Now that the Yakuza series appears to have found a reasonably dedicated following outside of Japan Sega seems intent on releasing remastered versions of the game at a steady pace. It's only a few months ago that I finished playing the ‘last’ entry in the series, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.
I have to admit, on starting up Kiwami 2
, I wondered whether I was quite ready to spend more time in Kamurocho
. As I wandered around the streets I'd only recently walked, there was nothing to reassure me. Visually, although running on the same engine as ‘The Song of Life
’, it felt less vibrant. Nevertheless, after half an hour the environment was drawing me back in. The familiarity of locations began to feel less the result of a paucity of imagination and more a direct choice.
games really are episodic adventures. One of their central game mechanics is the way in which the player, through Kiryu’s
eyes, not only gains mastery over the city and influences how locations evolve, but also feels comfortable. As though the city is truly their home. With each of the Yakuza
games being replete with mini-games, side missions and an involved and often convoluted plot, the series benefits tremendously from players taking a conscious decision to take their time and adapt to both the surroundings and the limitations of what is possible.
I enjoyed the ‘Kiwami
’ remake of the original Yakuza
. It may have offered less depth than its prequel but it certainly planted some interesting seeds that I was looking forward to seeing develop in the remake of its sequel. Outwardly Kiwami 2
appears to offer a great deal on the narrative front. A ‘new’ location to explore with the addition of Sotenburi
in Osaka and the addition of the chance to play as fan favourite, Goro Majima
in a series of story missions. However, the core of the game still focuses on Kiryu
and his attempt to prevent the collapse of the Tojo
clan and the rise of a new power base in Kamurocho. The player has the opportunity to review the events of the previous game through a series of flashbacks, witnessing exactly how Kiryu became
a ‘civilian’ before being once again dragged back into Tokyo’s underworld.
So begins a tale of revenge as Kiryu
tries to make sense of who is trying to break the peace. Yakuza
’s side missions have often provided a combination of light relief and, on occasion, real poignancy. In my first playthroughs of previous games of the series I usually engaged with them as and when they came up, but rarely sought them out, feeling that they would be better to explore once the main story was complete. In Kiwami 2
I completed roughly 80% of them. This was not because they were particularly engaging but because, unfortunately, I felt that Kiryu
’s adventure didn’t quite match up to the quality of previous games in the series.
Certainly, I felt some aspects of the story had real emotional resonance, but the complexity of plot apparent in Yakuza Zero
and The Song of Life
is absent in Kiwami 2
. The narrative is exceptionally straightforward with plot twists telegraphed well in advance. This is not to say the game isn’t engaging; it just lacks subtlety in delivery, particularly when dealing with the origins and familial relations of characters. It’s all just a little too convenient to feel satisfying. This is perhaps understandable given the age of the game. Nonetheless, I feel that Kiwami
had layers of complexity that are absent here. The addition of a series of story missions featuring Goro Majima
, although welcome, do not quite make up for the main story, they’re exceptionally short. They do, however, provide some closure to events that occurred in Yakuza Zero
, and for that they are certainly worth playing.
Combat follows the same structure as Yakuza 6
, with players able to increase Kiryu
’s strength over time through adding new moves and expanding ‘heat’ actions - brief cut scenes that cause massive damage to enemies. This is achieved by gaining experience during missions. Kiwami 2
also continues the mechanic of allowing Kiryu
to gain experience points by consuming food and alcohol. and although this does provide more of a reason to enter restaurants it still feels like a step back from the multi-stance system, supported by money, introduced in Yakuza Zero
By the time I had reached the end of the game I had unlocked the majority of available moves and expanded Kiryu
’s abilities to their maximum. This made encounters far more enjoyable because of the variety of options afforded when facing enemies. There’s nothing quite like grabbing an assailant, hitting the button at just the right time for an ally to assist with a takedown. No other series feels quite this physical.
In addition to combat it's worth exploring Kamurocho just to see what old arcade games Sega has decided to include. In this instance the player is treated to a more modern range than the usual Hang-On
and Space Harrier
. Complete copies of Virtua Fighter 2
are included and, although the former was never really my thing (I was always more of a Tekken person), it was great to be able to finally try out some of Sega
’s more recent arcade history.
In addition to the arcade, Kiwami 2
also includes a rudimentary Real-Time Strategy game, golf, Mahjong and the usual arena competitions. There’s a lot to find and engage with, it’s just a shame that the story supporting the game is less interesting than previous entries. I still enjoyed spending time with Kiryu
, but I’m hoping that a ‘Yakuza Kiwami 3
’ will provide a slightly more complex and less obvious narrative. The world of Yakuza
continues to enthral, but it deserves to be explored as it was in previous entries, in more depth.
+ Expansive world to explore
+ Kiryu continues to be an engaging character
+ Extremely atmospheric
- Visually a little hit and miss
- Narrative is rather predictable
- Uneven pacing
SPOnG score: 7/10