Author’s Note: I am now doing videos for each of my reviews. They will be posted on YouTube. Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s video can be found here. Enjoy!
Once a Yakuza, always a Yakuza.
Those of you who have been keeping up with this here blog (thank you to those who have) know that I reviewed Yakuza Kiwami a few months back. It was the first time I had ever played a Yakuza game and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much in fact that I couldn’t resist playing the second one. I must admit that, to my surprise, I wasn’t having much fun with Yakuza Kiwami 2 at first. Sure, it was much the same as the first one. I was running around Kamurocho punching people, meeting eccentric people all around town, and sinking an outsized amount of time into the game’s distractions. Despite all of this, however, I wasn’t really ‘feeling’ the game, if you know what I mean. That was the case until I found myself standing in front of a toilet playing a minigame whose outcome was dependent on the strength of Kiryu’s stream, if you know what I mean. It was at that moment the magic came back and I truly started enjoying the game.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a remake of Yakuza 2 just like Yakuza Kiwami was a remake of the original Yakuza game. Yakuza Kiwami 2 stars Kazuma Kiryu a year following the events of the first title. Having adopted Haruka (a rather important child from the first game) as his own, Kiryu has left the Tojo Clan behind and has made it his mission to raise her. That is until an old friend seeks him out and begs him to help save the Tojo Clan. The Tojo Clan is still trying to recover from the catastrophic events of the first game and things are about to get worse. This is because the Omi Alliance, a Yakuza group from Osaka, is trying to push into the weakened Tojo Clan’s turf in Tokyo. Kiryu, reluctant to re-enter the world of the Yakuza, agrees to help after his friend is murdered in front of him.
I must be honest with you and say that I didn’t enjoy Kiwami 2’s story as much as the first game. Sure, it has the same amount of betrayals, drama, action, and false identities as the first one but I just couldn’t get into the story. I think it’s because of three things: the structure of the story, the lack of really big personalities, and for the fact that Kiryu looks so damn sad throughout the whole thing.
The structure is really what put me off the story. There are many moments where it appears something big is about to go down but then the game forces you to essentially take a time out. This was especially true of the Haruka sections. There were two times (at least) where there is a build-up in the story and then Kiryu must go into the city and hang out with Haruka. In my opinion, these sections interrupted the flow of the game and only served as reminders that “Hey, Haruka still exists.” These weren’t the only parts that slowed down the speed of the tale but they were, by far, the worst offenders.
The last two reasons why I didn’t enjoy Kiwami 2’s story as much as the first one are intertwined and are the end result of the events of the first game. I won’t go too much into detail for fear of spoilers (even though this is the review of the second game in the series so if you’re here reading this then I presume you played the first one) but most of the major story characters from the first game aren’t around anymore. These characters had big personalities and presences and I feel like the characters of Kiwami 2 weren’t able to fill the void left by their passing. There were some interesting standout characters but they weren’t nearly as great as those who inhabited the first game.
As a result of their passing, Kiryu has obviously been deeply affected. In every cutscene (which features Japanese voice-acting with English subtitles by the way) Kiryu seems so sad and depressed. To be fair to him, if I had gone through what he went through in Kiwami, then I would be sad too. I understand why he had to be sad but it really affected my mood while playing. I care about Kiryu as a character which is why it was hard to do fun side activities while he was looking so damn depressed. This is a personal gripe of mine, I know, but I felt I should share how Kiryu’s mood really altered the feel of the game. Maybe this should be considered a positive aspect of the game’s design since it was so effective. I never expected a fictional character’s demeanor to have had such an impact on the mood of a game.
Before we move on, I would like to stress again that I liked the story in Kiwami 2 but I didn’t love it. I did, however, appreciate how it got better as time went on. It turns out that what is happening to the Tojo Clan in the present day is deeply rooted in events that happened decades ago. As Kiryu tries to mend the Tojo Clan, he finds out about these pivotal events of the past and how they are directly related to the present. I will say that these two threads, the past and the present, come together quite nicely in the end in what has to be the most absurd (in a good way) rendition of “It was me the whole time!” I have ever seen. The ending makes the story of Yakuza Kiwami 2 a good one but it doesn’t hold a candle to Yakuza Kiwami’s tale in my mind.
