As fans await the latest in the series, Sega released a delightful prequel earlier this year and now we have a remake of the original. Yakuza Kiwami is an intriguing way to experience Kiryu's debut story but how does it stack up against the stunning prequel?
Yakuza Kiwami is essentially a remake of the debut 2005 PlayStation 2 game and it definitely looks a lot better on PlayStation 4. For the uninitiated, you play as Japanese mobster Kazuma Kiryu as he faces plenty of struggles while trying to maintain his authority as well as his moral compass. The world is contained within a small yet bustling city and it looks fantastic. The flashy lights, crowds of people, and constant distractions make up quite a distinct and engaging setting.
Although Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original, it's more than just a graphical overhaul. Yakuza 0 allowed you to change fighting styles in the heat of battle and I'm happy to say that system is implemented here as well. Having the ability to change between a basic brawler style, a sped-up rush style, a powerful beast style, and the legendary Dragon of Dojima style makes beating on enemies so much more satisfying. Overall, the combat in Yakuza Kiwami is my favourite aspect of the entire game.
Even though the battles are awesome, I'm somewhat disappointed that the campaign in Kiwami is rather unvaried when you compare it to other titles in the series. The majority of it merely involves going from point A to point B then once you reach your destination, you either watch some story sequences or fight. There are a few exceptions to this formula but nothing is substantial enough to relieve the monotony within the mostly one-note campaign. That being said, saving a poor homeless puppy is sure to provide some feels.
On the other hand, if you stray from the campaign, you'll discover an assortment of substories. These are primarily simple optional quests that grant you extra money, experience, and items. A lot of them basically involve beating people up but you'll also find some that involve catching thieves and retrieving items for people. Although there isn't much variety, there are over 70 substories to master and doing so is rewarding as acquiring a wealth of equipment as well as experience points that you can use to purchase abilities and upgrades will make you much more powerful in combat. It's satisfying stuff that'll keep you searching the nooks and crannies of the city.
Yakuza Kiwami's plot is understandably serious in tone for the most part because it is the first in the series. I found it to be impressively engaging and I kept cheering for Kiryu throughout all of his hardships. However, I can't help but feel that it could have used a bit more levity. The origin story that's presented in Yakuza 0 is a near-perfect balance of tragedy and comedy and although there are humorous moments in Yakuza Kiwami, there simply aren't enough to alleviate the constant drama surrounding Kiryu.
Finally, one complaint that I have about the Yakuza series as a whole is that each game presents an open world but this world isn't very large. This limits the exploration dynamic substantially as you'll memorize each street and alleyway within a few hours of gameplay. I hope the world in future Yakuza titles remedies this by providing a larger city to play around in or perhaps introducing multiple cities.
Yakuza Kiwami may not have gameplay as varied as Yakuza 0 but the gripping story, solid combat, and rewarding progression make it a must-play experience for both new and long-time fans looking to either discover or revisit Kiryu's debut adventure.
- + Awesome combat system with added styles
- + Engaging drama-filled story
- + Lots of extra missions to take on and rewarding upgrades to unlock
- - Main campaign significantly lacks variety
- - Story could use more levity
- - Open world is as limiting as always