As gamers, we’ve been extremely lucky with the amount of love SEGA is putting into the Yakuza franchise. In the last year and a half alone, we’ve received four Yakuza titles with two of those being in the Kiwami remakes. Yakuza Kiwami 2 doesn’t do much differently than its predecessor. That being said, SEGA decided to follow the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra and that works in Kiwami 2’s favor. Kazuma Kiryu is back, and better than ever.
It might feel like a step back from Yakuza 6, but Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the perfect opportunity for gamers who didn’t have the opportunity to play the initial release and did get around to playing the first Kiwami like myself. I was young when these titles first released, so it has been a little jarring jumping around in the timeline. Yakuza 6 had a recap of every title in the franchise which was nice to have a synopsis going into Kiwami 2 I had a basic understanding of what was going on.
Much like when I played through Kiwami, I watched a few videos to see how much work went into rebuilding the world for Kiwami 2. It’s clear that the developers have a lot of love for their work, because they have done an incredible job of rebuilding the world of Japan for current gen consoles. If I didn’t know any better, I would say this is a brand-new game. In many ways, this is an all new title. The cabaret club from Yakuza 0 makes a return, cutscenes have been rebuilt, the Majima saga that takes place between Kiwami and Kiwami 2 makes its entrance. Even some of the dialogue has been re-recorded. Of course, the visual fidelity of the Dragon Engine really brings Kazuma Kiryu’s world to life.
Citizens bustle in the busy streets, bright neon signs reflect off store front windows and puddles on the street. This is a truly living world as people go about their day to day business. I’ve said it about every Yakuza title I’ve played previously, and it can’t be stressed enough: Yakuza has one of the best in game worlds in gaming. The story in Yakuza Kiwami 2 (which we’ll get to in a minute), not just portrays a gritty crime drama, but instead builds and merges it with the world. However great a story is, would I really care if the world around it wasn’t interesting and fun to navigate?
Additionally, Yakuza Kiwami 2 doesn’t just end at a fun and interesting world to explore, but the side quests are varied and mostly fun. Dubbed “substories,” some of these missions are really short and just involve Kiryu fighting an enemy or two bullying an NPC, while others are funnier like the young man who wants to win his girlfriend a claw machine plush but isn’t good enough to do it himself. There are almost eighty of these substories hidden in Yakuza Kiwami 2 ranging in difficulty, but I made a point of going around as quickly as I could doing as many as I could.
There is a ton to do in Yakuza Kiwami 2, but the real meat of the game comes from the gritty crime drama. I’m going to remain as vague as possible to prevent spoilers because this is a story anyone who is a fan of beat ‘em ups or crime dramas needs to experience. Taking place (mostly) a year after the first Yakuza title, Kiryu has almost left his time in the mob behind him. After the death of one of the Tojo clan chairmen, Kiryu attempts to broker a peace in order to prevent an all-out gang war in Japan. This is where Ryuji Goda steps in, essentially the counterpart to Kiryu, who believes that there is only room for one “dragon” in Japan, and it becomes the Dragon of Dojima versus the Dragon of Kansai. Kiryu must keep the peace after being arrested for his protection and try to figure out who and why these people are doing this even though he was almost out of the game. The story is pretty convoluted in the way it unfolds, but ends up being pretty incredible for those that pay attention during the long cutscenes by how it unfolds.
The cutscenes aren’t Metal Gear long, but they do require a good chunk of time to get through. Which is why the mini-games and substories are so important. Personally, I found that playing through a chunk of story and then breaking it up with other non-essential interesting activities was the best way to play. That doesn’t mean the story is paced poorly, because it isn’t, but letting it unfold organically while undertaking some of the other hobbies in Japan felt really natural. Sometimes just going into the arcade to play a mini-game would result in story progression when I wasn’t expecting it. Really taking in the world of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an entire game on its own, even without the backbone of the franchise.
As mentioned before, the all new Majima Saga takes place between Yakuza 1 & 2, and tells the story of how Goro Majima leaves the Tojo clan and starts Majima Construction. This leads to a returning aspect from Yakuza 6: clan creator. In Yakuza 6, clan creator had players spawn units onto the field and take out enemy fighters. In Yakuza Kiwami 2, players attempt to defend Majima’s construction sites from groups of wrestlers. It’s a silly mini-game, but still a ton of fun. Also introduced are Toylet mini-games, which has players taking control of the strength of Kiryu’s stream of urine during bathroom breaks. Over the top mini-games are Yakuza’s bread and butter, and that streak doesn’t stop here.
There are a few other things returning from other Yakuza titles as well. Because of the power of the Dragon Engine, the combat from Yakuza 6 has been brought over to Kiwami 2. Kiryu will punch, kick, and utilize loose items in his environment during battles. The combat is weighty and responsive, and it is a ton of fun fighting to build up his heat gauge and then unleashing devastating final attack with a bicycle on a downed enemy. While most of the battle items disappear on use, Kiryu can store guns, knives, and other melee weapons he picks up during fights to use later on. The caveat here, is that if he doesn’t store them, they disappear after the fight they appear in. It’s a weird inclusion in such a living world that even if I’m holding a weapon I’ve picked up it vanishes when the battle concludes.
The other thing returning from other Yakuza games is the cabaret club. At one point in the story, Kiryu has a case of mistaken identity and ends up being put in charge of Club Four Shine. This was one of the best mini-games in Yakuza 0 so I was pretty excited it was being included here. Players take control of a hostess club through Kiryu as customers come in and must be paired with the proper hostess. It’s a great way to earn money in Yakuza Kiwami 2, and incredibly addicting. Customer complaints and harassments can be handled by giving them gifts or just kicking them out. There is always a lot going on, so it’s important to manage your girls efficiently and make sure the customer is happy.
There are a lot of really great additions that make Yakuza Kiwami 2 really special, even though the core gameplay hasn’t really changed. The story is incredible, but the real star of the show is the world built around that drama. The cabaret club is going to be a real time-sink for players, when they aren’t partaking in the silly mini-games in the arcades and bathrooms. It’s time for players to jump back into Kazuma Kiryu’s shoes, and fans of the franchise should love every minute of it.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 launches August 28th for Playstation 4. This review is based on a PS4 code provided by the publisher. Preorders are available here.