Yakuza 0, one of the very best games of 2017, released earlier this year and those itching for more can soon grab Yakuza Kiwami which is a direct sequel. You might be wondering if this is too much Yakuza in one year but worry not, because this one is every little bit as good as the last.
A remake of the game which started it all, Yakuza Kiwami follows Kazuma Kiryu as he’s arrested for a crime that he didn’t commit. Once he’s released ten years later, he finds that the yakuza groups have greatly changed. Kiryu’s childhood friend Yumi has gone missing along with ten billion yen, and a little girl named Haruka is being hunted by yakuza groups for reasons unknown. Kiryu aims to find and protect these things, and thus finds himself in the center of a yakuza brawl where people won’t hesitate to kill him. Kiryu doesn’t kill, but he’s not known as the Dragon of Dojima for nothing!
The Yakuza games are the perfect blend of seriousness and humour, and there’s never a dull moment with Kiryu around. He may be straight-laced, but he sure knows how to have a good time! Kiwami tells a sprawling drama story which will immediately sink its claws into you, but you can kick back and relax with a variety of mini-games such as karaoke and gambling to give Kiryu a chance of pace. Yakuza is a special series, and there’s nothing quite like it on the market.
Okay, let’s take this moment to talk about some mini-games. You’re going to come across a game called ‘MesuKing’ where attractive women dressed with insect parts wrestle each other, and this plays out like a game of rock, paper, scissors — yes, there is a similar mini-game in Yakuza 0. A bunch of children play the game, although it’s clearly aimed at adults, and so you challenge a series of kids to win cards to become the ultimate MesuKing champion. You can also find cards out and about in Kamurucho to build a strong deck, with a main fighter card being joined by three others – one each for rock, paper and scissors. Dating girls at the cabaret clubs is a lot of fun too, and I found myself spending hours playing the elaborate mini-games alone!
As is the case with Yakuza 0, Kiryu has four fighting styles including Brawler, Rush, Beast and Dragon of Dojima, with the last one’s skills being forgotten due to Kiryu’s stint in prison. Goro Majima will pop up every now and then forcing you into a gruelling fight, but Kiryu re-learns parts of his famous fighting style each time he comes out victorious. Introducing multiple fighting styles is something that’s only helped to better Yakuza‘s already fantastic combat, and being able to switch between them on the fly means that the brutal fights never slow down. Challengers are no push-overs though, so you should always be prepared with healing items and the like — the last thing you want is Majima to appear if you have no healing items!
It’s easy to forget that both Kiwami and 0 are cross-generation games – as they’re also on PS3 – as they look brilliant. It has a vivacious atmosphere and its world invites you in for both business and pleasure, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the beautifully lit streets of Kamurocho where the paths are bustling and there’s always something going on. Yakuza presents a world worth exploring and whilst it may be much smaller than many other open-world games, what it offers is countless hours of enjoyable, insatiable fun. The character models look excellent too, complete with realistic expression and a lot of emotion. Again, it’s shocking to think this wasn’t made solely for PS4.
As is standard with the intricately Japanese Yakuza series, there’s no other language option outside of the amazing Japanese voice-over. Whilst options are always nice, the large amount of text and spoken dialogue makes it clear why there’s no English dub, and I believe that it being strictly Japanese helps to enhance the game’s overall feel and atmosphere. Plenty of background chatter and hustle and bustle make Kamurocho feel so alive. The music isn’t lagging behind either, and proves to be just as marvelous.
Yakuza Kiwami is an outstanding follow-up to Yakuza 0, and it stands among the best games of 2017. A vast amount of mini-games, a lengthy and engaging story, spectacular combat and a city which begs you to return time and time again make for a memorable experience. There’s something really special about the Yakuza series and if you’ve been sleeping on it so far, then you owe it to yourself to jump in with 0 and Kiwami. They’re magnificent games, and honestly some of the best games I’ve ever played.