Yakuza Kiwami Review
A Blast From The Past!
Yakuza is a role playing beat em up style game that first debuted on the PlayStation 2 years ago. While I missed it back then and jumped into Yakuza Zero when it released last year. I felt I was still missing something even as a prequel, Yakuza Zero failed to grab my attention.
Yakuza Kiwami however, broke that initial doubt and I am now replaying Yakuza Zero with much more of an understanding than before.
Yakuza Kiwami starts you off at killing of a clan boss. One that Kazuma, the main character ends up taking the fall for. After being released a few years later, the game blows wide open and offers something truly amazing.
Visually Yakuza Kiwami is gorgeous. The game has been remastered to the full and looks almost identical to Yakuza Zero. Tiny details are littered in each scene and it makes each minute of play time truly memorable. Superb water and lighting effects help bring Tokyo to life in this action role playing experience.
Sound wise the game is also on point. The game world truly feels alive thanks to some well placed ambient sounds and a solid soundtrack. The voice work here in my opinion is superbly done. The game is in Japanese so subtitles must be read, even though I had to read through each and every cut scene, I still felt each characters emotions through the voice work. Each character also felt unique and I was always intrigued to learn more about them.
Now onto the gameplay itself, it has actually been reworked in many areas making it feel much more current. Fighting has been tweaked to feel smoother and faster and overall at least to me, this game felt ever so similar to Yakuza Zero. Basically you have these huge set piece story scenes that portray a darker grittier Hong Kong in relation to the Yakuza and you then have almost open world style gameplay in large hub like areas. Each open area is crammed to the brim with characters, shops collectables and more.
For the first few hours of this experience, you will be learning to fight and follow objectives as well as take in a huge portion of story telling. Once that is over you can then mostly explore freely and enter various buildings or participate in some fairly odd activities. It sounds like it shouldn’t work and for me being a Yakuza virgin, in Yakuza Zero more specifically it didn’t….. Until now.
Kazuma has various fighting styles, each with their own respective animation and combo. Fighting in this game feels slick and satisfying, especially if you plan to leave environmental objects alone. I found that picking up a bicycle to throw at my opponent was easy but manoeuvring when holding such an item wasn’t. It felt a little clunky and very much like I was playing an older game. As this is also a role playing experience, there are many skills and stats that can be changed and upgraded to suit your play style.
Yakuza Kiwami while technically being the sequel yet being the first in the franchise should in my opinion still be played first. It blows up much quicker than its prequel and it will in its first opening hours teach you more about each clan and character than Yakuza Zero manages to. This is simply due to the times. Back when Yakuza was first released, many games main stories were anywhere from 3 – 7 hours long whereas now they can be 40+ hours long. Yakuza Kiwami is a quicker paced game and opens up the stage for its prequel.
As mentioned, there are many things to take part in from playing arcade grabbing machines to sexy card games and slot car racing. If you wanted, you could just scour the streets for slot car parts. Many of these activities have a cool side mission to partake in alongside them. Beyond that, there are many other quirky and comical characters throughout the streets that offer other smaller mission sets.
Yakuza Kiwami blends various types of gameplay into one package. It offers a succulent story that I simply couldn’t put down until the end and it opened up my eyes to what Yakuza is really all about. It also made me realise why it is such a cult classic among many gamers. This game is also the reason, I took so long to get this review out as I found that once this was finished, I transitioned much more smoothly into Yakuza Zero and felt I had to finish that first.
Overall, this game is just a great addition to anyone’s library. It offers a deep compelling story with true emotion, a brilliantly crafted open world and some really fun times. Sadly it is a PlayStation 4 exclusive so is out of the question for some. For everyone else, go and get it and give it a chance, it may just open your mind to a franchise that is worth investing in!