That’s enough about the story, however, let’s talk gameplay! Yakuza Kiwami 2 plays much the same as Yakuza Kiwami in that it is a third-person action adventure game. It is also, just like the first game, set within the fictional Tokyo neighborhood of Kamurocho. Kiwami 2 does reuse map assets from Yakuza Kiwami but there are major differences between the two: overall plot, side activities, sub stories, etc. What truly sets 2 apart is the fact that it takes place in Osaka as well (the district of Sotenbori specifically). It is open world in the sense that you can traverse between both maps at any given time unless the story specifically prohibits you. It is not open world in the sense that you can approach a situation in a way that is unique to your playthrough. All sub stories and the main plot are rather linear. This isn’t a negative feature in my mind since I don’t mind scripted stories, especially ones as good as those found in the Yakuza series.
You will undoubtedly spend most of your time with Yakuza Kiwami 2 engaged in combat. Unlike the first game, which had four separate and distinct fighting styles, Yakuza Kiwami 2 only has one. If you can remember, I complained about the four different styles in my review of Yakuza Kiwami. I found it to be too complicated since I had to remember so many different moves for each style and it was a little overwhelming. I regret that criticism in my review because, having experienced the one and only fighting style of Kiwami 2, I can say that the fighting gets monotonous with only one style. Sure, it can be upgraded using experience gained from doing a variety of activities around the map (completing sub stories, doing side activities, etc.) but the upgrades really didn’t do much to spice up the combat. This was especially true when it came to Heat Actions.
During combat, each successful hit (or dodge if you have the upgrade) fills up a bar called the Heat gauge. Kiryu can perform what are called Heat Actions when the gauge fills to a certain point. Heat Actions are essentially overpowered attacks that can be activated at specific points in combat and they trigger a short cutscene showing Kiryu absolutely destroying his enemies. These actions are hilariously brutal and I thoroughly enjoyed them. That being said, however, I did have a few issues with the Heat Actions in Kiwami 2.
For starters, new Heat Actions could be purchased with experience points but the problem is most of these could only be used on certain streets in both Kamurocho and Sotenbori. This effectively limited their usefulness and thus I only saw these special moves a few times during my forty-plus hours with the game. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them. I just wish they weren’t tied to specific areas so I could use them more.
I was also very exasperated with Heat Actions because they were sometimes difficult to pull off. The game literally gives you less than 0.1 milliseconds to push the right button to perform a Heat Action. It frustrated me to no end whenever the button prompt would appear and then disappear before I even had time to register that it was there. Maybe I’m misremembering but it seems like Yakuza Kiwami gave the player way more time to perform a Heat Action than Kiwami 2 and the combat suffers for it.
Before we move on, I would like to discuss the combat’s difficulty in Kiwami 2. The fights (particularly boss fights) fluctuate from being too difficult without using weapons to too easy with weapons. Thinking back on it, the boss fights of the first game were also kind of difficult without weapons but at least there were four different fighting styles which helped a lot. This was because the bosses had weaknesses to certain fighting styles. There is only one fighting style in Kiwami 2, however, so using weapons against bosses was the best way to defeat them. This may have just been my problem but it seems there was no middle ground when it came to difficulty while fighting.
Now it wouldn’t be a Yakuza game if it didn’t feature a plethora of sub stories. These stories are honestly my favorite part of this series (besides the main storyline, of course). This is because you never know what you’re going to get once a cutscene triggers while running around town. Yakuza Kiwami 2’s sub stories are as wacky and full of eccentric characters as the first game but they certainly are not all created equal. They could range from something as mundane as purchasing all items in a store to (my personal favorite) placing women’s panties on a park bench in order to catch a panty thief. They were all fun for the most part but not quite as memorable as the first game’s sub stories (just like the main story). I will say that I liked that Kiwami 2 includes a list of all active sub stories on the pause menu. This made it easier to keep track of all the different stories.
