Yakuza Kiwami Review: Enter the Dragon

Kazuma Kiryu entered the Sega scene almost 11 years ago with Yakuza for the Playstation 2. Four sequels, and one spin off later, Yakuza makes a glorious HD return for Sony’s newest console with Yakuza Kiwami. With updated visuals, new side quests, and updated controls, Sega seems to have mastered how to properly release an HD remake.

Yakuza Kiwami follows Kazuma Kiryu as he takes the fall for a murder of a yakuza boss that he didn’t commit. Ten years later, he is released and must find his missing fiancee, and a missing 10 billion yen owned by the yakuza syndicate. The crime drama of the original release remains the same intricate story told over 10 years ago.

The story is by the books, but the characters are bizarre. Different characters pop up all over the city in costumes, challenging you to duels, and  a little girl roams the street. The unique characters of Kiwami help make the unique side quests feel less out of place. Going to various hostess clubs, fighting an enemy that will show up in different places in different police or bartender outfits, and karaoke all make a return.

The biggest upgrade on display here are the character models and the city. Yakuza 0 was released in January of this year, and all of the character models in Yakuza Kiwami have been updated to help showcase the visual upgrades, and seem to be on par with Yakuza 0. With Yakuza 6 coming later this year, I would be surprised if we didn’t see updated releases of the other Yakuza titles. The city and updated environments are bright and colorful, the streets are bustling with NPC’s, and everything feels alive.

Something else that carried over from Yakuza 0 is the ability to swap fighting styles. There are four to choose from, and all of them are useful in different situations depending on the enemies players are up against. This all leads into one of the biggest problems in Yakuza Kiwami. For players that haven’t had the chance to play Yakuza 0, there are no tutorials to teach players how to utilize these different fighting styles. Since the original game’s combat was so clunky, being able to flow between different styles is new to the rerelease, having a tutorial here would have been useful.

Some of the opening missions in Kiwami are a bit of a bore. There are fetch quests, missions where you follow people, and the cutscenes can get a bit lengthy in between long stretches of no actual gameplay. The fetch quests aren’t just a problem in the beginning, as they are peppered throughout the story, and cause some drastic pacing issues, which are exacerbated by not having any direction or idea of where to get some items.

After Kazumi gets out of prison, he loses all of his abilities. As players progress through the game and earn experience, you can spend the points in a unique skill tree. The skill tree was a little daunting at first, since everything is connected. Because of this, it’s important to understand the different fighting styles before you start spending points. Yakuza Kiwami does a really good job of making Kazuma feel like he is growing throughout the game. Instead of just unlocking new combos, it feels like he is learning with players.

Sega has done a great job of bring the original Yakuza back to life. With a bizarre cast of characters, a big city to explore, and lots of side quests, there is plenty of content in this $30 package. One thing that doesn’t play to Yakuza Kiwami’s favor is that instead of standing on its own, it would be better to play Yakuza 0 first, in order to understand the different fighting styles, and the best times to use them. Sega seems to have the formula for HD remasters down, and has a strong footing looking toward the future of the Yakuza series.

Yakuza Kiwami is available now on PlayStation 4. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for that purpose. 


out of 5

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