A Clash of Clans.
As with most games, I’m late to the party. Yakuza Kiwami is no different. Originally released in 2006 (at least in North America) as Yakuza, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of that first game and was released last year. Having never played the original game, I can’t really tell you what is different about them other than the fact that Yakuza Kiwami looks way better since it received a graphical upgrade during the remake process. I can, however, confidently say that Yakuza Kiwami is a great game and is well worth checking out.
The story, as one might have guessed, revolves around the Yakuza: the underground criminal organization of Japan. You play as Kazuma Kiryu, a man who (spoiler but not really since it happens within the first hour or so of the game) takes the blame for the murder of a Tojo clan boss. He serves ten years for his “crime” and, upon his release, realizes things are not as they were ten years ago. Kazuma will have to deal with murderous Yakuza, false identities, betrayal, broken friendships, and all sorts of obstacles throughout his adventure. It was quite a ride and is very serious in tone. I can say with conviction that the main story is the most serious thing about the whole game since everything else in the game’s world can be nonsensical and downright hilarious.
In addition to the main story, there are seventy-eight substories (or side missions if you will) found within Kamurocho (the game’s city). Just like the main story, these substories are fairly well-written. They can be found around Kamurocho and can range from serious to downright funny. My personal favorite was titled “Crisis on the Crapper.” You had to run and get tissue for a man who was having…a crisis on the crapper. I spent hours exploring the city while looking for these substories as they were a nice break from the more serious main story. I never knew what was going to happen whenever a cutscene was triggered while running around. They were a constant source of delight and I highly recommend you complete as many of these as you can find if you play Kiwami. They are all well worth your time.
A large part of your time while playing through Yakuza Kiwami will be spent fighting enemies using the four fighting styles: Rush, Brawler, Beast, and Dragon of Dojima. The first three styles can upgraded by spending experience points while new moves in the Dragon of Dojima must be learned by fighting a special character (which I will cover down below). You can instantly switch between the different styles while in combat in order to find the one that is most effective against your current enemy. Each one offers different benefits to Kiryu: Rush is a faster style for quick strikes; Beast is for heavier hits and for using objects; and Brawler is a mix of the two. Dragon of Dojima, from what I could tell, is similar to the Brawler style. There is a variety of moves to learn for each style and they all made the combat immensely satisfying. The combat was made even more enjoyable by the inclusion of Heat Actions.
During combat, Kiryu accumulates what is called Heat for each successful hit (you can actually accumulate Heat a variety of different ways after purchasing a few uprgrades) on an enemy. Heat is a gauge that fills up during combat. When the gauge fills to a certain point, Kiryu can perform Heat Actions which usually entail dealing a great deal of damage to his enemy (or, in some cases, enemies). Not only that, but these Heat Actions are done in such an over-the-top and violent fashion that I couldn’t help but laugh every time I pulled one off. Seriously, if you have no plans to play this game, then do yourself a favor and look up videos of Kiwami’s Heat Actions. You won’t be disappointed.
Even though I enjoyed the combat, I will say that it is a little too complicated for my tastes. There are so many different moves that can be unlocked for each style (and remember there are four of them) that it is confusing and hard to remember each and every move you can do. I would have been happier if they combined two or more of the styles together to simplify things. Not only that, but I also found a few of the boss fights to be a bit tedious. This is because once Kiryu is caught in a chain of attacks from a boss, there is no way to break out of the combo attack. I frequently found myself watching helplessly as Kiryu was mercilessly beaten up by a boss’ combos. As far as I could tell, there was now way to break them and I think Kiwami could have benefitted from the addition of a combo-breaking move.
If you are worried that you won’t have anything to do in Yakuza Kiwami, never fear since there is a whole boatload of distractions just waiting for you in Kamurocho. There is bowling, karaoke, eating at restaurants, darts, drinking, a card game called MesuKing, pocket circuit racing, casinos, and the list goes on and on. This doesn’t even include fighting groups of enemies on the street and collecting locker keys (these unlock lockers that have special items). If you get bored at any point during your time with Yakuza Kiwami, then you’re not playing it right. Oh, there’s also an arcade (though it doesn’t have as many games as other Yakuza titles do apparently). There are so many distractions that you could just play this game for the side activities and never even finish the main story. That’s how much there is to do. There is even a completion list which keeps track of all the things you’ve done and, upon completing the story, I only had completed forty percent of the stuff on the list. Now, all of the activities aren’t created equal (I didn’t eat at many of the restaurants) but most of them do provide plenty of entertainment.
Now we come to my favorite part of the game and that is the one of the best video game characters of all time: Goro Majima. Majima has more lives than any cat I’ve ever known and provides the best moments of the whole game, hands-down. He makes several appearances within the main story itself (all of which are memorable) but he has the greatest impact on the gameplay through what is called Majima Everywhere.
Goro Majima takes it upon himself to help Kazuma Kiryu regain his former glory after spending ten years behind bars. He does so by fighting Kiryu throughout the city hence the name Majima Everywhere. Take this name at face value since Majima can appear anytime, anywhere. Fighting a bunch of thugs? Watch out, Majima can break into the fight. Just strolling by an innocuous-looking sewer lid? That’s right, Majima will jump out of it. Did you spy an overly large traffic cone in the middle of the street and it’s moving? You’re correct, it’s Majima, get ready to fight! You must be prepared at all times for a fight with Majima. You even receive texts on Kiryu’s phone from a man claiming to be Majima’s assistant (even though it’s probably just Majima) about where and when Majima will strike. There seemed to be no end to Majima’s disguises and traps and I loved every single one.
Each time you defeat Majima in a fight, you receive a new skill in the Dragon of Dojima fighting style and your rank in Majima Everywhere increases. This leads to Majima having more health in the next bout along with new moves and fighting styles. Although I really enjoyed each of Goro Majima’s appearances, I must say that it did become annoying after a while. While trying to reach the opposite side of the map, I would have to fight Majima two or three times to get there. It was an interesting way to allow the player to level-up the Dragon of Dojima fighting style but I feel there were too many fights. That is my only complaint since I loved Goro Majima as a character.
While playing Yakuza Kiwami, I found a few gameplay quirks that bothered me personally but are so small in nature as to be insignificant to most people. I would like to share them with you in no particular order.
- Picking up locker keys takes an inordinate amount of time.
- The game saves twice each time.
- Trophies on PSN didn’t always “pop” at the proper moment. One time, I booted up the game and received two trophies that were supposed to unlock during my last play session.
These were some things I noticed while playing and didn’t really know how to incorporate them into my review so I hope you enjoyed that.
Yakuza Kiwami is really a special game: it has a great main story, funny substories, good combat, and the highly entertaining Goro Majima. Like most games, though, it does have its downsides: overly complicated combat moves, boss battles that drag on forever, and too many Majima battles. I enjoyed my time with Yakuza Kiwami and I hope all who are reading this take the time to discover just how truly awesome this game is. If you don’t have a PS4 but do have a PC, it should be coming out on Steam later this year. Alas, there is no Xbox One version (come on, Phil!). I do hope this series comes to more platforms so as many people as possible can experience it. I know that, after playing Yakuza Kiwami, I’m looking forward to playing both Yakuza Zero and Yakuza Kiwami 2 sometime soon.
Final Score: 8/10
- Great main story
- Substories, for the most part, are enjoyable
- Heat Actions are immensely satisfying and entertaining
- Goro Majima
- Boss battles tend to drag on for a long time
- Majima Everywhere does get annoying after a while
- Combat styles and their moves can be overwhelming to learn and master
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out my other work if you enjoyed this review!