In addition to the sub stories, there is a near infinite amount of side activities to do in Kiwami 2. There’s golfing, Mahjong (which I still don’t know how to play), various gambling games, darts, fighting at the Coliseum, training with Komeki, the SEGA arcade with various old SEGA games, and so much more. You could seriously only play Kiwami 2 for its side content and you’d be busy for dozens and dozens of hours. This is especially true if you try to finish the completion list. This list shows various goals you can complete while doing side content. Completion of these goals nets you experience which can be used to upgrade your combat skills and assorted other items like being able to run for a longer period of time. My personal favorite side activities are new additions in the Kiwami version of Yakuza 2: Cabaret Grand Prix and Clan Creator.
Through a hilarious case of mistaken identity, Kiryu becomes the manager of the cabaret club Four Shine in Sotenbori. This activity features its own storyline which entails the struggling Four Shine club having to compete with other clubs in Sotenbori in a competition to stay afloat. It’s much more lighthearted compared to the main storyline. Kiryu can open the club and manage it: he must choose which hostesses will work the shift, must recruit new hostesses, and manage problems that arise while the hostesses are working the floor. The goal is to make as much money as possible in order to climb the ranks in the Grand Prix. It is a fun little minigame that I probably put way too much time and effort into.
In addition to managing the club while its open, you can also interact with your workers while off-duty. These conversations usually include a minigame where Kiryu must guess what to say next in a conversation. If you guess right, the girl’s morale will increase and she will gain more experience when the conversation is over. Once you get to a certain point, a sub story begins. My favorite sub story (the panty one from above) came from talking to one of the hostesses. I completed most of the conversations with the hostesses and also finished the whole Four Shine storyline. Why, you ask? Because I believed in those girls and wanted them to succeed! I highly recommend you spend some time with Cabaret Grand Prix should you choose to play Kiwami 2.
The other major side activity in the game is Clan Creator. An import from Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, Clan Creator sees Kazuma Kiryu becoming the manager of Majima Construction. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because everybody’s favorite character Goro Majima is in fact the owner of said construction company. Goro Majima does make several appearances in the main storyline but he is mostly relegated to his role as construction company owner in Kiwami 2. Like Cabaret Grand Prix, Clan Creator features its own tale that is on the lighthearted side. Goro Majima must defend his building company’s construction plans from a few gangs controlled by loan sharks. Majima recruits Kiryu to lead his forces against these gangs.
Clan Creator is a simple real-time strategy game where you must use characters to defend construction equipment from waves of enemies. The characters you control can be recruited both from off the street (mostly characters from the sub stories found around town) and from completing main story missions. These recruits have special abilities that can be used while fighting these waves of enemies. The waves get harder as you progress through the story missions and some can be quite the challenge. Unlike the Cabaret Grand Prix, I did not finish the Clan Creator storyline. I am currently on the last mission where I keep getting to the last wave and then losing. I hope to finish it someday but I keep getting frustrated since I keep losing at the same spot. Even if you don’t think this minigame is the thing for you, you should at least play one match, win, and listen to the Majima Construction victory song. It is well worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing Clan Creator a lot. It just makes me mad that I couldn’t complete it in time for this review. The only real complaint I have about Clan Creator (and Cabaret Grand Prix) is that they are awkwardly shoehorned into the main storyline. The main story is literally paused in order for these two side activities to be explained. I feel there could have been a better way to introduce these activities.
I really did enjoy my time playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first game. The sub stories and their goofy characters along with the side activities, especially Cabaret Grand Prix and Clan Creator, made the game very fun. The combat with its one fighting style and the story that is a little too messy, however, make the game good not great. It is still a compelling game that is a part of an awesome game series that I urge everyone to at least try. It’s just that Yakuza Kiwami 2 is, in my opinion, not the best entry at showing what the Yakuza series is all about.
Final Score: 7/10
- Combat is good not great
- Story is also good not great
- Sub Stories are a treat as always
- Cabaret Grand Prix and Clan Creator
- Uneven combat with only one style
- Heat Actions are hard to activate
- Story has an uneven structure
Thanks for reading!