastic as I personally quite like it. If you asked me years ago if I would be playing Pocket Circuit Racing on the PS4, I’d laugh at you. Yet in 2017, here I am playing Pocket Circuit Racing.
There is a new mini game called MesuKing which is a card game featuring women dressed as bugs (seriously, this is an actual thing). You collect cards which are located around the city, buying them at certain shops or by beating people at Mesuking. The cards unlock different fighters and moves for you to use. Playing it is actually really simple, it’s Rock Paper Scissors (Janken is the Japanese version of Rock Paper Scissors). There is a little bit of luck involved with Mesuking but it doesn’t stop it from being fun.
The combat is one of the most important elements of the Yakuza series and in Kiwami, it is just as fluid and hard-hitting as it was in Yakuza Zero. Kiwami uses the same fighting mechanics as Zero. Kiryu has four fighting styles; Brawler, Beast, Rush and Dragon. Each fighting style is distinctively different. Brawler is an all-round fight style and is very versatile. Beast is a heavy combat style where Kiryu can automatically pick up weapons around when fighting enemies. Rush style is fast and allows you to quick step multiple times and weave out of the way of attacks. Lastly there is the Dragon style, which is Kiryu’s strongest move set and features some devastating moves, counters and heat moves. You upgrade Kiryu and his fighting styles by beating people in fights and beating bosses. However you cannot upgrade the Dragon style normally, you have to upgrade it by learning new moves from Komaki and by beating Majima in fights and mini games.
As I just mentioned, the Dragon fight style cannot be upgraded normally and beating Majima is essential in upgrading it. This is where the “Majima Everywhere” system comes into play and dear god is it fun. Kiryu has been in prison for 10 years and as such, he isn’t as strong as he used to be and Majima tests him to prove this. Majima will pop out of nowhere, quite literally. You could be walking down a street and Majima will appear right behind you. You could be walking down a street and he could appear from a manhole. You might already be fighting some street punks and all of a sudden “Kiryu-chan”. Majima joins the fight and then you have to beat the street punks as well as him.
Majima doesn’t stop there, he will go out of his way to make you fight him by doing elaborate schemes or dressing up. You’ll see Policeman Majima who honestly stands out like a sore thumb but it’s hilarious. You’ll see hostess Majima which is absolutely hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Things only get better when you obtain the Majima Tracker. This gives out a “Kiryu-chan” signal when he is nearby. When it goes off you start looking around, trying to find Majima. Only to be taken by surprise as he somehow comes out of a bin (trash can). The Majima Everywhere system is a glorious thing let’s be honest, you can never have too much Majima in your life.
Whilst there is much to praise about Yakuza Kiwami there are a couple of things that aren’t so good. My main criticism is the shooting part, during chapter 9. The vibe of the shooting section is great but unfortunately the controls aren’t brilliant. They’re tolerable but they could be a lot better. On normal this sequence isn’t too bad, a little frustrating but not rage inducing. This section on Legend diffiulty however is a real pain as you take more damage and if you fail you have to start the entire chapter again. If there was a mid-point auto-save to save me going through a few fights and a boss fight, I wouldn’t have brought this up. I like a challenge, hence why I am curently going through the game again on Legend difficulty but this was infuriating.
I love the cutscenes in the Yakuza games, they are always fantastic and Kiwami is no different however, there is something that caught my eye. Some, not all cutscenes feature some rigid and stiff animation. It’s weird, as some scenes are fine and then some are like what I just mentioned. It is noticeable in a few scenes but it doesn’t detract any of the impact they have.
Yakuza Kiwami is a remake done right, it’s great for returning players and is just as great newcomers. The story is well-written and engrossing. The substories are brilliant, the mini games are fun and addictive. The combat is just as fun and satisfying as it was in Yakuza Zero and the Majima Everywhere system is a thing that descended from the heavens. Sure the game isn’t perfect, no game is but the overall experience is extremely entertaining and gratifying.
Do you want to know one of the best things about Yakuza Kiwami? It’s not a full retail price game, it only costs £30 ($30 in the United States) and it comes with a cool steelbook. With Yakuza Zero releasing earlier this year and now Yakuza Kiwami. It’s a fantastic time to be a Yakuza fan and a fantastic time to get into the series if you haven’t tried it.
(I played Yakuza Kiwami for over 50 hours. I completed the main story, all substories, fully levelled up all of Kiryu’s stats and beat Amon. I am currently going through the game again on Legend difficulty and I am on chapter 9.)
I also did a review of Yakuza Zero earlier in the year for those interested.
Do you want to talk about video games and wrestling? Here’s my twitter – @ThatGreenDude95